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.
©2013 Princeton University Press (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
If you want a short up-to-date account of the Dead Sea Scrolls and want to understand something of its importance, prof. John J. Collins of Yale University, provides you with it in this audio book. The writer is a seasoned Old Testament and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar.
In this 'biography' he deals with the significance and main issues surrounding scholarly research in seven chapters, ranging from its discovery (chapter 1); the Qumran community (Essenes): (chapter 2); the archaeology of the site itself (the Site of Qumran) (chapter 3); the meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Christianity and Judaism (chapter 4 & 5); its impact on the Bible (chapter 6), the early and later controversies surrounding the scholars and the study of the scrolls (chapter 7).
The similarity that Collins saw between Rip van Winkle and the Dead Sea Scrolls is most striking. We do indeed have a collection of scrolls that 'slept' for almost a 1000 years, before it could really have an impact on the world.
I found the first three chapters tedious and very carefully written. While well-balanced and fair, it felt at times that you were presented with information in which you could get lost. Collins' conclusions seems overcautious. That said, it became clear from chapter 4 why he took such an approach. The Dead Sea Scrolls had delivered a lot of controversial scholarship and scholars! Collins' diplomatic style ensured that the reader doesn't get stuck in one of the proverbial potholes along the way.
Having caught my interest, I found couldn't help admiring the interesting way Collins presented the Dead Sea Scrolls as a corpus. He was able to bring the meaning and significance of the scrolls to the fore.
Mark Moseley did a fair job in his reading of the book. (I have come to the conclusion that complaining about the pronunciation of foreign languages in reviews, doesn't really serve a purpose, as that which sounds right to one person, is wrong to another.) I found his pronunciation of words like "culture" as "cul-toor" a bit distracting, but that said, it is probably a legitimate pronunciation. (I thought prof. Lawrence Schiffman's presentation in "The Modern Scholar: The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Truth behind the Mystique" with all his uhms and ahs were much more engaging.)
This is a must-listen to anyone who doesn't know much about the Dead Sea Scrolls or someone who needs to come up to date with the intrigues surrounding this Rip van Winkle that slept for a 1000 years. I wonder if Washington Irving's Van Winkle ever received so much attention after he had awoken from his 20 year sleep?
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