The "Dead Sea Scrolls"

The "Dead Sea Scrolls" : A Biography

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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 more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 116.84 x 195.58 x 30.48mm | 408.23g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 0691143676
  • 9780691143675
  • 290,366

Review quote

"One could scarcely imagine a better concise guide to the Scrolls that John Collins's The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biograohy. Collins, who teaches at Yale, writes with clarity and liveliness, and throughout his account exercises great judiciousness, a quality that has not always been prominent in discussions of this subject."--Robert Alter, London Review of Books "This compact book, part of the Lives of Great Religious Books series, is not so much about what the Dead Sea Scrolls are but, rather, how the arguments around them have impacted Christianity, Judaism, and the wider world. Collins writes engagingly about the history of the Scrolls and examines the debates and conclusions that various scholars have put forth about who wrote the Scrolls, what the location of their discovery means, and the way the wide-ranging writings have been used to promote various positions... A solid introduction that offers plenty of information."--Ilene Cooper, Booklist "This is a very readable description of Dead Sea Scrolls' story, from their discovery at an archaeological site in the West Bank to recent events inspired by them."--Devorah Bennu, GrrlScentist "[Collins] brings clarity and acuity to a subject that has often attracted myth-makers and special pleaders... [He] also allows us to see that the acrimonious debates about the origin, meaning and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls are actually quite consequential to any reader who wonders how the Bible itself and the Bible-based religions actually entered the world."--Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal "Offers insights into the passionate debates that have swirled around [the Dead Sea Scrolls] since their startling discovery. One of the topics he explores is the extent to which they broadly reflect the Judaism of that era."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News "In his short, sharp, snappy 'biography', [Collins] rehearses all the various theories on the scrolls, separates the wheat from the chaff, and brings light to the darkness. This is not simply a digest. Collins takes our hand and guides us to oh-so-reasonable conclusions."--Peter Stanford, The Independent "The scrolls have had the experts fighting over them like cats in a sack, but for the rest of us, they are of curiosity value only... These stories of backbiting and backstabbing make Collin's book a feast for the eyes."--Nigel Nelson, Tribune (U.K.) "The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography is an important contribution because Collins analyzes and summarizes the essence, content and problematic aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their scholars... In today's politicized world of academia, unfortunately, the Jewish context and content of the Scrolls and the site and the Jewish world of Jesus and his disciples must be restated and demonstrated constantly. Accordingly, John Collins' book contributes to debunking fraudulent political claims against the presence of Jews and the very essence of Jewish history and Jewish religion in the Land of Israel."--Rivkah Fishman-Duker, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East "Collins writes in a clear and precise style... Here he addresses the different interpretations presented by scholars, providing a good summary of historical debate about the Scrolls."--Choice "This series contains the latest scholarship about a specific subject, gives great opportunity for acquiring a limited but significant amount of knowledge, and enthuses readers to go into it in much more detail."--Charles H. Middleburgh, Charles Middleburgh Blog "In sum, this is an excellent introduction to a complex subject, lucid and remarkably irenic."--Roger S. Bagnall, Bryn Mawr Classical Review "[A]nyone seeking a short introduction to the Scrolls could do a lot worse than to look in this direction. They will learn an enormous amount quite effortlessly in a small space of time, being thoroughly diverted in the process. They will be assisted by excellent indices and judicious short bibliographies."--Tessa Rajak, Journal of Jewish Studies "The entire book is skillfully structured to reflect its theme... [Collins] seems particularly at home, and writes with relish and refreshing honesty... [Readers] will learn an enormous amount quite effortlessly in a small space of time, being thoroughly diverted in the process."--Tessa Rajak, Journal of Jewish Studiesshow more

Back cover copy

"This is a marvelously readable, informative, and reliable general introduction to everything associated with Qumran, and provides valuable insights into the impact of the scrolls on the Bible, ancient Judaism, and budding Christianity. It is highly recommended as one of the best guides for anyone wishing to approach the greatest Hebrew manuscript discovery of modern times."--Geza Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish studies, University of Oxford "This up-to-date and concise handbook introduces readers to profound discussions of theological, historical, and canonical issues, and to the savory details and gossip surrounding the discovery and publication of the scrolls. Written in Collins's original, witty style, the book is a must for anyone who wants to learn about the scrolls, novice and specialist alike."--Emanuel Tov, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, former editor in chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project "This book is right up to date, and is written by a scholar who has been at the very center of scrolls scholarship for several decades. What sets it apart is Collins's expert and sensible analysis of the theories scholars have crafted about the Dead Sea Scrolls in the sixty-five years since they were first discovered."--James C. VanderKam, author of The Dead Sea Scrolls Today "This is an excellent introduction to the scrolls and a great read. Collins has a distinctive perspective and voice, and writes lucidly and engagingly. His well-known scholarly judiciousness is everywhere in evidence--a virtue in short supply in some areas of scrolls study. There is no other volume that does quite what this one does."--Philip Alexander, author of The Mystical Texts: Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and Related Manuscriptsshow more

About John J. Collins

John J. Collins is the Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University. His many books include Beyond the Qumran Community: The Sectarian Movement of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, and The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea more

Table of contents

Preface vii Chapter 1 The Discovery of the Scrolls 1 Chapter 2 The Essenes 33 Chapter 3 The Site of Qumran 67 Chapter 4 The Scrolls and Christianity 96 Chapter 5 The Scrolls and Judaism 147 Chapter 6 The Scrolls and the Bible 185 Chapter 7 The Battle for the Scrolls 213 Appendix Personalities in the Discovery and Subsequent Controversies 243 Notes 247 Glossary 259 Bibliography 263 Indexes 265 * Ancient Texts 265 * Names 267 * Places 270 * Subjects 27show more

Rating details

76 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 17% (13)
4 49% (37)
3 21% (16)
2 11% (8)
1 3% (2)
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