Southwestern releases latest journal on Dead Sea Scrolls
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – The newest edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology investigates the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ancient communities that preserved them. The release of this issue of the journal follows Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s recent acquisition of Dead Sea Scroll fragments.
In October, Southwestern Seminary announced the acquisition of three Dead Sea Scroll fragments, added to another three fragments that the school attained less than a year ago. With these six scroll fragments, Southwestern owns the largest collection of Dead Sea Scrolls of any institution of higher education in the United States.
The recent Dead Sea Scrolls edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology is part of the seminary’s ongoing endeavor to advance the scholarship of the scrolls. This edition of the journal explores the history and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the exegetical methods and theology displayed in the scrolls, and the nature of the communities that preserved the scrolls.
“The continuing study of the Dead Sea Scrolls provides scholars with data that simultaneously affirms and challenges our perceptions of the biblical faith once delivered to the saints,” writes journal editor Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern. “The contributions of these archaeological finds cannot be underestimated.”
“For scholars and students of the Scriptures, the Dead Sea Scrolls are indeed ‘the greatest archaeological find of the Twentieth Century,’” writes Peter Flint, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls from Trinity Western University in British Columbia. In his article, Flint elaborates upon the significance of the scrolls for both Scripture and archaeology.
According to Flint, the scrolls are especially important to Christians because they preserve renderings of the biblical texts that have “messianic implications.” He explains, for example, that the version of Psalm 22 found in the Masoretic text, which was preserved by Jewish scribes throughout the Middle Ages, removes language resembling Christ’s crucifixion.
According to the Masoretic text, Psalm 22:16 reads, “Like a lion are my hands and my feet,” in contrast to the common English rendering, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (NKJV). Since the Masoretic text was for many years the oldest and most reliable version of the Old Testament in its original language, this created a problem for Christians who see a reference to Christ in this verse. This problem, however, was resolved when scholars discovered that much older Dead Sea Scroll fragments confirm the reading found in English translations.
Four professors from Southwestern Seminary also contributed to this edition of the journal, including Ryan E. Stokes, an expert in the scrolls from Yale, whom Southwestern’s board of trustees recently elected to serve as assistant professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology. In his article, Stokes examines the views concerning the origin of sin contained in the extra-biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“While some Jews traced the origin of human sin back to the garden of Eden,” Stokes writes, “many others looked elsewhere for the root of the world’s problems and used scriptural passages other than Gen. 3 to explain how evil entered creation.”
The Jews who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls often tended to explain the origin of sin among the “idolatrous nations,” excluding Israel from the discussion. They also used biblical passages, such as Gen. 6, that corresponded with this emphasis. On the other hand, Paul intentionally appealed to Gen. 3 to explain the origin of sin: “The iniquity with which Paul was concerned in his letter to Rome … was more comprehensive,” Stokes suggests. “And it was not simply the idolatrous gentiles who were guilty of it, but Jews as well.”
In another article, Eric Mitchell, assistant professor of Old Testament and archaeology at Southwestern, notes the “miracle of the scrolls surviving millennia in desert caves.”
“Ancient scrolls made of leather do not survive well in a humid environment,” Mitchell writes. “Even in a hot dry climate they will eventually dry out, decay, and begin to fall apart. Thus no one really expected to find ancient manuscripts in the land of Palestine. ... However, the desert rocks and caves of the Dead Sea region have occasionally countered this opinion.”
In his article, Mitchell recounts the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and summarizes the state of the “vast and varied” research of the scrolls over the past sixty years.
Herbert W. Bateman, professor of New Testament, attempts to “catch a glimpse of Jewish exegesis practiced during the later part of the second temple period,” when the scrolls were transcribed. In his article, he examines the exegesis found in extra-biblical Dead Sea Scroll fragments and compares them to the exegesis found in the book of Hebrews.
“The exegetical methods employed during the second temple period by Jewish interpreters and by today’s evangelical preachers,” Bateman concludes, “have many things in common, including the conviction that God’s Word is living, active, and penetrating.”
In the final article, Steven M. Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds, investigates the archaeological debates surrounding Qumran, an ancient community often associated with the preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“Qumran in context demonstrates that the dominant interpretation of the site as a sectarian community is supported by the archaeological record,” Ortiz writes. “The desert is a region to escape the world and place your life in total devotion to God.”
Beginning with the release of this edition of the journal, the Southwestern Journal of Theology will have a modified format, with a larger folio size and a thematically redesigned cover.
The Southwestern Journal of Theology is a publication of Southwestern Seminary. To order a copy of this edition of the journal, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, Texas 76122, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial and select articles from each edition of the journal may be viewed on www.baptisttheology.org, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.