The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction by Timothy H. Lim – Review
By Sandra Callard
Oxford University Press publish an extremely useful collection of compact and informative books under the umbrella title of ‘A Very Short Introduction’. The collection consists of over two hundred different subjects, each written by a world-class expert in their particular discipline. The result is that anyone can quickly and relatively easily acquire rudimentary knowledge of any one of this vast array of subjects.
This is a brilliant concept, and has become the starting point for many students, or indeed simply for anyone with a curious mind or a bent to learn something different. Their latest addition is The Dead Sea Scrolls – A Very Short Introduction.
The book, by Timothy H Lim, covers just about every subject connected to the scrolls, including the archaeological site at Khirbet Kumran on the West Bank, where the scrolls were discovered in 1947, the Hebrew Bible, Jewish history, the communities who lived at Kumran, and early Christianity, to name but a few. The detail is quite exhaustive, and makes you gasp in wonder that anyone actually transcribed any of the scrolls, as so many are simply fragments a few centimetres long.
“Treated with down-to-earth gusto”
But transcribe them they did, and the result is an astounding collection of words from over 2,000 years ago which leap off the pages with the freshness of a new ‘Harry Potter’, alongside the mind-blowing antiquity of the Old Testament and the emergence of the New Testament.
Having read a number of books previously on this subject, I have a basic knowledge of the subject, but after reading Lim’s book, I feel my knowledge has grown quite significantly. The text flows with a gratifying ease, but with a swift action of events, and a sharp dichotomy of ideas between experts, which emphasises the difficulties of coming to a united agreement on every aspect of this terrific find.
The vast amount of research done and still needing to be done, and the huge array of experts who have, and are still, contributing to our knowledge of the scrolls, occasionally requires a re-reading and turning back of pages for clarification. But clarification is given seamlessly, and in far from high academic terms, for which I was grateful.
A fascinating subject, treated with down-to-earth gusto, but with a reverence for the unique and astounding discovery it is.
‘The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction’, Second Edition, £7.99, Timothy H. Lim