The Dead Sea Scrolls
and Early Christianity
In the first chapter I called attention to the book of Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls,1in which he “aims to correct a fundamental misreading of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” because not enough of the contribution of the scrolls to the “history of Judaism” has been considered.2 The subtitle of Schiffman's book mentions “the Background of Christianity,” but apart from scattered references to items in the Scrolls that impinge on Christianity or certain Christian tenets, he has devoted no formal discussion to that background. This, then, is the topic to which I now turn. I do this, not because I want to play down the contribution that the discovery of the Scrolls and fragments have made to the study of ancient Judaism and its history. The Scrolls are tremendously important for that history, and we are constantly learning more about it as fragments continue to be published and interpreted, especially as they reveal the antecedents of the rabbinic form of Judaism and help fill in a gap that has long existed in our knowledge between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of rabbinic literature, roughly between the time of the early Hasmonean kings and Rabbi Judah the Prince, the compiler of the Mishnah (ca. A.D. 200).
There is still room, however, for the study of the impact that these im-
1. L. H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Back-
ground of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran (Philadelphia/Jerusalem: Jewish Publi-
cation Society, 1994; reprinted in ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1995). See the review of
Schiffman's book by J. J. Collins, DSD 2 (1995) 244-47.
2. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, xiii.