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Texts & Translations of the DSS

There were almost 900 Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in and around Khirbet Qumran. Of these, approximately 222 are copies or excerpts of biblical books. The remaining 670 scrolls are dubbed "non-biblical" in that they are not found in modern Bibles (around 300 of these non-biblical manuscripts are very fragmentary). Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in ancient Hebrew, some in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. The Scrolls have been published in a variety of formats with different audiences in mind.

Critical Editions

Critical editions (which include reconstruction, transcriptions, as well as some commentary) are available for almost all of the Scrolls. The official series for is the Oxford University Press series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD). Edited by Emanuel Tov, the almost 40 volumes in this series make up the editiones principes or "official/principal editions" of the Scrolls. While these volumes are expensive, they are the starting point of any serious research into the Scrolls.

In addition to the DJD series, a more accessible critical edition of all of the non-biblical scrolls is being produced as part of the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls project. Furthermore, while I have listed the Parry and Tov Dead Sea Scrolls Reader below as a "Study Edition," in many ways it could be considered a critical edition equivalent -- if not superior -- to the Princeton volumes. Nevertheless, since it was designed for classroom use and its paperback volumes are very affordable, I have listed it below under "Study Editions."

For a full listing of these critical editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls (both DJD and Princeton volumes, as well as scrolls whose official editions are published outside the DJD series), see my Critical Editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls page.

Study Editions

For those who want to study the scrolls in their original languages, but do not see the need to purchase the DJD or Princeton volumes, there are two resources that have both the Hebrew/Aramaic texts with English translations:

  • DSS Study EditionFlorentino García Martínez and Eibert Tigchelaar, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 volumes; Eerdmans, 2000). This two-volume set is ideal for students and scholars from other disciplines. It includes a fresh Hebrew transcription utilizing all available official editions of the scrolls as well as an English translation on facing pages (the base-text of the translation was The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated - see below). Additional information, such as bibliographic data of the official publication and PAM/SHR photograph number are also included for each scroll. Highly recommended. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader (6 volumes; Brill, 2005). This six-volume resource includes all the non-biblical Qumran texts classified according to their genres, together with English translations. The purpose of the classification is to enhance the research facilities of the individual texts within their respective genres, especially in courses at Universities and Colleges. The Hebrew-Aramaic texts are mainly based on the FARMS database of Brigham Young University, which reflects the official DJD editions. Buy 6-vol set from Amazon.ca | Buy 6-vol set from Amazon.com

    DSS ReaderThe Reader's six volumes may also be purchased individually:

    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., with the assistance of Nehemia Gordon and Derek Fry. Texts Concerned with Religious Law The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 1. Brill, 2004. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., with the assistance of Nehemia Gordon and Carli Anderson. Exegetical Texts The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 2. Brill, 2004. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., with the assistance of Carli Anderson. Parabiblical Texts The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 3. Brill, 2005. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds. Calendrial and Sapiental Texts. The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 4. Brill, 2004. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., with the assistance of Mindy J. Anderson. Poetic and Liturgical Texts The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 5. Brill, 2005. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
    • Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, eds., with the assistance of Nehemia Gordon. Additional Genres and Unclassified Texts The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader 6. Brill, 2004. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com

English Translations

There are a number of excellent translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls available in English. Some translations are more geared to students and scholars, while others are more accessible to a wider audience. Note that all of these with one exception (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible) are translations of the non-biblical manuscripts from Qumran.

  • DSS in EnglishFlorentino García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English (2nd edition; W.G.E. Watson, translator; Brill/Eerdmans, 1996). This translation is geared more for students as it includes full texts where there are multiple copies or fragments of a manuscript. It also includes line numbers and represents the actual state of preservation of the scrolls with gaps, insertions, corrections, reconstructions, etc., indicated. While this does make the translation less readable, it also gives the English reader a clear idea of the fragmentary nature of many of the scrolls. This translation is available in both hardcover from Brill and a much more affordable paperback from Eerdmans. (Make sure to purchase the second edition, as the first edition contained many errors)
  • DSSMichael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (1st edition; HarperCollins, 1996). This is perhaps the most readable translation of the Scrolls available. It includes a thorough introduction, helpful commentary on the scrolls, as well as editorial comments within the translations. One shortcoming it has is that it does not distinguish between where one manuscript and/or fragment of a scroll begins and another ends. In this respect, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated is superior. (Martin Abegg has indicated to me that a second edition is in preparation; you may want to wait until it is published). It comes in hardcover and paperback:
  • Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls (Revised ed.; Penguin, 2004). A good translation of the Scrolls; more formal than The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Includes a great general introduction as well as introductions to each major scroll. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy From Amazon.com
  • Martin Abegg, Peter W. Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (HarperCollins, 1999). This is the only English translation of the biblical manuscripts discovered in and around Qumran. An excellent resource, though some will disagree with what they included as "Scripture" for the Qumran community. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 July 2009 11:09