Dr. Lawrence Schiffman on the Growing Popularity of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Why are literally hundreds of thousands of people streaming to exhibits of the Dead Sea Scrolls all over the United States and the rest of the world? Why should anyone even care about these remnants of close to 900 scrolls from the second and first centuries BCE and the first century CE? What possesses some of us in academia to devote our professional careers to teaching and research about the Scrolls?
The discovery of the first scrolls by Bedouin in 1947 in Cave 1 at Qumran, on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, set off a wave of excitement. But this initial interest was misused by scholars who were intent on understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Second Temple period Jewish sect that gathered them as a precursor of Christianity. To make matters even worse, the long delays in publication that ensued understandably fostered conspiracy theories worthy of Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code, and served as a great distraction from the Scrolls’ real significance and message. After all, they are Second Temple period texts authored, copied and left for us by Jews who lived and breathed devotion to God’s Torah and its commandments, even if they represented an approach that, from the point of view of the sweep of Jewish history, was sectarian. Read the rest of this entry…