The Dead Sea Scrolls

The library of nearly 1,000 fragmentary manuscripts hidden in caves near the Dead Sea--discovered by accident nearly fifty years ago--has proven to be the most important manuscript find of the twentieth century for Jewish and Christian scholars alike.

The last decade has seen an acceleration in the publication of these scrolls and in the recognition of their importance for understanding the world of Second Temple Period Judaism, Jesus, and the earliest Christians.

The University of the Holy Land's Center for the Study of Early Christianity stands at the forefront of scrolls research and is a leader in the production of reference tools for exploring the scrolls.

Qualified students are invited to avail themselves of the unique opportunity offered by UHL/CSEC to study the scrolls in the land of their discovery with internationally renowned scrolls scholars, for a semester or year, or within a graduate degree (MA) program.

A Multi-Dimensional Approach

In studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars are presented with the rare opportunity of exploring the world of an important Jewish group from the first centuries BC and AD, the Essenes. Three types of witnesses exist to help in reconstructing the life and thought-world of the Essenes:

  • Many of the scrolls were part of the library of the Essenes and reflect their history, beliefs, practices, liturgies, and Biblical interpretation.
  • During several of its phases, the site of Qumran near the Dead Sea was the community center of the Essenes. Its archaeology and material remains bear witness to the daily life of the group.
  • Ancient writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Pliny give a further important witness to this group who lived at Qumran and whose library is contained among the scrolls.

Such a multi-dimensional witness allows scholars to examine the character of the Bible for this group and to reconstruct their history, worldview, and daily life. The relationship of the thought-world of the Essenes to that of Jesus and John the Baptist, and the comparison of their processes of Biblical interpretation with New Testament documents provides further avenues for research and exploration.

The Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of the Holy Land

UHL/CSEC remains on the cutting-edge of research, projects, and curriculum related to the scrolls. An example of this is the Qumran 3D reconstruction project currently being developed, which serves as an excellent learning and teaching aid.

UHL's president, Stephen J. Pfann, is a member of the International Team of Editors and has published Biblical manuscripts of the Book of Daniel as well as the large corpus of manuscripts written in 'cryptic' or esoteric scripts. He remains in global dialogue with fellow scholars and is a leader in applying new technologies such as hair follicle analysis to the reconstruction of the scrolls.

Under his direction, the scrolls team at UHL/CSEC is responsible for:

  • The concordances to the non-Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls published in the official series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD; Oxford University Press).
  • The production of the comprehensive concordance to the scrolls, to be published in CD-ROM and printed formats at the close of the DJD series.
  • The English annotated translation of R. de Vaux's excavation notes to Khirbet Qumran and Ein Feshkha.
  • The compilation of the database of over 5,000 small finds from Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and You

Qualified students are welcome to join in the ongoing study and work on the scrolls conducted at UHL/CSEC.

A well-developed curriculum of study offers graduate students in-depth exposure to:

  • Palaeography and Epigraphy
  • Principles of Scroll Reconstruction
  • Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran Community
  • Archaeology of Qumran and Ein Feshkha
  • The Hebrew of the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • The History of the Community
  • The Application of New Technologies to the Study of the Scrolls
  • Biblical Interpretation in the Scrolls
  • The Jewish Background of the New Testament World

Matriculation in these courses can be undertaken in the framework of the Master of Arts degrees in Intertestamental History and LiteratureArchaeology, or New Testament and Early Christianity, or through the Continuing Education Program.