The "Dead Sea Scrolls"

The "Dead Sea Scrolls": A Biography

John J. Collins
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The "Dead Sea Scrolls"
    Book Description:

    Since they were first discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have aroused more fascination--and more controversy--than perhaps any other archaeological find. They appear to have been hidden in the Judean desert by the Essenes, a Jewish sect that existed around the time of Jesus, and they continue to inspire veneration and conspiracy theories to this day. John Collins tells the story of the bitter conflicts that have swirled around the scrolls since their startling discovery, and sheds light on their true significance for Jewish and Christian history.

    Collins vividly recounts how a Bedouin shepherd went searching for a lost goat and found the scrolls instead. He offers insight into debates over whether the Essenes were an authentic Jewish sect and explains why such questions are critical to our understanding of ancient Judaism and to Jewish identity. Collins explores whether the scrolls were indeed the property of an isolated, quasi-monastic community living at Qumran, or whether they more broadly reflect the Judaism of their time. And he unravels the impassioned disputes surrounding the scrolls and Christianity. Do they anticipate the early church? Do they undermine the credibility of the Christian faith? Collins also looks at attempts to "reclaim" the scrolls for Judaism after the full corpus became available in the 1990s, and at how the decades-long delay in publishing the scrolls gave rise to sensational claims and conspiracy theories.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4460-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Discovery of the Scrolls
    (pp. 1-32)

    On April 10, 1948, the Yale University News Bureau released an announcement, which appeared in the major newspapers of the English-speaking world in the following days:

    The earliest known manuscript of the entire biblical book of Isaiah from the Old Testament has been discovered in Palestine, it was announced today by Professor Millar Burrows of Yale University, the director of the American Schools of Oriental Research at Jerusalem.

    In addition, three other unpublished ancient Hebrew manuscripts have been brought to light by scholars in the Holy Land. Two of them have been identified and translated while the third still challenges...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Essenes
    (pp. 33-66)

    Almost immediately after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, several people concluded independently that they were writings of the Jewish sect of the Essenes, who were described by Philo and Josephus, and briefly by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. In February 1948, one Ibrahim Sowmy, whose brother was an assistant of the Syrian metropolitan, Mar Samuel, remarked to John Trever that he knew of a group called “Essenes” who lived near the Dead Sea in the first century, and suggested that the Scrolls might have belonged to them.¹ The report that Essenes lived near the Dead...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Site of Qumran
    (pp. 67-95)

    The ruins of Qumran are located about nine miles south of Jericho, and thirteen miles east of Jerusalem, near the northern end of the Dead Sea. They stand on a marl plateau, with rocky cliffs to the west and a plain to the east. Wadi Qumran is to the south. They had been noted by travelers in the nineteenth century, as had the presence of burials nearby. One of the graves had been excavated. It was noted that the burials were not oriented east-west in the usual Muslim manner, but rather north-south. The rock-cut aqueduct and stepped pools had also...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Scrolls and Christianity
    (pp. 96-138)

    The Dead Sea Scrolls made available for the first time a corpus of literature in Hebrew and Aramaic from Judea around the turn of the era—from the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Much of the fascination that the Scrolls have held for the general public has arisen from the possibility that they might contain information pertinent to the career of Jesus that had been hidden, or perhaps suppressed, for nearly two thousand years. In the first decade or so after the discovery, scholarship on the Scrolls was preoccupied with their relevance to the New Testament. The exclusion of Jewish...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Scrolls and Judaism
    (pp. 147-184)

    When the Scrolls first came to light, scholars were mainly impressed by the difference between the worldview they disclosed and that of traditional, rabbinic, Judaism. Most striking was a passage in the Community Rule, which became known as the Instruction on the Two Spirits:

    From the God of Knowledge comes all that is and shall be. Before ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as ordained for them, they come into being, it is in accord with His glorious design that they accomplish their task without change. The laws of all things are in His hand and...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Scrolls and the Bible
    (pp. 185-212)

    The initial announcement of the Dead Sea Scrolls in April 1948 had trumpeted the discovery of the earliest known manuscript of the entire Book of Isaiah, and noted that it was older than any other complete Hebrew manuscript of the book by about a thousand years. W. F. Albright promptly predicted that the new discoveries would revolutionize the field of text criticism of the Hebrew Bible. And so they did.

    Modern translations of the Hebrew Bible are based on what is known as the Masoretic Text, or MT. The Masoretes were Jewish scribes and scholars, based primarily in the cities...

  10. CHAPTER 7 The Battle for the Scrolls
    (pp. 213-242)

    The publication of the Scrolls had slowed to a trickle after 1960. By then, several members of the editorial team had dispersed—some, like Cross and Strugnell, to demanding academic positions. By 1972, some signs of impatience were beginning to appear. At the behest of Geza Vermes, professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford, Oxford University Press demanded a timetable for publication. Only Cross, Strugnell, and Skehan responded, all promising to submit their material by 1976. The promises went unfulfilled, which is not to say that they were not made in all sincerity. In 1977, on the thirtieth anniversary of the...

  11. APPENDIX Personalities in the Discovery and Subsequent Controversies
    (pp. 243-246)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 247-258)
    (pp. 259-262)
    (pp. 263-264)
    (pp. 265-272)