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
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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