Comparing: New Testament / Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament

The fascination with the Dead Sea Scrolls among scholars of the New Testament arose not least because of the messianic and eschatological views to be found in some Qumran secĀ­ tarian compositions together with there being some apparent similarities in community organization and practice which could explain various matters in the early Christian communities. However, what has emerged with the complete publication of what has survived in the Qumran caves is that the overriding character of the religious self-expression of those who lived at Qumran and of the Judaism of which they were a part was their concern with tradition. Attitudes to the Law were certainly a part of that concern, but it was much broader than the Law alone.

The majority of compositions from the Qumran caves are concerned one way or another with the transmission of scriptural traditions. The dominant issue is the transmission and interpretation of authoritative Scriptures. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that this was a far more complicated matter in second temple Judaism than could have been imagined. The complexity rests not only in the variety of the forms of scriptural texts, but also in the richness of their interpretative transmission in rewritten parabiblical compositions of all kinds, as well as in commentaries which relate to their sources explicitly. It is the wealth of this exegetical activity which should now inform the reading of traditions in a collection of Jewish or Jewish Christian texts such as the New Testament.