Everyone has heard of the Scrolls, but what do they actually say? These selected articles focus on the Scrolls themselves, how they’ve affected several scholars who have dedicated their professional lives to studying them, the nature of the site near which they were found, and what they teach us about early Christianity.

The articles below were hand-selected by the Biblical Archaeology Review editors especially for members of the BAS Library.




A View from the Caves
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2011 By Sidnie White Crawford

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 11 caves in the Judean Desert near a site known as Khirbet Qumran, or the ruins of Qumran. Père Roland de Vaux of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française, who excavated the site in the 1950s, concluded that Qumran was a Jewish sectarian settlement, most probably Essene […]

Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2008 By Steve Mason

The vast majority of Dead Sea Scroll scholars are committed to the so-called Essene hypothesis—the belief that the scrolls (or at least those scrolls regarded as “sectarian”) were written by the Essenes, an exotic Jewish movement described at some length by the ancient Jewish historian Josephus.

The Enigma of Qumran
Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1998 By Hershel Shanks

If you want to understand how archaeologists think, how they reason, how they work, how they interpret finds—and why they sometimes disagree—you will enjoy this discussion among four prominent archaeologists who know as much about Qumran and its excavation as can be known today. Long associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls found in nearby […]

Was It an Essene Settlement?
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1994 By Alan D. Crown , Lena Cansdale

Scholars disagree about the nature of the settlement known as Qumran, which is set in the midst of the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Roland de Vaux, who directed the excavations at Qumran between 1951 and 1956, concluded that it had been inhabited by an isolated religious community, whom he identified […]

The People of The Dead Sea Scrolls
Bible Review, April 1991 By James C. VanderKam

Adjacent to the 11 caves on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found are the remains of an ancient settlement overlooking the Wadi Qumran. It is almost certain that the people who lived in this settlement placed the scrolls in the nearby caves. In two of […]

The Significance of the Scrolls
Bible Review, October 1990 By Lawrence H. Schiffman

Dead Sea Scroll scholarship is undergoing a virtual revolution. New ideas and perspectives are percolating among the small group of scholars who dedicate themselves to primary research on the content of the scrolls. Recent publications focus on major changes in the way Dead Sea Scroll research affects our understanding of the history of Judaism […]

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the People Who Wrote Them
Biblical Archaeology Review, March 1977 By Frank Moore Cross

After a quarter century of discovery and publication, the study of the manuscripts from the desert of Judah has entered a new, more mature phase. True, the heat and noise of the early controversies have not wholly dissipated. One occasionally hears the agonized cry of a scholar pinned beneath a collapsed theory. And in the popular press, no doubt, the so-called battle of the scrolls will continue to be fought with mercenaries for some time to come. However, the initial period of confusion is past. From the burgeoning field of scroll research and the new disciplines it has created, certain coherent patterns of fact and meaning have emerged.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2007 By Frank Moore Cross , Emanuel Tov , Sidnie White Crawford , Martin Abegg, Jr.

In this issue four prominent scholars tell BAR readers how the scrolls changed their lives. Harvard’s Frank Cross is the doyen of Dead Sea Scroll scholars; his views come in an interview with BAR editor Hershel Shanks. In the pages that follow, Emanuel Tov, the publication team’s current editor-in-chief, who replaced the controversial John […]

60 Years with the Dead Sea Scrolls Part 2
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007

In this issue, we offer Part 2 of our coverage of the 60th anniversary of the scrolls’ discovery. We begin with a question—Who wrote the scrolls?—and then take a look at the prevailing theories about who owned them, copied them and hid them in caves as Roman troops advanced across the Judean Desert in 68 C.E.

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007

Most scholars believe the Dead Sea Scrolls (more than 900 of them) were either written or collected by a sect of Jews called Essenes, who are described by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. However, the scrolls themselves make no explicit reference to the Essenes. Scholars infer the connection […]

Dead Sea Scrolls Spotlight
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007

The Temple Scroll is the longest Dead Sea Scroll (over 28 feet, preserved almost to its entire length) and one of the most important. It was excavated by Bedouin in Cave 11 in 1956 (since then no more scrolls have been discovered at Qumran).

What Jesus Learned from the Essenes
Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2004 By Magen Broshi

Scholars have been cautious about drawing a direct line between Jesus and the Dead Sea Scroll sectarians. Indeed, perhaps the most criticized sentence in the vast literature about the Dead Sea Scrolls is one penned by the great American literary critic Edmund Wilson. Based on the conclusions of the French Dead Sea Scroll scholar […]

Qumran—The Pottery Factory
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2006 By Hershel Shanks

Qumran, that desolate, supposedly monastery-like site with its ritual baths and communal dining room overlooking the Dead Sea, had nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls found in nearby caves, according to a just-released study. Your vision of a couple hundred celibate Essenes padding around praying whenever they were not copying scrolls in […]


Another View: Do Josephus’s Writings Support the “Essene Hypothesis”?
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2009 By Kenneth Atkinson , Hanan Eshel , Jodi Magness

In a recent issue of BAR, Steve Mason challenges the traditional “Essene hypothesis”—the belief that the Dead Sea scrolls and the archaeological site of Qumran are connected with the Essenes—based on the writings of Josephus. Accusing Scroll scholars of being “less sensitive to the nuances of Josephus’s historical narratives,” he argues that the authors […]


Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short History
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2007