Falk to co-edit new critical editions of Dead Sea Scrolls

By Cherie Winner
May 10, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State scholar Daniel Falk has been named one of three editors on an international project to produce new critical editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient documents that contain some of the earliest known versions of Biblical texts.

The 15-volume series, known as Dead Sea Scrolls Editions, will feature improved reconstructions of previously published texts and some texts that have not been published before. It will be published by the Dutch firm Brill Publishers.

 Falk, who is Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies at Penn State, is a recognized expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, specializing in the analysis of papyrus fragments and prayer texts. His co-editors on the project will be Martin Abegg Jr., recently retired from Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, and Alison Schofield of the University of Denver.

As critical editions, the books will include all known versions of each text, along with different interpretations of them that have been made over the years. With documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the originals are often fragmentary and hard to read, such comparisons are essential to resolving questions about the meaning and even, in some cases, the specific wording of the text.

"There's lots of difference of opinion," said Falk. "There are words that are only partially preserved, there are words that are disputed because you don't know what certain letters are, you might have different versions of a text and they have different words in that place. A critical edition presents you with all of the evidence. It may discuss the likelihood of which readings are better, but will leave all the data there so that scholars can make their own judgments."

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves near the ruins of Qumran, a small religious community that was active along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea from about 130 B.C. to A.D. 69. The first scrolls were found in the late 1940s, and more were discovered in the 1950s and 1960s as more caves in the area were explored.

In addition to early versions of many Biblical texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls include hundreds of prayer texts and other documents of value to the Jewish community then living in the region. Some of the larger and most well-known scrolls will be presented in the new series, including the War Scroll, which describes a cosmic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil; the Temple Scroll, which details laws and practices regarding construction and use of the Temple; the Genesis Apocrypha, which features versions of tales of the Biblical patriarchs; and the Community Rule Scroll, which describes guidelines for residents of Qumran.

The first volume of the series, due to be published within two years, will be on the Temple Scroll.

  • Daniel Falk in office

    Daniel Falk leafs through an early compilation of fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The new critical editions he will co-edit will include versions of well-known scrolls that have been discovered since those scrolls were first published. Showing different versions side-by-side will enable scholars to compare them and assess their differences.

    IMAGE: Patrick Mansell / Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2017