Study Resources for the Dead Sea Scrolls

On this page, we will offer some recommendations of books that are useful for the reader in researching the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essene community.


Gabriele Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis

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If you're really "in" to the Dead Sea Scrolls, then you won't want to miss this volume. The subtitle ("The Parting of the Ways Between Qumran and Enochic Judaism") really only tells part of the story; Boccaccini devotes a lesser portion of this book to a quite reasonable hypothesis of the origins of the Essene movement in what he calls "Enochic" Judaism. The majority of the book is devoted to descriptions of the life and literature of the Essenes, and includes a collection of secular data on them (from Josephus, Pliny, Philo, etc.). As such it is an excellent reference and complements (even as it sometimes duplicates) Pate's volume noted below.

Readers will note that Boccaccini is of the "liberal" persuasion (his brief treatment of Daniel assumes, but provides no arguments for, a Maccabeean date), but this does not affect the bulk of his work. Significantly and appropriately, he devotes all the attention to the likes of Eisenmann and Thiering that is deserved -- i.e., none. This is a sane and sober work that will be useful to the serious student of the DSS.


C. Marvin Pate, Communities of the Last Days

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If you've had it with critics telling you that the Dead Sea Scrolls are full of stuff refuting Christianity, this is Book A-1 for you. On the contrary: The DSS provide us with a glimpse at a parallel movement with many of the same (but not entirely the same) thoughts and interpretive methods as the Christian faith employed.

This book is so good that with Pate's detailed data, you don't need anything else. Pate provides a listing of what is in the Scrolls and where they were found -- just in case someone tells you something is in the Scrolls, you can at least make a general check to see if a certain document exists and whether it is likely to contain what is claimed. Pate also gives neat summaries of controversy surrounding the publication of the DSS (it's not the big deal some think it is/was) and exposes some of the errors at the roots of nutcases like Eisenmann and Theiring.

And it gets better. Pate also gives some detailed accounts of how the Qumranites did their exegesis -- more nails in Tom Paine's "the NT writers manipulated the OT'" coffin. There's plenty of helpful material on eschatology. And here's another surprise: Could the heresy at Colosse have been related to Essenism? Read it and believe!

Pate's writing style is tedious at times, as is his continual references to other writers (though N. T. Wright is one of them) but you will be well rewarded for getting through it all with information that will send the critics to the bottom of the Dead Sea. Communities of the Last Days is a book I would regard as a "must have" for any budding apologist.


Hershel Shanks, Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls

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This useful little volume is an introduction to the history of the discovery, study, and analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's a good prescription for countering some of the falsehood that is plied about the Scrolls in Skeptical sources. Shanks doesn't hesitate to bluntly describe personality conflicts and problems with the process of study and public dissemination. Students will also appreciate his analysis of how the Scrolls affect our understandings of Judaism and Christianity.