A lecture titled “Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls” was held on the University of Maryland campus in Francis Scott Key Hall on September 29th. Professor Andrew Gross, Ph.D from Catholic University and Professor Maxine Grossman, Ph.D of the University of Maryland both gave their insights into the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the relevance they hold today.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish manuscripts that were discovered between 1946-1956.
“The amount of text available from antiquity is vanishingly small,” Professor Gross noted, “the fact that any text from that period survived is miraculous.” Gross explained that the dry climate was an important factor in the preservation of the scrolls over the decades.
“As exotic as the Dead Sea Scrolls might be, they’re also a wonderful starting point for thinking about the literature and culture of ancient Jewish people,” Professor Grossman pointed out.
Controversy surrounded the scrolls when they were first recovered, spawning various theories of their origin. In light of scholarly research the scrolls have become a significant source in the study of the ancient Jewish people’s beliefs and practices.
A significant portion of the lecture focused on how Jewish texts are often translated in different ways depending on which word is the focal point.
Marin Fischer, a Nutrition Science major who attended the lecture, noted “I had no idea about any of the sort of discrepancies in the writing and determining what the translation would be depending on what part you read.”
For some, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide further insight into other ancient religious texts. Rick Strucko, computer engineering major mentioned ”something that people ask me all the time is how do you know that what you have in the scripture is the word of God?”
Strucko explained that the texts interest him as a fairly devout Christian. “I’m very deeply fascinated by just understanding everything that I can about the construction of the scriptures,” he said.
He explained that studying these ancient sources helped him get a better idea of “where it all started, where it is now and do we have an accurate idea of what god’s word is.”
Both Fischer and Strucko expressed that they enjoyed the talk and would like to see similar events in the future.
Something Professor Gross hopes these events accomplish is to inform parents and students of “the kind of stuff we’re working on.” He hopes people can be made aware of the resources and scholars available at both University of Maryland and Catholic University.
Professor Grossman expressed that “one of the things I wanted to show people is that topics that may seem really unfamiliar are actually accessible.” She explained that the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies along with the Gildenhorn Institute host different events throughout the semester.
The goal is to have a variety of events that are “not only current events which feel relevant to people but events that look at past text and historical moments and give us the opportunity to understand how the past is still relevant to the present and the future,” Professor Grossman.