Dead Sea Scrolls
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 July 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0044
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 July 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0044
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish manuscripts that have been discovered around the shore of the Dead Sea. They range in size from large scrolls and nearly complete documents to fragmentary scraps of just a few letters. They have been located in eleven caves at Qumran, at Masada, and in caves from the Bar Kokhba era. Chronologically they span the last several centuries BCE to the second century CE and so have profound value for the study of ancient Judaism and the background of early Christianity. (This bibliography does not include the material from Wadi el-Daliyeh and Khirbet Mird.) The most extensive collection of documents was found at Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea, south of Jerusalem. Most of the more than nine hundred separate manuscripts from this site are actually only fragmentary remains of ancient books that can be divided into three, roughly equal categories: (1) Bible manuscripts of all books of the Hebrew Bible, except for the book of Esther, have been identified at Qumran, (2) apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, books known to have circulated in the Second Temple period among all Jewish groups, and (3) sectarian materials peculiar to the Jewish inhabitants of Qumran, who separated themselves from the mainstream Jewish groups and from the Jerusalem Temple. Their texts outline their beliefs, rules on how to enter their closed sect, and their regimens and rituals. Adjacent to the caves are remains of a Jewish site inhabited for several centuries, until its destruction by the Romans in 68 CE. The scrolls in the caves have been regarded by most scholars as the library of those who occupied that site. Masada was a fortress south of En Gedi on the Dead Sea and was used as a rebel stronghold during the Great Revolt against the Romans (66–73 CE), until destroyed by the Roman legions. The scrolls recovered from this site include parts of fifteen biblical and apocryphal books widely known during Second Temple times. The Judaean Desert climate also has preserved documents from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 CE) in refuge caves for victims of the war, located primarily north of Masada and south of Qumran, at Wadi Murabba’at, Naḥal Ḥever, and other sites. The documents include letters from Bar Kokhba to his military commanders, and archives of people who fled to the caves with their personal effects.
Volumes that deal with the contents of the Qumran Scrolls as well as the history of their discovery and publication include Schiffman 1995 and Davies, et al. 2002. General audio treatments of the scrolls are Schiffman 2007 and Rendsburg 2010. Schiffman 2010 details the major beliefs of the sect that are expressed in their writings. VanderKam and Flint 2002 discusses the methods that scholars use to uncover the secrets hidden in these ancient texts. Grossman 2010 gives an updated view of some of the newer methods being applied to Qumran research. Yadin 1966 and Yadin 1971 are treatments of the Masada and Bar Kokhba finds, respectively, by the scholar who headed the excavations.
Davies, Philip R., George J. Brooke, and Phillip R. Callaway, eds. The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
This volume is a highly illustrated and clearly presented description of the historical background of the scrolls, the history of discovery, methods of dating and reconstructing fragments, and the contents of each cave. Includes chapters on the Qumran settlement and the meaning of the scrolls, and short biographies of major scholars.
Grossman, Maxine, ed. Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Collection of essays by scholars who apply new methods of research, including from social science along with literary and historical studies, to present the most-recent scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scholars also offer essays on the uses and limitations of these methods and concrete examples of their application.
Rendsburg, Gary A. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Parts I & II. Chantilly, VA: Teaching Company, 2010.
Includes DVDs and a course guidebook. An overview of the topic, treating the early discoveries, scholarship, archaeological investigations, and major theories of the authorship of the scrolls.
Schiffman, Lawrence H. Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.
Sets the Qumran community in historical perspective, by focusing on their belief system and way of life, their biblical canon, their messianic ideals, and their relationship to other approaches to Judaism. Explains the historical forces that caused the decline of sectarianism and the rise of a national consensus around Rabbinic Judaism. Many illustrations, charts, and maps.
Schiffman, Lawrence H. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Truth behind the Mystique. Modern Scholar Series. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2007.
An audiobook consisting of fourteen lectures and a course summary booklet. To access this course’s webpage, see online. Explains what the scrolls are and what they are not, why they are so important, and what we can learn from them and describes the current state of research on the sectarians and their beliefs and practices.
Schiffman, Lawrence H. Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism. Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Essays explaining the history, politics, and formation of the Dead Sea sect and its religious outlook. Includes concepts such as messianism, halakhah, restoration, covenant, and the sectarian attitude toward other sects and non-Jews.
VanderKam, James C., and Peter Flint. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.
A survey of the scrolls and their historical significance as well as of the methods by which they are studied. Includes an up-to-date discussion of the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls to early Christianity and the New Testament.
Yadin, Yigael. Masada: Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots’ Last Stand. New York: Random House, 1966.
An account of the excavation of the main fortress of Masada, occupied by Jewish rebels against Rome and built on an earlier Herodian palace, as well as the Roman camps and siege works that brought it to its end in 73 CE.
Yadin, Yigael. Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome. New York: Random House, 1971.
Yadin relates, with the enthusiasm of an archaeologist making momentous discoveries, how the Bar Kokhba expedition uncovered historical sources relating to the Bar Kokhba revolt, including Bar Kokhba’s signed letters.
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