The Importance of the Scrolls
With respect to the study of Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls are the single most important discovery of our time. These documents were produced by Jews in Judea between approximately 200 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. They help to fill in the picture of the diversity of Second Temple era Jewish religious life and thought. From these texts, we learn about ancient scribal practices, exegetical traditions, and techniques of biblical interpretation. It is possible to trace the paths of biblical books towards canonization as “the Hebrew Bible,” the development of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, the effect of known historical events on religious life and thought.
The milieu within which the Qumran sectarians copied and created their texts, ate their meals, disciplined their members, farmed their plantation, made their pottery, was the Jewish matrix out of which emerged rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. Thus, the importance of the finds at Qumran and the Dead Sea scrolls crosses academic and religious boundaries. Although neither rabbinic nor Christian texts are among the Qumran discoveries, many of the traditions, ideas and even some practices revealed in the Scrolls re-emerge in later Christian and Jewish writings.
Amazing New Historical Source
For the first time we have access to direct evidence from the Second Temple period. Hundreds of documents and fragments have been pieced together and deciphered. The community center has been excavated, although some of the results of the excavations remain to be published. The new wellspring of information has led to an abundance of research and interest. The publication of the scrolls and concordances is now nearly complete and an additional volume of the excavation reports has been published. In the past sixty years research has revealed a world of Second Temple Judaism that was previously unimagined.
Understanding Second Temple Jewish Society