The

The "Dead Sea Scrolls": A Biography

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by John J. Collins
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
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
GrrlScentist
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
Jewish Journal
[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
Booklist - Ilene Cooper
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.
GrrlScentist - Devorah Bennu
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.
Jewish Journal - Jonathan Kirsch
[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.
Canadian Jewish News - Sheldon Kirshner
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.
The Independent - Peter Stanford
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.
Tribune - Nigel Nelson
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.
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East - Rivkah Fishman-Duker
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.
From the Publisher
"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 Reviews

"[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 Studies

Library Journal
After reading this work, the conceit of writing a biography of the Dead Sea Scrolls will seem most apt. Collins (Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism & Interpretation, Yale; Introduction to the Hebrew Bible), a respected Dead Sea Scroll scholar, sketches a concise historical narrative of what was found in the Qumran caves south of Jericho in 1947, then traces the nearly 50-year journey these scrolls, pages and, in some cases, indecipherable fragments took to publication. He recounts the major players and, more important, the theological, political, and recurring personal conflicts that are the narrative fodder for all good biographies. The author is somewhat professionally invested in these fights but adopts as neutral a voice as possible. Collins is especially good at highlighting where scholars often—but not always—unwittingly massaged evidence to fit prevailing hypotheses and assumptions. This is a bit of fascinating historical biography that shows the high stakes involved in obscure academic and theological finds. VERDICT Historians and seminarians looking for a short, quick study with extensive bibliographies on the subject will be well served by this book. Recommended. [The reviewer is no relation to the author.—Ed.]—Sandra Collins, Byzantine Catholic Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691143675
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2012
Series:
Lives of Great Religious Books Series
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
526,633
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 3.60(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

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 Scrolls.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The nook version will not allow the font size to be adjusted. Font size is very small, smaller than other books.
Tennesseedog More than 1 year ago
An extraordinary journey into the world of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The author takes us through their discovery and release in controlled batches from mid 20th Century through continuing litigation and squabbles among scholars in the 21st Century. This is an in-depth presentation and it helps to have some familiarity with the Bible and the events in Judea during the time just before and concurrent with Jesus' life. All the theories regarding the scrolls and their origin and purposes are examined in detail. Also how the scrolls relate to early Christianity and Judaism before the rabbinic time is deeply analyzed and current and former personalities involved in the scroll analyses and publications are fairly, and with balance and intellectual rigor, presented for the reader's perusal. I found this volume a fabulous and enjoyable read concerning a subject of mystery and fascination to millions of people through the recent past. Don't miss it if you find the subject alluring.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Warning-this ebook is not properly formatted. The text is very small and cannot be adjusted or enlarged. None of the changes I tried to reformat worked, so I am stuck with reading very small text. This is especially true in the Nook app for iPad but even in the Nook itself, it is badly formatted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Roared in agony and left never to come back.