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Prof. Lawrence H Schiffman gives an excellent well-balanced and honest overview of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the situation surrounding its discovery and its meaning to Western Civilisation in general and to Judaism and Christianity in particular in 14 lectures. Be sure to download the PDF file with the course guide to gain the most from this presentation. The course could probably have been called "Qumran 101."
Except for his enthusiasm and ear catching presentation, Schiffman came over very knowledgeable and was able to convince me why he is one of the leading scholars on the Qumran community and its library as well as Second Temple Judaism. During the course he is not scared to share and even advocate his own views on certain important issues, i.e. the Sadducee origin of the Qumran community. He was also able to argue his views clearly (although, I don't buy the Sadducee origin of the Qumran sect).
Schiffman always balances his own hypotheses with the majority stance of scholars, thus informing the listener what we can say responsibly about the Scrolls and the mystique surrounding it. He also debunks some of the more outrageous speculation surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls very effectively.
What I liked a lot about this course is that the relevant material (the scrolls' contents, Josephus, Philo, archaeological artefacts etc.) are the basis from which Schiffman presents his arguments. He engages the scrolls and other material to let it speak as far as possible for itself. I didn't get the idea that his Jewishness clouded his critical academical scholarship. He doesn't force a Jewish agenda. He presents sensitive information not only as objective as possible but also with the necessary empathy and clarity. I was pleasantly surprised by his approach.
Of "The Modern Scholar" lecture series that I have listened to so far, I find prof. Schiffman's lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls not only informative and well-balanced but some of the best so far. I would recommend these easy-to-follow lectures to anyone interested in the enigma of the Dead Scrolls.
His commentary on 1 and 2 Maccabees in the HarperCollins Bible Commentary is also to be recommended for further background reading to the lay person.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I'm sure you will not regret buying and listening to this course created and lead by Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman. In 14 Lectures, narrated by the professor himself, one can listen about the most important archaeological discovery of XX century. For those who do not know, in 1947 in a place west to Dead Sea, called Qumran, the first from a set of ancient manuscripts was found. The set was later called The Dead Sea Scrolls. Over next almost 20 years, hundreds of manuscripts, mostly - parts of scrolls were identified. For long time the discovery was a bit secretive, with lots of all sorts of conspiracy theories about them. None of them proved true. And this is what Lawrence Schiffman says - this discovery is one of the greatest, but there is nothing that could "prove" or "disprove" religious believes !!!
The course author makes some interesting hypothesis about Qumran and its community. For example, contrary to popular views telling of Essenes as the Qumran community inhabitants, he convinces the listeners that it was rather created by a group of pious, priestly Sadducees who supposedly distances themselves from the practices of the Temple in Jerusalem.
What is very important in this lecture is the objectivity of its teaching. The author clearly states, that, though the discovery is very important, it does not question or break any of existing religious traditions, including Judaism and Christianity. However, shedding light on the most interesting period in Judaism's history - i.e. the transformation from the Temple periods to later rabbinic or Talmudic period, it also sheds light on early Christian history.
The lecture ends with interesting summary of Dead Sea Scrolls presence in today's public culture, and this presence is said to bring a very positive effect on bringing closer the largest and oldest monotheistic religions of the world....
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
The scrolls have been one of those mysteries I've wanted to learn more about. This book more than does the job!
The author does well to fill you in on all the background such as how the scrolls were discovered and relevant Jewish (and a little Christian) history. With many new terms and names to keep track of, it can be challenging to follow at times.
Unfortunately the scrolls are less mysterious than the media has hyped them up to be. For example they discuss issues of ritual purity of vessels and other Jewish-law differences of opinion hence you may be left feeling deflated if you were expecting something more dramatic! That said there is a lot more to the scrolls which he does cover. He also covers a lot of the fanciful ideas attested to the scrolls and Jewish-Christian debates about the scrolls and their relevance Jesus (if any) that have been presented in the media.
The scrolls for me are a mystery no more!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Presented in an informal direct style, the lectures are easy to follow and at times entertaining and amusing. In spite of this they reflect very deep knowledge and relable scholarly research that increases the appeal of the subject. They are delivered with clarity and engaging enthusiasm. I have thoroughly enjoyed them and will seek more knowledge from this this eminent professor