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The Pesharim and Qumran History: Chaos or Consensus?
James H. Charlesworth

0802839886 Retail Price: $20.00
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Format: Paperback, 176pp.
ISBN: 0802839886
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Pub. Date: October 2002

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From The Publisher:

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran are sixteen of the earliest known biblical commentaries, the "Pesharim." Since their discovery, researchers have been in intense debate about their true nature. In this fascinating volume James Charlesworth introduces the Pesharim to general readers and makes a signal contribution to our understanding of these invaluable ancient documents.

Ought these Jewish writings be viewed as historiography in the guise of biblical commentary, or are they simply examples of the way the Qumran community read and interpreted the Hebrew scripture? Charlesworth takes the middle path in this debate, demonstrating that there are indeed important historical allusions in the Pesharim. In the course of the book, he provides a summary of the interpretive methods used in the Pesharim, isolates the historical allusions in them, and relates these allusions to a synopsis of Qumran history. The volume also includes appendixes by Lidija Novakovic (Bethel College) that explain exegetical terminology and cite scriptural quotations.

Completely up-to-date, reliable, and highly readable, this book is an important addition to the literature on the Dead Sea Scrolls.


"Charlesworth explores the understanding of Scripture that the Jewish sectarians at Qumran had and the way they read and applied Scripture to their time in history. They lived in the tumultuous period of Roman oppression just before the rise of Christianity, and they had essentially the same hermeneutics of Scripture as the New Testament writers — that is, they believed that the Bible addresses the end time, that they were living in the last days, and that Scripture therefore spoke directly to their situation. Charlesworth’s study starkly illumines the same kind of hermeneutics evident in present-day Christian eschatological sects. The appendixes by Lidija Novakovic of biblical quotations and textual variants are alone worth the price of the book."
—James A. Sanders, Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, Claremont, California

"This illuminating study of the Pesharim is a major contribution to the fields of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. In a masterful manner Charlesworth goes through the texts and analyzes them against the backdrop of Hellenistic and Jewish historiography as well as of biblical literature. The book is brilliantly written and should be read by scholars and the general public. It is a learned and important scholarly book, but it is also a very enjoyable book to read."
—Doron Mendels, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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About the Author

James H. Charlesworth is the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. He also serves as director of the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project.

Table of Contents

Chaos Regarding History Camouflaged as Hermeneutics?
Qumran Hermeneutics
The Sociology of Qumran Hermeneutics
The Pesharim as Fulfillment Hermeneutics
Sources for Qumran History
Synopsis of Qumran History
Results for Reflections
The Pesharim and Qumran History
The Date of Pesharim
Historical Allusions in the Pesharim

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