Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Pesher Nahum: Texts and Studies in Jewish History from Antiquity through the Middle Ages Presented to Norman (Nahum) Golb

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Pesher Nahum: Texts and Studies in Jewish History from Antiquity through the Middle Ages Presented to Norman (Nahum) Golb

Article excerpt

Pesher Nahum: Texts and Studies in Jewish History from Antiquity through the Middle Ages Presented to Norman (Nahum) Golb. Edited by JOEL L. KRAEMER and MICHAEL G. WECHSLER. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, vol. 66. Chicago: THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE, 2012. Pp. xxiv + 359 + 55*, plates. S49.95 (paper). [Distributed by The David Brown Book Co., Oakville, CT.]

The academic career of Norman Golb--lenfant terrible of Dead Sea Scrolls studies and professor at the University of Chicago--has stretched over a half a century and spanned chronologically as well as geographically diverse people and topics. Very few, if any, living scholars can claim expertise in the literature of late Hellenistic and Roman Qumran, in Judaeo-Arabic research founded on texts from the Geniza of early Islamic Cairo, as well as in the Jewish communities in the faraway regions of Normandy and Rouen in northwestern France during the period of the First Crusade. "Resembling the wide array of interests common among scholars of the nineteenth century Wissenschaft des Judentums," Golb has maintained a strong position in and has significantly contributed to all three areas of research. But it was Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls that made his name known to everyone in the world of Judaic Studies and beyond. Starting in the late 1980s, Golb declared a one-man academic world war--no better term for it--that gradually extended well beyond the confines of the ivory tower, against the communis opinio in the study of the scrolls and the site beneath the caves in which they were found. He has adamantly argued for two central claims that, if true, would literally bring down two generations of scholarship like a tower of cards: first, that the scrolls do not belong to or reflect the worldviews of the Essenes, and second, that Qumran was not home to an ascetic sect at all.

A Festschrift could and should have been an opportunity to celebrate, discuss, and reflect on the positions of the honoree and to assess his arguments and contributions. But in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls the debate has become too fierce and too personal and the stakes too high. …

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