BAR 38:03, May/Jun 2012
Fifty Years of Dead Sea Scroll Translation
In 1962 a youngish scholar named Geza Vermes published the first English translation of the then-available Dead Sea Scrolls—a slim 255-page volume from Penguin Books simply titled The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. This insightful but accessible translation quickly attracted both general readers and scholars. As the field of Dead Sea Scrolls study burgeoned, so did Vermes’s work. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the book (now in its seventh edition) has grown into a 720-page tome. An estimated 500,000 copies have been sold.
Vermes has played an essential role in scroll research from the beginning. Following their discovery in 1947, Vermes published his first article on the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1949, completed a doctoral dissertation on their historical framework in 1952, and published his first book on the subject the following year. Dead Sea Scroll research was still in its infancy in 1962, but Vermes was already an established expert in the field.