The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Course Trailer
The Discoveries and Their Significance
1: The Discoveries and Their Significance

Learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are, the story of their unlikely discovery, and the state of scholarship about ancient Judaism and early Christianity prior to the scrolls' surfacing. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls would alter our understanding of every aspect of the crucial historical period in which they were created.

32 min
The First Seven Scrolls
2: The First Seven Scrolls

Plunge into a tale of excitement and adventure and discover more about how scholars gained access to the first seven scrolls discovered at Qumran-and what they found when they began to translate these extraordinary initial discoveries.

28 min
Opening and Reading the First Scroll
3: Opening and Reading the First Scroll

This lecture begins your immersion into the text of the scrolls themselves, starting with the scroll known as the Community Rule or Manual of Discipline-the important text that gives us our first insight into the community and theology of the scrolls' creators and guardians.

32 min
The Historical Backdrop of Ancient Judaism
4: The Historical Backdrop of Ancient Judaism

Consider history prior to the scrolls, beginning with the biblical period and moving forward to focus on the Maccabean revolt, the arrival of the Romans, the reign of King Herod, the life of Jesus, the Zealot uprising, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the fall of Masada.

31 min
The Rise of the Jewish Sects
5: The Rise of the Jewish Sects

Gain insight into the appearance of Jewish sectarianism in late antiquity-focusing primarily on the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots-through the Jewish historian Josephus, along with the Jewish philosopher Philo, the authors of the New Testament books, the later rabbis, and even the Roman polymath Pliny the Elder.

29 min
The Dead Sea Site of the Qumran Sect
6: The Dead Sea Site of the Qumran Sect

Journey to the isolated region of Qumran's caves and learn how archaeological excavations of a nearby ruin helped scholars form the most accepted hypothesis of who wrote the scrolls and why the scrolls were deposited in the caves.

32 min
The Emergence of the Rabbinic System
7: The Emergence of the Rabbinic System

Step forward in time to examine some later rabbinic texts from the 3rd century and the rise of the rabbinical tradition itself, both of which provide vital perspectives on the composition of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

32 min
A Dead Sea Scroll from Medieval Cairo
8: A Dead Sea Scroll from Medieval Cairo

Focus on the famous Damascus Document, two copies of which were discovered in a Cairo synagogue in the 1890s. Although the copies were medieval, the texts themselves were believed to be ancient-a conclusion later confirmed when fragments of the same texts were found at Qumran.

30 min
Pesher Interpretation-Prophecy Read Anew
9: Pesher Interpretation-Prophecy Read Anew

Look at a scroll known as the Pesher Habakkuk, the most prominent representative of an interpretive method whereby the true message of a biblical book is read as speaking to present-day conditions, as opposed to the original setting centuries earlier.

28 min
The War Scroll and Other Apocalyptic Texts
10: The War Scroll and Other Apocalyptic Texts

Two key scrolls-one of which details a cataclysmic battle between the "Sons of Light" (the Qumran sect's self-designation) and the "Sons of Darkness" (all other Jews, apparently)-offer you a window into apocalyptic belief among the Dead Sea sectarians.

29 min
Biblical Manuscripts at Qumran
11: Biblical Manuscripts at Qumran

Using clarifying examples of biblical text, enter the arcane world of textual criticism, learning about the transmission of texts in antiquity, the oral reading tradition, the translation of the Bible into Greek, the Samaritan version of the Torah, and, of course, the Qumran biblical manuscripts themselves.

31 min
Alternative Views of Qumran and the Scrolls
12: Alternative Views of Qumran and the Scrolls

Most scholars believe the Dead Sea Scrolls were authored by a Jewish sect identified with the Essenes, who then hid the documents from the advancing Roman army in 68 C.E. This is not the only view, however. In this lecture, learn about several dissenting views.

29 min
Stops and Starts En Route to Publication
13: Stops and Starts En Route to Publication

The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls involves much more than just archaeology and analysis. This lecture takes you into the intrigue, scholarly rivalry, and sometimes astonishing delays that marked the scrolls' long journey from discovery to complete publication.

28 min
The Qumran Vision for a New Temple
14: The Qumran Vision for a New Temple

Explore in detail the Temple Scroll, which reworked the Torah's laws, using the book of Deuteronomy as a base. Also, learn how a key shift in the text's narrative voice-to that of God speaking in the first person-has drawn attention to a major belief central to the Qumran sect.

31 min
Daily Life at Qumran
15: Daily Life at Qumran

How did the Qumran community go about its daily life? This lecture integrates both textual and archaeological data to examine the sect's social structure, economy, farming, food production, and the question of women at Qumran.

31 min
The Halakhic Letter-Rituals Define the Sect
16: The Halakhic Letter-Rituals Define the Sect

This treatise on 20 points of Jewish law, written by the Qumran sect's leader, was published in modern form 40 years after its discovery. Follow the twists and turns of that story before delving into the contents of this foundational text for the Qumran community.

31 min
The Qumran Biblical Canon
17: The Qumran Biblical Canon

When the Qumran community existed, the biblical canon was not yet fixed, with different Jewish groups seeing as canonical some texts that others did not. Examine some texts shedding light on the Qumran canon, including the Genesis Apocryphon and its detailed elaboration of Sarah's physical beauty.

30 min
The Qumran Calendar
18: The Qumran Calendar

Look at the ways in which the arrangement of the yearly calendar influenced the practice of faith, and how the Qumran community used a different calendar from other Jews of the time.

31 min
Jewish Scholars and Qumran Ritual Practices
19: Jewish Scholars and Qumran Ritual Practices

Return to the process by which the scrolls were published, learning how several key events in 1991 ultimately shattered the scholarly monopoly and paved the way for close examination of religious practices at Qumran, including the use of tefillin, the mezuzah, and the recitation of Grace after Meals.

32 min
Prayers, Hymns, and the Synagogue
20: Prayers, Hymns, and the Synagogue

Continue your focus on Jewish ritual at Qumran, with special attention to prayer and the role of the synagogue, before turning to the last of the original seven documents to be examined in this course, a lengthy collection of poetry known as the Thanksgiving Hymns.

30 min
Qumran Hebrew as an Anti-Language
21: Qumran Hebrew as an Anti-Language

Turn to the dialect used in the Dead Sea Scrolls known to scholars as "Qumran Hebrew"-an example of the sociolinguistic phenomenon of "anti-language"-and investigate how it could be used by the sect to set itself apart.

31 min
The Enigma of the Copper Scroll
22: The Enigma of the Copper Scroll

Learn how the Qumran community's most remarkable and puzzling text-the corroded metal sheets of which needed to be cut apart into strips to permit reading-proved to contain obscure hints of the locations of vast and specific amounts of gold, silver, and other treasure.

32 min
Connections to Christianity
23: Connections to Christianity

There are many links between the Dead Sea Scrolls sect and the Jesus movement. This lecture gathers connections already mentioned in earlier lectures and further explores beliefs and practices shared by the Qumran sect and earliest Christianity.

33 min
Scroll Fragments and a New View of Judaism
24: Scroll Fragments and a New View of Judaism

Even quite fragmentary scrolls offer new insights. This lecture samples three such fragments, turns to the ultimate fates of the different sects, and then concludes with a look at lessons the scrolls offer us today.

34 min
Gary A. Rendsburg

I've always had a love of history, so I very much enjoy bringing this aspect to our course.

ALMA MATER

New York University

INSTITUTION

Rutgers University

About Gary A. Rendsburg

Dr. Gary A. Rendsburg holds the Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, where he also holds an appointment in the History Department. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from New York University and taught at Canisius College and Cornell University-the latter for 18 years-before joining the Rutgers faculty in 2004. The author of six books and more than 120 scholarly articles, Professor Rendsburg takes a special interest in literary approaches to the Bible, the history of the Hebrew language, the history of ancient Israel, and the development of Judaism in the post-biblical period. His works include The Bible and the Ancient Near East (1997), a general survey of the biblical world coauthored with the late Cyrus H. Gordon, and, most recently, Solomon's Vineyard: Literary and Linguistic Studies in the Song of Songs (2009), coauthored with Scott B. Noegel. Professor Rendsburg has visited all of the major archaeological sites in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan and has explored Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, repeatedly for several decades. He has participated in excavations at Tel Dor and Caesarea. His main research interests are the literature of the Bible, the history of ancient Israel, the historical development of the Hebrew language, and the relationship between ancient Egypt and ancient Israel. Professor Rendsburg has received several fellowships including the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Also By This Professor