Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran

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Jewish Publication Society, 1994 - Religion - 529 pages
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This in-depth examination of the Dead Sea Scrolls reveals their true heart: a missing link between ancient and modern Judaism. Because the Dead Sea Scrolls include the earliest known manuscripts of the Bible as well as Jewish documents composed just after the Hebrew biblical period, they contain a gold mine of information about the history of Judaism and the early roots and background of Christianity. Schiffman refocuses the controversy from who controls access to the Scrolls today to what the Scrolls tell us about the past. He challenges the prevailing notion of earlier Scrolls scholars that the Dead Sea Scrolls were proto-Christian, demonstrating instead their thorough-going Jewish character and their importance for understanding the history of Judaism.
Schiffman shows us that the Scrolls library in the Dead Sea caves was gathered by a breakaway priestly sect that left Jerusalem in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt. They were angry that their fellow Sadducees in the Temple were content to accommodate themselves to the victorious Hasmonaean rulers who had embraced the views of the Pharisees - forerunners of the talmudic rabbis. This loyal opposition, a band of pious Sadducee priests, retreated to the desert, taking up residence at Qumran. From this group, the Dead Sea sect developed.
In addition to its own writings, the sect gathered the texts of related groups, placing them in its library along with numerous biblical and apocryphal texts. Those other works, some previously known, others unknown, were preserved here in the original Hebrew or Aramaic. Numerous prayer texts, either from the Dead Sea sect or other Jewish groups, were also preserved.
Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls puts into perspective the triumph of rabbinic Judaism after the Jewish military defeat by Rome. Readers will appreciate this lost chapter of Judaism, not only for its historical insights, but also for its parallels with modern Judaism on such issues as religious pluralism, sectarianism, Jewish identity, and spiritual questing.
Finally, Schiffman maintains that a true understanding of the Scrolls can improve relations between today's Jewish and Christian communities. Across the centuries, the Scrolls speak to us about our common roots, showing precisely how Christianity emerged from currents in ancient Judaism - currents that were much more widespread in that period than we previously imagined.

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User Review  - Banbury - LibraryThing

RECLAIMING THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS by Lawrence H. Schiffman While almost certainly the fault of the marketing arm of the publisher rather than of the author, it is a bit disappointing that the dust ... Read full review


User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The most thorough and authoritative of the flood of new books occasioned by the full release of the Dead Sea Scrolls between 1991 and 1993. Schiffman (Near Eastern Studies/New York Univ.), a Hebrew ... Read full review


Scholars Scrolls and Scandals
The Archaeology of Qumran
Part II

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About the author (1994)

Lawrence H. Schiffman is Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University's Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures.

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