The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Originally published in 1956, this book describes the discovery of and subsequent controversy surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls. Davies outlines the implications of these apparently pre-Christian texts, found near the archaeological site of an Essene monastery. The Essenes were a relatively large Jewish sect living in Palestine before and during the time Jesus lived. They were generally pacifist, pastoral, ascetic, and communal. That these scrolls, whose content in part anticipates Christian thinking, were written some time before Jesus, suggests that he may himself have drawn upon such pre-existing ideas. He may even have been an Essene himself. Not knowing the state of research since this book came out, and having not (yet) read the New Testament, I am ill-equipped to assess the full implications. Still, I can say that this book offers some strong medicine for the received orthodoxy of the Church — without diluting whatever message of truth might hide behind it.

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