THE536: Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Judaism, and Early Christianity
Instructor: Timothy Edwards
Term: Spring Term 2018 (January 8-April 13 2017)
“The [Dead Sea] Scrolls have been described as the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century… They shed light on the two main religions of the Western world at a crucial point of transition for the one (Judaism) and the time of origin of the other (Christianity)… This light is of fundamental importance for understanding the nature of Judaism and Christianity and their tumultuous relationship over the centuries.” So wrote John Collins in the preface to his recent publication, Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. This course will assess that claim through a close study of the Scrolls (in English translation) alongside contemporary Jewish and Christian writings.
This course will examine how the Scrolls impact our understanding of the historical context of the gospels; the history of the Biblical text; the nature of Judaism at the time of Christ; and the letters and theology of Paul in particular. Students will, through reading these primary texts, find themselves transported back into the world in which Jesus lived.
- Students will read and gain familiarity with the texts known as The Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Students will situate the Scrolls within the history of the Second Temple period (6th century BC – 70 AD) as well as understand how the Scrolls changed our understanding of that history.
- Students will read contemporary texts from the Second Temple period alongside one another and in light of archeological records of the Qumran site near the Dead Sea.
- Students will consider the theories of Jewish sectarianism in light of the Scrolls and locate the provenance of the Scrolls within the different Jewish groups at that time.
- Students will examine some of the Biblical texts found among the Scrolls and analyze their significance in tracing the history of the Biblical text and how, if at all, that affects our doctrine of scripture.
- Students will compare the Scrolls and early Rabbinic Judaism.
- Students will discuss and form views on the importance of the Scrolls in our understanding of the gospels and the life of Christ as well as the Pauline epistles.
- Students will practice their skills of reading analysis and interpretation through online writing and recitation assignments.
- Students will hone their skills of independent research and writing through an end-of-term graduate paper.