Dead Sea Drama

Ever since Marshall McLuhan’s famous review of Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry and Parker Tyler’s Magic and Myth of the Movies in 1947, Western intellectuals have felt obliged to mix traditional scholarship with themes from popular culture.  Needless to say, few could compete with McLuhan’s brilliance and erudition in taking Parry’s and Lord’s theories about the oral composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey and applying them to the media revolution that has transformed our world.  Even fewer scholars have had enough direct knowledge of popular culture to be taken seriously by those who have lived in that cultural milieu.  As a result, postmodernist theorists, for all their fevered talk of “discourse,” have accomplished very little.  Here at the beginning of the 21st century, there are few theorists worthy of being named in the same sentence with McLuhan.

Thus it was with a mixture of hope and uneasiness that I sat down to review a book about the Dead Sea Scrolls written in the vein of a courtroom thriller.  As in any good Agatha Christie mystery, the story begins with an enigma: the ancient community of Qumran hovering in the air above a small elite society gathered around the dinner table somewhere in the Middle East, a table that in the next chapter will reveal itself as a metaphor for the judge’s seat.  An eloquent discussion by like-minded intellectuals...

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