Main CategoriesJudaism and TorahTorah, Talmud and Midrash Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The

Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The

Product no.: 0-679-78089-0
Here, in arresting detail, is the most complete assessment of the scrolls to date. It is a history of their discovery and dissemination, a summary of their scholarly interpretation, and a thoughtful meditation on their ultimate significance.

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Publisher's Synopsis

Fifty years ago, in a cave near Qumran on the Dead Sea, a Bedouin shepherd made a remarkable discovery - a cache of scrolls, in Hebrew and Aramaic, dating roughly from the time of Jesus. Do they undermine the authority of the Hebrew Bible? Do they shed new light on Jesus, his sayings and his sacraments?

Until recently, only a handful of experts could answer these questions, for only they had access to the scrolls. Now, thanks to the liberating efforts of scholars such as Hershel Shanks, the scrolls are the property of us all, their mystery at long last yielding to meaning.

Hershel Shanks is founder and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review and editor of Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of essays on the controversy surrounding the interpretation and dissemination of the scrolls.


"In 1991, after considerable struggle, as we shall see, the hitherto secret texts finally became available to all scholars. Since then scroll scholarship has burgeoned. It is now possible to attempt an assessment, which provides the occasion for this book: What do the scrolls tell us about the period from which both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism emerged?

It is clear that the scrolls have not fulfilled the extravagant expectations that their discovery first aroused. Dupont-Sommer was wrong. Jesus is not in the scrolls. Nor is the uniqueness of Christianity in doubt. But the scrolls do tell us a great deal that we had not previously known about the situation of Judaism at the dawn of Christianity.

The scrolls also tell us much about Judaism at the time the Temple still stood in Jerusalem and about the roots of Rabbinic Judaism, the direct ancestor of all major Jewish denominations today, which emerged after the Romans destroyed the Temple.

Finally, the scrolls tell us about the Bible before the authoritative canon was established in the second century A.D., at a time when different versions of the biblical books circulated within the Jewish world.

The scrolls thus provide a unique insight into a religious culture at a time of unparalleled religious as well as social ferment. The earliest of the scrolls dates to about 250 B.C.; the latest to 68 A.D., when the conquering Romans destroyed Qumran on their way to Jerusalem, which they burned a bare two years later, effectively ending the First Jewish Revolt against Rome."

Author Shanks, Hershel
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 272 pp.
Publisher Vintage Books 1999
Browse these categories as well: Torah, Talmud and Midrash, The Early Church and Gnosticism, Biblical Exegesis and Pseudepigrapha

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