Eyewitness: Qumran manuscripts enrich the Testaments

October 12, 2001

A new edition of the prestigious Jerusalem Bible, with changes in text and commentaries, is being prepared on the basis of recent studies of the Qumran manuscripts (Dead Sea Scrolls). The announcement came last week in Modena, in Italy, at a conference of some of the world's most renowned biblical scholars and archaeologists.

An international team, coordinated by the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, has been formed to prepare the new version.

"The conference was a unique, unprecedented event," said Gianluigi Boschi, a Dominican archaeologist and a disciple of Roland De Vaux. He has spent most of his life on digs in the Middle East, in particular at Qumran, and studying the Qumran material. "For the first time we brought together the real protagonists: direct archaeologists and epigraphists."

Taking part was Etienne Nodet, of the Ecole Biblique, author of The Origins of Christianity and coordinator of the team preparing the new edition. Others included epigraphist Emile Puech, Jean Baptiste Humbert, head of archaeology at the Ecole Biblique, and Florentino Garcia Martinez, director of the Qumran Institute in Groningen, Holland, and coordinator of the International Organisation of Qumran Studies.

Father Boschi said: "From the scholar's point of view, the most interesting developments regard the Old Testament. New material is emerging on the origins and development of the books of Isaiah and Zechariah, for instance. There is much to be discussed. It seems probable that the final draft of these books was written by the Essenes in Qumran.

"As for the Jerusalem Bible, there will be minor revisions of the actual text. The real changes will be in the introductions, presentations, notes and commentaries to each book."

Father Boschi dismissed much of the drama created about the Qumran manuscripts.

"Some writers have talked of Vatican plots to suppress certain volumes. Some Catholics claim parts of the New Testament were written by the Essenes, thus closer to the lifetime of Christ. We are not concerned with this... only with serious, scholarly research and analysis."

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