Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran
One of the foundational texts for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls remains the work of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman titled Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran. Schiffman lays out the history of the scrolls from their discovery to the time of his writing. This includes an overview of the history of the scholarly control of the scrolls at Qumran as well as the various theories regarding the writers of the Scrolls. Schiffman posits his own innovative view that the community Qumran were break away Sadducean priests rejecting wide ranging alternative views.
Schiffman is well known for his expertise on the Second Temple Period and his other prominent works includes, From Text to Tradition, a History of Judaism in Second Temple and Rabbinic Times. These texts are fundamental to anyone interested in studying the Second Temple Period and his works were included in the curriculum at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies where i completed my master's degree. They also proved to be useful references during my doctoral studies.
Together, with Gabriele Boccaccini, John J. Collins, and James Vanderkam, I personally hold Lawrence Schiffman to be among the top scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Second Temple.
The following is greater detail on his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls from Amazon:
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.
Posted by Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez the director of Yeshivat Meor Enaim. He is the author of The Converso Dilemma: Halakhic Responsa and the Status of Forced Converts and 19 additional books on various Jewish topics.