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Dead Sea Scrolls – Professor Lawrence Schiffman


Judge Abraham Lieberman Professorship in Hebrew & Judaic Studies at New York University


·       Dead Sea Scrolls

·       Jewish religious, political, and social history in late antiquity

·       The history of Jewish law and Talmudic literature



·       Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation

·       International Organization for Qumran Studies

·       Israel Exploration Society

·       Jewish Law Association

·       Society of Biblical Literature


Selected works

·       Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls

·       Who Was A Jew? Rabbinic and Halakhic Perspectives on the Jewish- Christian Schism?

·       From Text to Tradition, a History of Judaism in Second Temple and Rabbinic Times: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism

·       Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

Anchor 2

Episode #1

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls – Professor Lawrence Schiffman – Intro


  • Graduate and Doctoral studies at Brandeis

  • Course in Dead Sea Scrolls with Nahum Sarna

  • Focus on Dead Sea and Jewish Law

  • Dead Sea academics grows

Episode #2

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls – When & How Were They Discovered?


  • Story of Bedouin boys 1947 & the goat

  • Started in 1890's Cairo Genizah

  • Solomon Schechter finds Zadokite Fragment

  • Not sure how this fragment got to Cairo

  • Bedouins were actually searching for antiquities

Episode #3

Q: What is Solomon Schechter’s Zadokite Fragment?


  • Solomon Schechter discovers scrolls in Cairo Genizah 1890's

  • Identified Zadokite Fragment as Samaritan group

  • Many theories such as Essene Hypothesis

  • Even theory Cairo group was Karaites

  • Louis Ginzberg connects sect to Second Temple times

  • Authors: Unknown Jewish Sect

Episode #4

Q: Jewish  Sects – Who Were They?


  • Josephus identifies three sects

  • Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes

  • Essenes lived in Ein Geidi area

  • Some believe massive number of sects existed

  • Josephus seems to give us general picture

Episode #5

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls:  What are the Groups of Writings?


  • There are 3 main groups of writings

  • One third: all of Tanach, excluding Book of Esther

  • Another one third: apocryphal writings

  • Last one third: Qumran sect’s own writings

Episode #6

Q: Dead Sea Sect – Practices and Beliefs:


  • Probably numbered several hundreds

  • Many shared practices with traditional Judaism

  • However, belief in pre-destination

  • Also very apocryphal, messianic

  • Torah interpretation similar to Sadducees

Episode #7

Q: Dead Sea Sect – Were They Essenes?


  • Group located in Ein Gedi

  • There are similarities as per Philo, Josephus

  • But we do not even know what Essenes means

  • Also similarities to traditional Judaism

  • Essenes could be a wide term

Episode #8

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls - What are the Apocryphal Writings?


  • Numerous Jewish  Books read at time of 2nd Temple

  • Writings found at Qumran and Masada

  • Includes 12 Books

  • Ben Sira, Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon

  • Rabbis opposed reading these writings

  • Part of Latin Bible

Episode #9

Q: What Tefilin – Phylacteries – Were Found in Qumran?


  • 22 Sets of Tefilin were found

  • Small size 3/8 inch as they were worn all day

  • Like today: Hand 1 compartment, Head 4 compartments

  • Some have additional content than today’s

  • Some include 10 Commandments

  • Rashi / Rabbenu Tam order – not conclusive

Episode #10

Q: Judaism: Pre 70ce versus Post?


  • Temple life was centralized

  • Significance of sacrifice

  • Post destruction – rise of synagogues

  • Emphasis on Torah study

  • Should not overdo the extent  of break

  • Total break was proposed by early Christians

  • Such a theory had an anti-Semitic bent

Episode #11

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls – Jewish or Christian?


  • Initial studies focused on the “strange” sect

  • Theory that sect members were Essenes

  • And Essenes were forerunners of early Christians

  • This model is erroneous

  • And scrolls actually teach us about Judaism

  • 2nd Temple: variety of groups with common tradition

  • Complex model

Episode #12

Q:  Dead Sea Scrolls – Christian Reaction?


  • Complex model received well

  • Essenes theory held until early 1970s

  • Yigal Yadin & Temple Scroll changes view

  • Full corpus of scrolls revealed

  • Devorah Dimant categorizes into the 3 groups

  • Biblical, Apocryphal, Sectarian

  • Balanced view now accepted

Episode #13

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls & Tradition?


  • Scrolls confirm early dates of traditional texts

  • Mishna confirmed as post Second Temple

  • Laws that predate destruction of Temple

  • Second Temple period, one of many debates

  • Normative Judaism emerges from those debates

Episode #14

Q: Dead Sea Scrolls – Future?


  • Started as a mystery

  • Now all scrolls have been published

  • Hundreds of scholarly works

  • Use of science & technology

  • On-line availability of all texts

  • Scientific studies of ink composition

  • DNA of scroll fragments

  • Advanced editing tools

  • But still within core group of scholars

Anchor 1

Full Interview - Professor Lawrence Schiffman

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