Yeshwanth Bakkavemana

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Peter W. Flint, in the essay, explains the significance of the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls to the biblical studies, Christian scholars, and the exegetes. This essay is mainly divided into five discrete sections. The main hypothesis of this essay is to show the relevance of the Dead Sea biblical scrolls to Christianity.

In the first section, Flint briefly narrates the discovery of the DDS while reiterating the categories and statics of the scrolls found in the Qumran caves and its vicinity. The DDS are broadly divided into two categories – Biblical and Non-biblical. Among the 950 scrolls which were found, 240 are biblical scrolls, which are deemed as the oldest evidences to the Hebrew text. On the other hand, the 700 Non-biblical scrolls has an utmost importance in understanding early Judaism and early Christianity. Flint, then moves on to explain the significance of the DDS in the light of Albright claims, that the DSS were found in Israel in comparison to the Nash Papyrus prior to the discovery of the scrolls. Secondly, the scrolls come to us in three original languages, such as Hebrew (consonantal), Aramaic, and Greek. Thirdly, the scrolls are the oldest manuscripts (250 – 68 BC) compared to Nash Papyrus.

In the second section, Flint establishes that all the books in the Hebrew Bible pre-existed – prior to the destruction of the Qumran site by the Romans in 68 AD. This proves that the Hebrew Bible, which is currently used, while it is constituted from the medieval MSS, has antecedents which are ancient.

In the third section, the author establishes the hypothesis that the scrolls are indicative of the preservation of earlier readings while comparing with Masoretic text. He gives two textual examples – a missing verse in Psalm 145:13-14, which was found in 11QPsa that was attested in the LXX, one medieval MSS, and Syriac. The second example is a contextual reading of a missing section from 1 Samuel 10, which was found in 4QSama which was copied in 50 BC. In order to establish, relevance of the Scrolls to Christian scholars, Flint provides two readings that has messianic implications – Ps 22:16 and Isa 53. In the former, Flint points out that the MT of Ps 22:16 which reads as כָּאֲרִי יָדַי וְרַגְלָי (“like a lion are my hands and feet) is a Lectio Difficilor, while the Psalms scroll from Nahal Herver (5/6HevPs) reads as כארו (my they have pierced my hands and feet). In the later, Flint indicates that in Isa 53:11 of MT which reads as מֵעֲמַל נַפְשׁוֹ יִרְאֶה (out of the anguish of his soul) has an interpretative addition in three Isainic scrolls of Qumran (1QIsaabd) that adds the word אור (light). Thus, the reading would be “Out of the anguish of his soul, he shall see the light). Flint concludes that, based on the selected texts, the biblical DSS scrolls are very significant to the biblical studies in general and, in particular, to Christian exegetes.

While I agree with Flint in terms of the Scroll’s significance to the biblical studies, I do not agree that the Scrolls justify Christian doctrines. It is anachronistic to read Christian doctrinal ideas into the Scrolls as these are from different times. However, Scrolls might have copied with messianic ideology. This refers to be further investigated in comparison with other Non-Biblical scrolls. Only then will we be able to understand the nature of messianism in the scribal revisions found in the biblical DSS.