Location of Cave 1 at Qumran


Directory to the Dead Sea Scrolls Collection:

Introduction: The Story of the Scrolls
Texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls
Timetable of Dead Sea Scroll Scholarship
Resources for Further Study
Recommended Books


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The Gnostic Society Library

The Great Isaiah Scroll -- oldest complete manuscript of a Hebrew scripture 
yet discovered, datable before 100 BCE -- found in Cave 1 at Qumran


Dead Sea Scrolls studies are currently polarized by debate over whether or not an Essene community dwelling at Qumran produced the Scrolls.  For over thirty years interpretations of the Scrolls were dominated by the "traditional" (as it is now called) assumption that the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied, collected and stored by Essene sectarians at Qumran.  The last decade has witnessed growing dissent to that traditional viewpoint.

In choosing the selections below, we have tried to present notable books representing both traditional and dissenting views, and to give some indication where each books sits in the current argument.  (For more information on this sometimes heated debate, see our Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls.)  

For an initial reading program we suggest three books (all listed below): The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James Vanderkam, for a concise overview;  The Dead Sea Scrolls by M. Wise, for a complete collection of the DSS texts in translation;  and Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? by Norman Golb, to gain insight into current debates about the origin of the DSS. 

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Collections of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Translation

The Dead Sea Scrolls  by M. WiseThe Dead Sea Scrolls  by M. Wise, M. Abegg & E. Cook

This is a new translation of nearly all the unique documents found at Qumran. It offers an excellent general introduction, and gives a balanced critique of the traditional Essene hypothesis, along with suggestions for a new approach to the documents. The translations of the DSS texts are well annotated and very readable.  This is perhaps the best available general collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls in translation. Highly recommended.



The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated  by F. MartinezThe Dead Sea Scrolls Translated  by Florentino Garcia Martinez

This is one of the best scholarly collections of the DSS texts and a book that will be found in the library of every serious student of the Scrolls.  Martinez not only gives a translation of the major texts, but also offers parallel evaluations of different versions of the same text when more than one copy exists among the Scrolls. The book also includes a listing of all the scrolls found near Qumran, with brief bibliographical notes on each. Martinez is in agreement with traditional approaches to the Scrolls, and the book's introduction gives a good review of the Essene-Qumran hypothesis. The book was originally written in Spanish and then translated to English.  As a result, texts of the Scrolls have been translated twice (first to Spanish, then to English); readability occasionally suffers as a resulting of this double translation. This book is recommended as a compliment to one of the other standard collections (such as the Wise, Abegg and Cook translation, above) for students engaged in a serious study of the texts from the DDS.



The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls,  by G. VermesThe Complete Dead Sea Scrolls   by Geza Vermes

This is the classic translation of the Scrolls, first published in 1962 and last updated in 2004, by one of the most respected scholars involved in traditional interpretations of the collection.  It remains the one book on the DSS most often purchased by visitors to our bookstore.  Vermes presents a very readable text, along with an introduction and notes, all strongly based in the Qumran-Essene theory about origins of the Scrolls.  Due to this bias and a reluctance to  discuss alternative approaches to the Scrolls, some readers find the book outdated.  In our opinion, it remains a classic and is well worth reading -- but it should be balanced by one of the books offering a dissenting view about origins of the DSS.  


Introductory and Advanced Commentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by J VanerkamThe Dead Sea Scrolls Today  by James Vanderkam 

A concise and informative introductory work. It offers a general history of the DSS discovery, a survey of the manuscripts, an overview of the traditional Essene-Qumran hypothesis (which the author accepts without apparent reservation), and an evaluation of impact the Scrolls have had on both OT and NT scholarship. The book seems designed for use in an introductory class on the DSS, and is well suited to that task. 



Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls  by N. GolbWho Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? by Norman Golb

For over thirty years Dr. Golb has been a respected and vocal critic of traditional DSS scholarship. In this work he gives a detailed history of his personal battle with that dominant viewpoint. Along the way, he offers an extensive review of his own reasons for rejecting traditional assumptions about an Essene community living at Qumran and producing the Dead Sea Scrolls. The book is strongly argumentative and will be best appreciated by readers already somewhat familiar with traditional DSS scholarship.  Highly recommended for those seeking to understand the debate currently surrounding the Scrolls.  



Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls  by L. SchiffmanReclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls  by Lawrence Schiffman 

This is a book to explore after having dipped into a few other introductory works.   Schiffman, like several other Jewish scholars of the DSS, is critical of the Christian bias frequently perceived in some traditional approaches to the discovery. In balance, he emphasizes here the importance of the Scrolls from an exclusively Jewish perspective. The author rejects the Essene-Qumran hypothesis, arguing that the Scrolls are better understood as writings of a splinter sect of Sadducees.  One gets the impression that Schiffman brings a strong ideological bias to his subject; this bias occasional sustains his arguments where objective evidence appears scant. Nonetheless, the book is well written and offers several uniquely valuable insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls literature.



Beyond the Essene Hypothesis  by G. BoccacciniBeyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism   by Gabriele Boccaccini

Another very interesting non-traditional approach to the Dead Sea Scrolls.   Boccaccini identifies a trend in intertestamental Judaism integrally associated with the Enoch literature, and locates authorship of the Scrolls within that tradition.  The author suggests that early Christianity was influenced by the same visionary tradition (a suggestion which is not, however, the focus of this study). Again, this a book to investigate after sampling other introductory material.  Boccaccini's work is a fine representative of new approaches developing in DSS studies. Definitely recommended.  


The Dead Sea Scrolls Collection at The Gnostic Society Library

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