Friday, January 4, 2008

John Strugnell Obituary by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor has an excellent write-up about John Strugnell in the most recent English edition of the École Biblique's Nouvelles de Jérusalem (scroll down to about the middle of the document). Since I have not seen this obituary mentioned elsewhere online, I thought it was worthy of special mention here as well as on my growing list of John Strugnell Obituaries. Some highlights:

He was only 24 and still working on a graduate degree at Oxford [when he joined the official team of Dead Sea Scrolls editors], but he came strongly recommended by G. R. Driver as the most promising semitist of his generation. Even before university he had been privileged to receive the extraordinary linguistic training, which characterised the classical departments of the best English schools. At St Paul’s in London, he once told me, his class was challenged over one weekend to translate verses of the song “O Clementine” into Greek that could be sung to the same tune. Others of that age-group report that he read a Hebrew bible for recreation while walking.

Always available to our students, his presence also drew other scholars to the École Biblique....Many will recall with pleasure the stimulation and entertainment provided by colleagues from a number of different countries as they debated the day’s decipherments at the evening meal. Strugnell would have liked to formalize this arrangement.

What Strugnell published on the scrolls is minimal by comparison with the output of others of his colleagues, but it was of exceptional importance. He preferred to work in collaboration, and the form it took was typical. He was the first to permit doctorate students to work on unpublished scrolls, but he did not give them minor fragments of negligable importance. He entrusted them with uniquely valuable documents. ... [Eileen Schuller] wrote, “I've been in contact with a couple of friends these last days and we've been sharing memories of John from our student days, and we all agree on the same points: his dedication to his students, expressed in his willingness to read whatever we submitted; to take it seriously enough to make detailed comments and criticism; to encourage us to express our own views (even when they disagreed with his). Long after we graduated, he continued in that role, especially offering us encouragement as we began our teaching and publishing”.

One of Strugnell’s most unusual claims to fame was to have been the author of a review longer, and much more valuable, than the book he was sent to assess. He began to write his review of John Allegro’s Qumran Cave 4.1 (4Q158-4Q186) in French because he thought that only a brief notice would be necessary for the Revue Biblique. As he went through it, however, he realized that more and more corrections were necessary. Still writing in French he effectively re-edited all of Allegro’s texts. When Strugnell had finished, the review was far too long for the Revue Biblique and much more suited to be an article in the Revue de Qumran. This demanded a introduction, which he thought should be in better French. The translation was provided by de Vaux, but without any indication. I still vividly remember the gales of laughter when the packet containing the proofs was opened after lunch. Jean Carmignac, editor of the Revue de Qumran, had made dozens of corrections in de Vaux’s French and virtually none in Strugnell’s!
HT: Eileen Schuller

1 comment:

afincke said...

I think he went a little over his head with that article. I used only one small piece of it - that about the "Vision of Samuel" 4Q160 at pages 179-183, where his reconstruction didn't fit the measures of a scroll-column. But he got the ball rolling on a difficult text.