The Library of Qumran, on the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus

The Library of Qumran, on the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus

The Library of Qumran, on the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus

The Library of Qumran, on the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus


Northwest of the Dead Sea, twelve kilometers to the south of Jericho and thirty-two kilometers north of the En-gedi Oasis, lie the ruins of a community long known to the Bedouins as Khirbet Qumran. The nearly 900 original manuscript fragments found in caves near the site between 1947 and 1956 have fundamentally altered our view of ancient Judaism.The incredible discoveries at Qumran are unveiled in this compelling volume by one of the worlds foremost experts on biblical archaeology and the ancient Qumran community. Drawing on the best of current research and a thorough knowledge of all the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hartmut Stegemann deciphers the meaning of the historical facts regarding the Qumran community and answers in an understandable and exciting way many of the questions that have provoked sensational speculation in the press since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.Stegemann analyzes the purpose of the Qumran settlement itself and paints a picture of how daily life was carried on there. He probes similarities and differences between Essene baptism, commemorative meals, and eschatology and their early Christian counterparts. He also explores the relation of the Qumran community to John the Baptist, to Jesus, and to early Christianity, and uncovers the true nature of the Qumran writings, which continue to have a profound impact on biblical studies today.


At the northwest end of the Dead Sea, 12 kilometers south of Jericho and 32 kilometers north of the En Gedi oasis, lies a solitary set of ruins. Larger heaps of rubble, such as might represent an entire ancient city, are called tells by the Arabs, while smaller heaps, the ruins of only a few buildings, are called khirbeh.

From antiquity, the Bedouin have called this place in the vicinity of the Dead Sea Khirbet Qumran. The name Qumran may mean “moon hill,” since the bright hilltop against the brownish-red countryside, as viewed from the Dead Sea, may once have reminded folk of the pale disk of the moon sinking behind the horizon. It may, however, simply mean “humpback hill,” which would likewise appropriately designate the particular form of this pile of ruins. The pronunciation of the place name is koom-RAHN.

The area of the landscape on which Khirbet Qumran lies consists of one of the steep rock precipices of a low range of mountains forming a terrace on the threshold of the Judean Desert. It is a thick layer of marl that once arose from the deposits at the bottom of the Dead Sea. For scores of millennia, however, the surface of the Dead Sea has lain some 50 meters below this terrace and today is more than 400 meters below sea level. Flowing down from the western slopes, brooks, which appear in the rainy season, have eaten their way through the marl and thereby created the rugged Wadi Qumran. Ages ago the brooks had already cut through the terrace and gnawed their way into the side of the channel thus created. Like a giant’s fingers, the brooks running from the terrace in the north reach down into the valley below. The Arabs call streams like these, which in the rainy season can transport roaring torrents of water into the valley but otherwise are dry, by the name of wadi. Israelis call the same natural phenomenon a naḥal.

Perched atop the last ledge of the old marl terrace before it becomes a . . .

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