Another Trip On The Hype Machine

As I was pondering what to say about today that would match with the books I have read, given that there is not too much exciting going on in my life–since I do not feel like bragging about being a polyglot or reading a lot of books and there is little else to report at this point–I saw an article about a supposed twelfth cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls and I was fascinated in looking at what was being said about it.  There is something very interesting about any sort of archaeology that touches on the Bible and its context [1], as one will find a great deal of hype.  The knowledge that such news will gain a lot of attention tends to encourage people to leap before they look, to post stories before having done due diligence, with the result that many false conclusions are made and many claims have to be walked back afterward.

So, let us first determine what the fuss, this time, is about.  Researchers digging in the Wadi Qumran area (an area I have visited myself, in 2007) have found what they claim to be the twelfth cave of scrolls, where apparently there were once Dead Sea Scrolls buried, only to be looted in the middle of the 20th century by Bedouin, and likely sold on the black market.  There may not be any new scrolls to be found, and there may be.  No one knows for sure yet.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have so far been useful in providing a broader context to the religious thought of the Second Temple Period and demonstrating more of the Jewish background of early Christianity than was previously understood by many.  What they have not done in any way is discredit anything about Christianity whatsoever, and indeed they have made Christianity appear far less radical in terms of the opposition to the corrupt late Second Temple priesthood, even though there are many people who would want to see Christianity discredited.

As human beings, we must admit that we are not entirely rational in what we do and say and what we are interested in.  Our attempts to better understand the past are often related to our attempts to change the present, whether that means justifying what now is, seeking to recover the past, or seeking to change the status quo.  I consider, personally, that there is no moral advantage that progress has over preservation or recuperation, at least as it relates to politics and culture, and so in my own studies of the past I first seek to understand the past as much as possible on its own terms and then to draw what conclusions are possible with the understanding that other people will draw different conclusions than me because of where they stand.  As human beings what we see depends in great deal upon where we stand, but that does not change the objective reality of what is or what was, even if it changes the relevance of that to us.

While I do not consider myself of having any particular great insight on what this particular round of hype about the Dead Sea Scrolls will bring, I will say that this may inspire me to read a few more books that are around about the Dead Sea Scrolls in the hope that I might be able to acquaint myself with the disputes and arguments and claims made about it, since it has been years since I read about them and there are some books on a shelf next to my bed that I can look at that would be worthwhile to examine.  Given the large number of books that I am trying to read, it may be a while before I am able to get to them and even longer before the reviews post, but since the Dead Sea Scrolls have been around for several decades, I am sure that they will still be important enough when I get to them that not too much time will be lost in waiting for me to read some of my other books in the queue first.  Even a prolific reader like myself can only read 2 or 3 books a day on average, and that is quite enough reading for even someone as devoted to it as myself.  We must choose what we pay attention to and what sort of hype we consider important, and though it unlikely that anything particularly earth-shattering will be found, it is always nice to see more of the past being recovered, since it gives hope that those of us who write may be remembered by someone and not consigned completely to oblivion.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Biblical History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Another Trip On The Hype Machine

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Untold Story Of Qumran | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Second Thoughts On The Dead Sea Scrolls | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Great Courses: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Part 1 | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Great Courses: The Dead Sea Scrolls: Part 2 | Edge Induced Cohesion

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