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The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography

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Unraveling the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls 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 Unraveling the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls 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.


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Unraveling the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls 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 Unraveling the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls 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.

30 review for The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Sleeman

    This is very good introduction to what can be an overwhelming topic. Collins does a great job explaining the background related to the scholarship surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and the academic and theological egos that guided (and oftentimes hindered) publication of, and research about, this important collection of documents. Some photographs and/or maps though would have helped the overall understanding of the issues and, despite the series introduction at the outset,I don’t think this book This is very good introduction to what can be an overwhelming topic. Collins does a great job explaining the background related to the scholarship surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and the academic and theological egos that guided (and oftentimes hindered) publication of, and research about, this important collection of documents. Some photographs and/or maps though would have helped the overall understanding of the issues and, despite the series introduction at the outset,I don’t think this book is for the lay reader but is better suited to someone with a little background. The inclusion of guides for additional reading at the end of each chapter is a welcome aspect of this title and series. I look forward to the next titles in this series.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    This book summarizes the 60 plus years of history since the discovery of the dead sea scrolls in 1947 near Qumran in the Judean desert of Israel. It presents the story of the scrolls from several perspectives - from the people of Qumran, from those second temple Israelites living in Jerusalem, from the early Christians, and what it means today. I have read much about these topics and I didn't find anything really new in the book, but it provides a good overview of what the scrolls meant if you d This book summarizes the 60 plus years of history since the discovery of the dead sea scrolls in 1947 near Qumran in the Judean desert of Israel. It presents the story of the scrolls from several perspectives - from the people of Qumran, from those second temple Israelites living in Jerusalem, from the early Christians, and what it means today. I have read much about these topics and I didn't find anything really new in the book, but it provides a good overview of what the scrolls meant if you do not know much about them. The book was fairly short and a quick read. This would be a good first book to study the scrolls.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Collins has crafted an enjoyable survey of the history surrounding the D.S.S. As per usual, his handling of the data is fair and his insight across the material is vast. The chapters on the Essenes (Ch2), and the D.S.S. and the bible (Ch6) were stand out chapters for me. The former considers the many theories circling this mysterious group - the most enjoyable being the barbed insight of FM Cross. Collins concludes in similar fashion to Cross that the identifying of the Essenes as the Qumran comm Collins has crafted an enjoyable survey of the history surrounding the D.S.S. As per usual, his handling of the data is fair and his insight across the material is vast. The chapters on the Essenes (Ch2), and the D.S.S. and the bible (Ch6) were stand out chapters for me. The former considers the many theories circling this mysterious group - the most enjoyable being the barbed insight of FM Cross. Collins concludes in similar fashion to Cross that the identifying of the Essenes as the Qumran community is still the best theory available. As for the latter chapter, it provides an excellent introduction to how the First Testament has been put together (MT, LXX, also considering peripheral works SP, etc...), as well as highlighting some very important interpretive issues. The most striking for me was the realisation that the Hebrew Bible appears to have had layers of “canon.” That is to say that the D.S.S. show that whilst the Law and the Prophets were transmitted largely without any changes, that the writings appear to have been treated as an “open-ended category of edifying literature” that could be reinterpreted and added to by the community. (199) This makes a lot of sense in light of the apocryphal additions to Daniel (as he was considered to be part of the writings, rather than the prophets). The final chapter concerning the “ownership” of the scrolls (or at least the constraints put on translating and releasing them to the public), shows an unexpected and juvenile side of scholarship that left me shocked. (You’ll never guess what [blank] said to [blank]!) Overall Collins has masterfully communicated the material in this book. The language is accessible and the ideas are made plain. It is an excellent way to explore the D.S.S. and the evidences of what took place at Qumran.

  4. 4 out of 5

    G0thamite

    This is not your typical Dead Sea Scrolls book. Sure, it covers the basics like when and how they were found and the early deals made to secure them in various libraries. However, it sets itself apart in that it details the "difference the Scrolls have made to the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity." (p. xii) To that end, its chapters are devoted to, in order, the Essenes, the Site of Qumran, The Scrolls and Christianity, The Scrolls of Judaism, The Scrolls and the Bible, The Battles This is not your typical Dead Sea Scrolls book. Sure, it covers the basics like when and how they were found and the early deals made to secure them in various libraries. However, it sets itself apart in that it details the "difference the Scrolls have made to the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity." (p. xii) To that end, its chapters are devoted to, in order, the Essenes, the Site of Qumran, The Scrolls and Christianity, The Scrolls of Judaism, The Scrolls and the Bible, The Battles for the Scrolls (release of the texts and publishing issues). Each chapter ends with a short but helpful bibliography of important works dedicated to each chapter. Collins has added an appendix with a short description of major personalities involved with the Scrolls over the 70 year history. He includes a glossary of important terms and a helpful bibliography. This book covers material you will not find in any single volume but brings together a wealth of material and summarizes it in as objective manner as possible. You'll be glad you read it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    I've read a few introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and this is by far the best of them. Fast paced, well written, and incredibly thorough for such a brief introduction, this book makes for a perfect primer for anyone looking to learn about the DSS for the first time. Collins covers every angle, from the fascinating history of the discovery of the scrolls and their life as black market products, to their actual content, to the scholars who have been the most influential in their publication an I've read a few introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and this is by far the best of them. Fast paced, well written, and incredibly thorough for such a brief introduction, this book makes for a perfect primer for anyone looking to learn about the DSS for the first time. Collins covers every angle, from the fascinating history of the discovery of the scrolls and their life as black market products, to their actual content, to the scholars who have been the most influential in their publication and analysis. Much of the history of the DSS plays out like an Indiana Jones adventure, and this book describes the unbelievable details perfectly. I have to admit, I'm not on board with a lot of what Collins concludes about the Old Testament. But there is no question that he is a first rate scholar, and in this treatment he is fair and helpful. A joy to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mysteryfan

    Odd to think of writing a bio of these but I liked his approach. It was a very readable account of the discovery of the scrolls, placing them in their historical and social context. There wasn't much discussion of their actual content but there was a fascinating chapter on their controversial translation and release. I also liked the way he placed Further Readings at the end of each chapter and included an appendix on the personalities. Odd to think of writing a bio of these but I liked his approach. It was a very readable account of the discovery of the scrolls, placing them in their historical and social context. There wasn't much discussion of their actual content but there was a fascinating chapter on their controversial translation and release. I also liked the way he placed Further Readings at the end of each chapter and included an appendix on the personalities.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Great little book presenting the significance of the material in the scrolls, and summarizing the high points of the controversies over the dilatory nature of the scholars responsible for the first 40 years of the preparation of the scrolls text and the contradictory and sensationalist interpretations of the meaning of the texts. He's very generous to those who screwed up big time, but you can tell who they are.... Great little book presenting the significance of the material in the scrolls, and summarizing the high points of the controversies over the dilatory nature of the scholars responsible for the first 40 years of the preparation of the scrolls text and the contradictory and sensationalist interpretations of the meaning of the texts. He's very generous to those who screwed up big time, but you can tell who they are....

  8. 4 out of 5

    Charlotta

    Very interesting. Loved the way he showed the reader that those in academia are pretty radical when it comes to who publishes something. Well, documented history with lots of further reading. Be prepared for a rather technical read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    It was a wonderful general overview. I liked it so much I'm going to buy it for my library. It was a wonderful general overview. I liked it so much I'm going to buy it for my library.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lister

    A concise survey of the discovery, textual theories, and controversies surrounding the Qumran manuscripts. Collins does a good job of navigating the tumultuous history of the scrolls, as well as, being charitable to the various scholarly views. He presents the strengths and weaknesses of each view judiciously, regardless of their religious and political affiliations. He is also willing to call out the absurdity of many headline grabbers, who seek to capitalize off of the mania surrounding the sc A concise survey of the discovery, textual theories, and controversies surrounding the Qumran manuscripts. Collins does a good job of navigating the tumultuous history of the scrolls, as well as, being charitable to the various scholarly views. He presents the strengths and weaknesses of each view judiciously, regardless of their religious and political affiliations. He is also willing to call out the absurdity of many headline grabbers, who seek to capitalize off of the mania surrounding the scrolls.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Schwartz

    Great introduction to a complex subject. Collins, a world renowned scholar on the subject, writes well and presents the controversies in an even handed way, while indicating where he comes out. Great bibliography as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    In as much as there can be a bio of inanimate objects this is quite a revelation. It includes history of when and where parts of the scrolls were found, whose hands they were transitioned through and good information about the scholars and others who translated and commented on the scrolls. A very in-depth study of the topic. Well worth the read...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Carlson

    What a great book! Part of the "Lives of Great Religious Books" series it is, indeed, a "biography" of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a newcomer to this topic, the book was understandable, readable, and above all, fun! What a great book! Part of the "Lives of Great Religious Books" series it is, indeed, a "biography" of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a newcomer to this topic, the book was understandable, readable, and above all, fun!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hope Caldwell

    Don't download this as an ebook- at least not for the Nook. It is not properly formatted and the very small text cannot be enlarged, changed or adjusted. Makes it a difficult read-literally. Interesting topic, but not sure I'll be ale to finish. Don't download this as an ebook- at least not for the Nook. It is not properly formatted and the very small text cannot be enlarged, changed or adjusted. Makes it a difficult read-literally. Interesting topic, but not sure I'll be ale to finish.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    Loved the beginning but not so much after that.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    This was a tough book to read, with formatting that was difficult to follow. For the person that is really interested in all aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is a great reference! Not for me :-(

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Witt

    Very detailed, describing how the scrolls were first found in the cave. Discusses how various scholars, listed in the back of the book, have translated them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brice Bigham

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric Cunningham

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Clarke

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Reynolds

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Bell

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jake Cochran

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Hutchens

  30. 4 out of 5

    Larry Snyder

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