The Dead Sea Scrolls

ISBN : 9780198779520

Timothy H. Lim
168 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Mar 2017
Very Short Introductions


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  • Introduces the historical and cultural context of the scrolls, through the archaeology and history of the Dead Sea region 2,000 years ago.
  • Provides an accessible account of the leading interpretations of the scrolls, and how they have changed the way we understand the emergence of the Old Testament, Ancient Judaism, and Early Christianity.
  • Discusses the scrolls' rise to the status of cultural icon, beginning with their discovery in the 1940s, to the political, legal, and scholarly controversies that still persist today.
  • Navigates the ongoing scholarly debates over the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran, the caves, and the marginalization of women
  • Analyses the communities associated with the Scrolls and Essenes, the textual fluidity of the biblical texts, the formation of the canon, and the sectarian nature of early Christianity

New to this Edition:

  • The Qumran-Essene theory that held sway in the last generation has been challenged by various scholars who have reassessed Roland de Vaux's interpretation of Khirbet Qumran, and the close link between the communities reflected in the Scrolls and the archaeological site. This edition discusses the alternate views to the Qumran-Essene theory
  • Expands the discussion on the issue of 'canon', showing how the sectarian community did have an understanding of authoritative scriptures, forming a broadly bipartite canon of the Torah and the prophets
  • Discusses the cultural significance of the Scrolls, including the most recent online digital projects

Since their discovery in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have become an icon in popular culture that transcends their status as ancient Jewish manuscripts. Everyone has heard of the Scrolls, but amidst the conspiracies, the politics, and the sensational claims, it can be difficult to separate the myths from the reality. 
In this Very Short introductions, Timothy Lim discusses the cultural significance of the finds, and the religious, political and legal controversies during the seventy years of study since the discovery. He also looks at the contribution the Scrolls have made to our understanding of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, and the origins of early Christianity. Exploring the most recent scholarly discussions on the archaeology of Khirbet Qumran, and the study of the biblical texts, the canon, and the history of the Second Temple Period, he considers what the scrolls reveal about sectarianism in early Judaism. Was the archaeological site of Qumran a centre of monastic life, a fortress, a villa, or a pottery factory? Why were some of their biblical texts so different from the ones that we read today? Did they have 'a Bible'? Who were the Essenes and why did they think that humanity is to be divided between 'the sons of light' and those in darkness? And, finally, do the Scrolls reflect the teachings of the earliest followers of Jesus? 


1: The Dead Sea Scrolls as cultural icon
2: The archaeological site and caves
3: On scrolls and fragments
4: New light on the Hebrew Bible
5: The canon, authoritative scriptures, and the scrolls
6: Who owned the scrolls?
7: Literary compositions of the scrolls collections
8: Jewish sectarianism in the Second Temple Period
9: The communities of the Dead Sea Scrolls
10: The religious beliefs of the sectarian communities
11: The scrolls and early Christianity
12: The greatest manuscript discovery
Further Reading

About the author: 

Timothy H. Lim is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Period at New College, The University of Edinburgh. He has written several books and numerous articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including The Formation of the Jewish Canon (Yale University Press, 2013), and he co-edited The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls (OUP, 2010), with John J. Collins. He is the General Editor of The Oxford Commentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Professor Lim is a renowned authority on Biblical and Jewish Studies and recently delivered the Chuen King Memorial lectures at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in China.

"A very helpful, personal, and enjoyable introduction." - Emanuel Tov, The Expository Times

"Having read a number of books previously on this subject, I have a basic knowledge of the subject, but after reading Lim's book, I feel my knowledge has grown quite significantly ... A fascinating subject, treated with down-to-earth gusto, but with a reverence for the unique and astounding discovery it is." - Sandra Callard, On: Yorkshire Magazine

"impressively broad-ranging and useful" - Vulpes Libris

"Marvellously concise and elegantly written, this book is a masterful introduction to the main issues relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls in a nutshell!" - John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale a

"...an excellent, brief, but thorough introduction... Lim provides an authoritative guide to the contents and significance of the scrolls as ancient documents of major religious importance. That would be enough to ask, but he also provides a fascinating account of how these documents have played a role in modern copyright law and have become a focus for polemically tinged religious conspiracy theories. What a story!" - Carol A. Newsom, C. H. Candler Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Emory University

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