of history and archaeology (1935–1971) and director (1945–1965) of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem. Roland de Vaux earned a Licence ès-Lettres from the Sorbonne and was ordained a priest before entering the Dominican Order in 1929. His first book (1934) revealed his talent for medieval research, but it was a 1933 article on the relationship between Adonis and Osiris that alerted his superiors to his potential as an orientalist. He was sent to Jerusalem in 1933 and lived there until his death. One of the last of a generation of scholars whose mastery of excavation techniques was matched by a sophisticated understanding of ancient documents, he made significant contributions to both biblical studies and Near Eastern archaeology.

De Vaux was one of the moving spirits behind the celebrated Jerusalem Bible, to which he contributed the annotated translations of Genesis, Samuel, and Kings; he also wrote the two-volume Les institutions de l'Ancien Testament (1958–1960), which has been translated into many languages. Its originality of conception was reinforced by the author's sure grasp of the evolution of Israelite religious and civic structures. De Vaux did not live to see the publication of the first volume of his life's work, Histoire ancienne d'Israël (1971). A second volume was extracted from his notes by François Langlamet. Unhappy both with the optimism of William Foxwell Albright, who, he believed, failed to recognize the complexities of the biblical text, and with the skepticism of Martin Noth, who, he thought, did not do justice to the archaeological data, de Vaux sought to find a middle ground by critically assembling ali pertinent data. Remarkable for its control of primary and secondary sources, his history reflected the state of research at the time of its publication. Scholars have since become more cautious about the possibility of writing a history of the patriarchs or of the Israelite conquest.

De Vaux's first excavation (1944), the ninth-century Arab caravanserai at Abu Ghosh, was published as Fouilles à Qaryet el-Enab, Abu Gosh, Palestine (1950). From this apprenticeship he went on to excavate for nine seasons (1946–1960) at Tell el-Far῾ah (North), which he identified as Tirzah, the first capital of the northern kingdom. [See Far῾ah, Tell el- (North).] An able practitioner of the Wheeler-Ken-yon method of excavation, his annual provisional reports in the Revue Biblique were models of description and judgment. He died before publishing a final report. His mastery of the field is, however, evident in his surveys of ancient Palestine in the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze Ages (1970, 1971). Many of his articles were collected under the title Bible et Orient (1967).

Work at Tell el-Far῾ah was interrupted by the discovery in 1947 of the Dead Sea Scrolls. G. Lankester Harding, then director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, entrusted de Vaux with the excavation of Khirbet Qumran. [See Qumran.] He completed the project in five seasons (1951, 1953–1956). In 1952 he excavated the caves in Wadi Murabba῾at and directed the exploration of the caves in the cliffs north and south of Qumran. [See Murabba῾at.] In 1958 he excavated at Khirbet Feshkha, a farm on the outskirts of Qumran. Preliminary reports of these excavations, which were indispensable in establishing the historical context of the scrolls, appeared regularly in the Revue Biblique. The nearest to a final report that de Vaux produced was his 1959 Schweich Lectures at the British Academy, London. First published in French (1961), a thoroughly revised and expanded text was eventually translated as Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1973).

Once the quantity of textual material coming out of the Qumran area was recognized, de Vaux was invited to organize an international and interconfessional team to publish the documents. He solicited nominations from professional organizations and eminent scholars in Europe, England, and the United States and brought together a group as balanced as political circumstances permitted, both with respect to religion (four Catholics, three Protestants, and one Agnostic) and nationality (two French, two English, two American, one Pole, and one German). He contributed the archaeological section to each of the five volumes of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert that appeared under his general editorship.

[See also Dead Sea Scrolls; École Biblique et Archéologique Français.]


  • Baillet, Maurice, J. T. Milik, and Roland de Vaux. Le “petites grottes” de Qumrân. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan, vol. 3. Oxford, 1962.
  • Barthélemy, Dominique, and J. T. Milk. Qumrân Cave 1. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 1. Oxford, 1955. Contains a contribution by de Vaux.
  • Benoit, Pierre, J. T. Milik, and Roland de Vaux. Les grottes de Murabba῾at. 2 vols. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 2 Oxford, 1961.
  • Benoit, Pierre. “Le Père Roland de Vaux.” Lettre de Jérusalem 37 (1971): 1–7.
  • Sanders, James A., ed. The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa). Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 4. Oxford, 1965. Contains a contribution by de Vaux.
  • Vaux, Roland de. “Sur quelques Rapports entre Adonis et Osiris.” Revue Biblique 42 (1933): 31–56.
  • Vaux, Roland de. Notes et textes sur l'avicennisme latin aux confins des XIIe–XIIIe siècles. Paris, 1934.
  • Vaux, Roland de. Fouilles à Qaryet el-Enab, Abu Gosh, Palestine. Paris, 1950.
  • Vaux, Roland de. Les institutions de l'Ancien Testament. 2 vols. Paris, 1958–1960. Translated as Ancient Israel. 2 vols. New York, 1961.
  • Vaux, Roland de. L'archéologie et les manuscripts de la Mer Morte. London, 1961. Translated as Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls. London, 1973.
  • Vaux, Roland de. Bible et Orient. Paris, 1967.
  • Vaux, Roland de. “Palestine during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Periods.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 1.1, Prolegomena and Prehistory, edited by I. E. S. Edwards et al., pp. 499–538. Cambridge, 1970.
  • Vaux, Roland de. “Palestine in the Early Bronze Age.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 1.2, Early History of the Middle East, edited by I. E. S. Edwards et al., pp. 208–237. Cambridge, 1971.
  • Vaux, Roland de, et al. Qumrân grotte 4, vol. 2, Archéologie. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 6. Oxford, 1977.
  • Vaux, Roland de. Histoire ancienne d'Israël, vol. 1, Des origines à l'installation en Canaan; vol. 2, La période des Juges (edited by F. Langlamet). Paris, 1971–1973. Translated as The Early History of Israel. Philadelphia, 1978.

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, o.p.