The second book I have just read (see here for the first) from the imaginative Princeton University Press series Lives of Great Religious Books is John J. Collins’ The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. Great stuff, again.
I have waited for a straightforward book about the Scrolls that not only introduced the contents and told the story, but opened up their implications and described the – often bizarre – academic controversies that have arisen around them. This book does it.
I haven’t the time or ability to deal with detailed academic scrutiny, important though that clearly is. I need something that gives me the big picture.
Towards the end of the book Collins concludes:
Despite sensationalist claims, [the Scrolls] are not Christian, and do not witness directly to Jesus of Nazareth and his followers. Nonetheless, they illuminate the context in which Jesus lived, and in which earliest Christianity took shape. (P.240)
Other works that do a similar job are (depending on whether you like film or book) Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Gerd Theissen’s The Shadow of the Galilaean.