The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English. Edited by Florentino Garcia Martinez. Translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson. Second edition. Leiden: E. J. Brill; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996, 519 pp., $30.00 paper.
Florentino Garcia Martinez is a member of the international team of scholars working on the Dead Sea Scrolls and heads the Qumran Institute at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He has authored numerous books and articles on subjects related to the Scrolls and serves as editorial secretary for Revue de Qumran. As his credentials reveal, he is uniquely qualified to pull together a volume such as this. The first edition appeared in Spanish under the title Textos de Qumran.
Others have published English translations of the scrolls-e.g. Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin, 1987); Theodor Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (Doubleday, 1976); Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Penguin, 1992). Though valuable, these books do not contain the number of manuscripts that this volume makes available. As advertised, Garcia Martinez has provided the most comprehensive one-volume English edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the market.
Scholars believe the eleven Qumran caves have yielded between 800 and 850 documents. Of these 225 or so are Biblical manuscripts. Another 275 to 300 are too brief and fragmentary to warrant inclusion in a volume like this. So Garcia Martinez has published about 200 of the most important non-Biblical manuscripts so that interested readers, without any knowledge of Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, can appreciate the riches of this vast collection of Jewish literature dating from the late Second Temple period. He offers the reader a literal, neutral translation of the Scrolls and admits he is hesitant to reconstruct the text in lacunas except when parallel passages or formulas render the conjecture nearly certain. Since he does insist on such a literal translation, at points the English does not flow well and readers may be left uncertain as to the meaning of the texts. For ease of reading some may continue to prefer Geza Vermes' The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, but for serious study of the texts Garcia Martinez's labors provide the greatest fruit. …