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Publisher's Summary

Whether complete or only fragmentary, the 930 extant Dead Sea Scrolls irrevocably altered how we look at and understand the foundations of faith and religious practice. Now you can get a comprehensive introduction to this unique series of archaeological documents, and to scholars' evolving understanding of their authorship and significance, with these 24 lectures. Learn what the scrolls are, what they contain, and how the insights they offered into religious and ancient history came into focus.
In following the extraordinary story of how the scrolls were acquired and ultimately published - a story fully 40 years in its unfolding - you'll also explore an almost unlimited treasure trove of new facts and insights. Throughout the lectures, you'll learn about these and other topics: the only historical instance of the Jews ever forcibly converting a conquered people to Judaism; the rare stroke of scholarly fortune represented in the discovery of the first seven scrolls sealed in jars; and the extraordinary intrigue (sometimes spanning generations) that overlays the story of the scrolls.
At the heart of this series are the documents themselves. You'll spend a wealth of time reading parts of the actual scrolls in English translation, training your eye to uncover the salient religious practices and intriguing theological ideas expressed in these documents. By the conclusion of the final lecture, you'll have developed a newfound understanding and appreciation of an unprecedented historical find and its enduring influence on the way we think about - and talk about - ancient Judaism and Christianity.
©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

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By Jacobus on 09-25-13

A comprehensive overview of the Qumran Scrolls

While not as focussed as his course on the 'book of Genesis' (probably because of this study field being vast) Prof. Gary A. Rensburg does a splendid job in introducing the Dead Sea Scrolls in 24 lectures aimed at those who are almost ignorant of this material.

He covers various aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, from how and when it was found, to its ancient history, its significance and contributions to especially Old Testament/ Tanach scholarship as well as halackhic (Jewish law) issues. Prof. Rendsburg represents and presents the majority view of scholars throughout this course. In lecture 12 he engages with significant as well as sensational alternative views and claims that have surfaced over the years. The course is structured around all of the important Dead Sea Scrolls and Prof. Rendsburg often quotes and discuss these scrolls' content.

A great strength that is sometimes absent from similar introductions is the bird's eye-view of everyday life at Qumran that Prof. Rendsburg provides. On the other hand he significantly downplays the controversy that surrounded the scrolls since its discovery.

When comparing this course to a similar course in the 'Modern Scholar Series' presented by Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, I find that the two courses covers almost the same content with different accents often complementing each other. Because both scholars are Jewish, it does seem that their focus and I presume passion, is more on the Jewish significance of the scrolls. Prof. Schiffman seems to have a better grasp on the New Testament and how the Dead Sea Scrolls enlightens it. On the other hand Prof. Rendsburg's presentation is more polished than Prof. Schiffman's. I would suggest for someone interested in the Scrolls also to obtain Prof. John J Collin's 'The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography.'

If you are interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and want an comprehensive overview, this course comes highly recommended.

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28 of 28 people found this review helpful

By John on 12-06-13

Very Well Done & Not One Sided

Where does The Dead Sea Scrolls rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I really enjoy the series as contained in "The Great Courses" series. Of course some of the presentations are better than others. The Dead Sea Scrolls is the best of the many I have purchased.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Dead Sea Scrolls?

I have always had an interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I admit that I sort of expected a tinge of Jewish Religion flavor in this course but there was none. A very scholally & honest presentation. Really well done.

What does Professor Gary A. Rendsburg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This gifted Professor is one I will follow. He is on the side of pure Accidemics. A pleasure to listen to & he has really helped me understand the value of this 1947 discovery. I am not Jewish but this course has greatly helped me to understand ancient thought & practice. The Professor would be a person I'd love to have a coffee with! An honest person! ND John

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Greatest Find of the 20th Century Explained.

Any additional comments?

I bow my head towards Professor Rendsburg. He has handled a very difficult subject very objectfully. Thank You, ND John

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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By Jonathan on 03-29-15

Excellent: Much More Than The Dead Sea Scrolls

I had some misgivings about a whole lecture course on the Dead Sea Scrolls but my concerns were unfounded. A significant amount of the course involves very clear presentations of relevant parts of ancient history, a discussion of ancient Jewish sects etc -- which I found very helpful and very interesting even though I had encountered most of the material before in previous courses I have listened to. Professor Rendsburg is clearly deeply fascinated by and enthusiastic about the Dead Sea Scrolls and this comes through very clearly. The presentation is peppered with personal anecdotes which worked well for me in making this topic accessible. The course interweaves background, archeological information and historical background with detailed discussions of specific scrolls, and this back-and-forth kept my interest level very high. I found the course compelling and fascinating and recommend it highly. As for all of the Great Courses, I recommend looking at the Great Courses web site which contains more detail on course content including titles of each lecture -- and additional reviews.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

By Clare J Fowler on 05-03-17

Dead Sea Scrolls

Fascinating- thank you
Complicated matter explained by someone much involved but seemingly unbiased. Nicely narrated too.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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By Paul F. Herring on 03-03-14


What made the experience of listening to The Dead Sea Scrolls the most enjoyable?

I loved this series. The professor was most engaging and presented the information in a very clear and helpful manner. Would love to hear more from him on the DSS's.

What other book might you compare The Dead Sea Scrolls to, and why?

I loved all of Prof Flusser's books - they had some relation to the issues presented here.

Also liked 'Understanding the DSS' editor Herschel Shanks.

What does Professor Gary A. Rendsburg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Able to take in while commuting!

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