Last week, we asked Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and a consultant for the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Discovery Times Square, to share this personal thoughts about the scrolls. Today, Dr. Schiffman shares his favorite scroll with us, and tells us what he would do if he could go back in time to speak to the author of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Do you have a favorite scroll? If so, what is it and why?
My favorite scroll is the Temple Scroll. I’ve published two books on the scroll and I am planning a new addition and commentary on the scroll that I’ve really been working on for more than 35 years. It’s a rewrite of the Torah to which the author adds his own interpretation and laws and seems to represent a very valuable window onto the Sadduceeanpriestly trend of biblical interpretation and Jewish law. There’s so much to do in restoring, translating, and analyzing this text that it has absorbed me for years.
If you could go back in time and talk to the composer of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls—to find out why he wrote what he did—what scroll would it be and why?
I would love to speak to the authors of the document we call MMT, which is a foundation document of the Qumran sect, identified by most scholars with the Essenes. I’d love to ask the author of the MMT if I’m correct the issues of Jewish law pertaining to the Temple, and if [disputes over issues of] sacrifices and purity are one the fundamental causes of the schism between the Qumran sectarians and the authorities of the Temple. I would love to know if I’m right in claiming that the Qumran sectarians followed the approach of the Sadducees and oppose the approach of the Pharisees, which at that time had been adopted by the priestly leaders in the aftermath of the Maccabean Revolt(164-168 BCE).