Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Complicated Jew on Complicated Jews

Imagine a Catholic orphaned from murdered Jewish parents who thought they were Catholic, who narrowly survives and becomes a priest, spends a long career on the fault-line where Christians and Jews gingerly investigate the historical basis of their differences of opinions, then becomes a Jew and writes about it all in a calm, intelligent and balanced manner. Ah, and his subject matter is the single most important archeological finding of the 20th century, which itself shed some light, but not enough, on one of the strangest groups of Jews ever, if Jews they were; perhaps they were proto-Christians, or outcasts who served as an inspiration for someone, or perhaps they weren't at all. You might be likely to read his book, wouldn't you?

Geza Vermes, The Story of the Scrolls. The Miraculous Discovery and True Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Not on sale in America, it seems, but you can buy it on If you need more prodding, here's a review that should do the job.


joseph said...

Dr. Lozowick,

There is a website called which also noticed the book:
A NEW BOOK ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS by Geza Vermes is reviewed in The Economist. Excerpt:

The analysis of such ultra-sensitive material requires calm judgment—and Geza Vermes, a retired Oxford professor, is widely credited with having the coolest head among the scholars who have devoted their careers to studying the scrolls and sharing their insights. Some of his writing is controversial. He has, for example, strong personal opinions on the “historical Jesus”, and like anybody who enters that field he has attracted both admirers and detractors. But in this short personal memoir, he sticks mainly to the known facts about the scrolls, and the arguments they have caused. On this matter, he is careful and fair-minded.

It may help that his personal story stands at the tragic interface between Christianity and Judaism in the 20th century. ...

Then there's this, which I find baffling:

Although Mr Vermes does not spell this out in detail, there is also some intriguing news for Christians: certain “Old Testament” passages which they hold dear—but which are mysteriously absent in the Masoretic version—do feature in the scrolls. They don’t seem to have been late Christian inventions.

I know of no such passages and I wonder if the reviewer has misunderstood something in the book.

UPDATE (20 February): Reader Ed Gallagher e-mails:

As for the Christian passages found in the DSS but absent from the MT, I bet the reviewer has in mind Psa. 22:16 and Isa. 53:10—not “passages” at all, but variant readings that are more congenial to messianic interpretation in their form in the Scrolls than in the MT. I haven’t read Vermes’ book, but these two verses popped into my mind when reading the excerpts of the review on your site.

Maybe so. That would be the readings "pierced" in Psalm 22:16[17] and "light" in Isaiah 53:10, both of which appear in Qumran manuscripts.

Avigdor said...

The scrolls are in my city right now, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA! I'm going to see the exhibit next week. Will try to get some pics and info up for anyone interested.