The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Preliminary Survey

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Preliminary Survey

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Preliminary Survey

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Preliminary Survey

Excerpt

During the last one hundred years our knowledge of ancient history has grown enormously. Ancient civilizations, formerly barely known or wholly unknown, have emerged from the darkness in which they have been buried; Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite, Hurrian, Elamite, Phoenician, Aegaean -- to say nothing here of the Far East -- all these peoples now rise to life before us. In other more classical spheres -- Greek, Roman, Hebrew -- historical science likewise progresses. Everywhere the discovery of documents year by year throws a clearer light, sometimes even a vivid light, on the great pages of man's past which still remain obscure.

These discoveries which reveal to us what man used to be like and which often enable us better to understand him to-day, are sometimes due to pure chance. Amongst many others, this is the case with the Hebrew manuscripts found near the Dead Sea. Three years ago, quite by chance, a Bedouin discovered an ancient hiding place in the heart of the desert. Formed about 2000 years ago, then broken into at some unknown date, it still contained some books, the remains of the library of an ancient Jewish sect. These ancient documents are the most sensational to have been offered for a long time to the labours of the philologist and the historian and also the most worthy to interest anyone who loves to meditate on the major events of history.

For this reason I have thought that many people, even though not specialists in historical and oriental studies, would be glad to be informed without delay of these recent discoveries made in Palestine. In this little book, I aim first of all to set out the documents so far known. Here, then, will be found the translation of a number of texts, a translation which I have made myself from the original Hebrew. Although in certain places the translation will call for improvements in the future, when the language and style proper to the whole collection of these documents is more completely known, the reader will find in these translated texts material which is purely objective and therefore of lasting value.

But the historian cannot remain passive before these new texts. Already he is confronted with trends of thought, working hypotheses and outlines of solution. I do not think the reader will be annoyed . . .

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