Dead Sea Scrolls  (640:159:30): Spring 2008

Instructor: Dr. Kenneth Atkinson

Dates: MWF

Office: Baker 154

Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Office Phone: 273-6990

Location: LNG 20

Office Hours: I maintain an open door policy for your convenience. Feel free to drop by my office whenever my door is open. I am always happy to talk with students.

My policy is to answer your message once I have received it. I try to check my e-mail throughout the day, so if you have not heard back from me please be patient.

Mailbox: Baker 135. I check my mailbox each day in case you want to drop something off for me to read.

Course Web Site:

Visit my web site frequently for class updates and links to sites of interest.

Required Texts:


VanderKam, James and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: TheirSignificance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity(HarperSanFrancisco, 2002).


Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation(HarperSanFrancisco, 2005).

Optional Texts:


Abegg, Martin, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (HarperSanFrancisco, 2002).

Course Description:

Discovered in 1947 by a young Bedouin shepherd exploring a cave along the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized our understanding of ancient Judaism and the origins of Christianity. The findings of these mysterious documents has also brought about a debate over the origins Christianity and its Jewish background. The popular press continues to feature stories in which the Dead Sea Scrolls shed new light upon Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Christian Church. Because only a few scholars were allowed to see the Dead Sea Scrolls for almost forty years, many continue to believe that these texts contain information that could prove damaging to Christianity. Recently, experts have begun to debate other issues, such as the identity of the people who collected the Dead Sea Scrolls, and whether women played any role in this community. New archaeological discoveries and recent studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls have also generated new debates over the purpose of the mysterious site of Khirbet Qumran, which most believe was the home of the people who used these texts.

In this course you will learn about these fascinating documents and the light they shed upon ancient Judaism and the beginning of Christianity. You will also explore the controversy over these documents and the often contentious world of biblical scholarship. You will also learn how scholars reconstruct and translate these documents. In this course, you will learn about the newest discoveries pertaining to these documents, both textual and archaeological, and technologies that continue to shed new light upon these texts. You will also learn how the Dead Sea Scrolls have changed our understanding of the Bible, and how scholars use them to translate the Bible. The goals of this course are:

Course Requirements:

(A) Attendance/Class Participation (approximately 20% of grade).This course requires your active participation. Because you have chosen to take this class, I assume that you are interested in learning more about the Dead Sea Scrolls. If so, then please be certain to arrive on time ready to share your ideas and thoughts on the assigned readings. My goal in this class is to provide you with the most accurate information and recent discoveries pertaining to the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition to the textbook, I will also discuss in class new findings that are so recent that they have not made it into textbooks. Because the lectures will include much new material, it is important for you to attend each and every class. In this course you will learn how scholars seek to reconstruct the past. This requires critical thinking skills, especially the ability to ask questions. I encourage you, in keeping with the goals of this class, to challenge me if you disagree with my interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As your professor, I am obligated to show you the reason for my view as well as the primary sources that I have used to support my conclusion(s). You will find that it is often impossible to determine which of several competing theories is correct since we know so little about the world of the Dead Sea Scrolls. When scholars are uncertain as to the meaning of any of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I will try to give you all the leading interpretations and let you decide which, if any, is correct.

During this course feel free to take risks and ask difficult questions. By contributing to this class, you will find that your questions will help you to organize your thoughts and better understand the material. Asking difficult questions is the only way that you will ever become a critical thinker. Remember that this is your class. Your questions are always welcome. Please let me know if there are any issues that you would like me to discuss. Because attendance is critical to understand the Dead Sea Scrolls that we will study, I will deduct points for more than three unexcused absences when I determine your final grade. I assume that you will miss a few classes due to illnesses, university activities, or other life issues. Only unexcused absences will be penalized, so if you have a good reason for missing class I will not count your absence. Please bring me some type of official note from a doctor or nurse if you have an excused absence. Whether your absence is excused or not, you are required to keep up with the readings and lectures. If you miss class, I suggest that you obtain copies of the notes. I am always happy to sit down with you and go over any material at any time. If you are involved in any university program (sports, ROTC, student government, etc.), I am happy to support your efforts. Please provide me with a letter by January 25 about your activity or program, the name and phone number of a contact person, and the projected number of absences.

(B) Quizzes(50 points each/4 total; approximately 40% of grade). There are four quizzes. Each covers the assigned readings and the lectures. All quizzes are worth fifty (50) points. There are no make-up quizzes unless you have an excused absence. The quizzes will cover the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, major events, people, places, and vocabulary from the assigned readings and material presented in class. The purpose of these quizzes is to reward you for completing the assigned readings. Because we have much to cover in this class, I may not discuss each reading or Dead Sea Scroll in depth. I like to include a few questions on material that I did not explain in class in order to reward you for reading the assigned texts. You are always free to ask me questions in class about any of the assigned readings.

(C) Exams (100 points each/4 exams; approximately 40% of grade). There are four (4) exams in this class. Each includes questions on specific Dead Sea Scrolls, identifications of events, terms, names, quotations, multiple-choice, and sentences for you to complete with the appropriate word. You must be present for the exams: no make-up exams will be given unless you have an excused absence in advance or some legitimate emergency! The exams are not cumulative. Please note that I am required to follow the exam schedule for the last exam printed on page 17 of your Spring 2008 Schedule of Classes or on the UNI website ( Our last exam will take place May 5 (Monday) from 3-4:50 p.m.

General Comments: I am required by the university to provide you with the following information.

Grading: When I calculate your final grade, I will look at how you have improved during the course. I like to see evidence of intellectual development over the course of the semester. I will reward you for your contributions to the class discussions and your regular attendance. If you simply show up for each class, do the readings, and participate in class discussions, as well as study the assigned materials, you should have no trouble receiving an excellent grade for this course.

Reading: In addition to the readings listed on this syllabus, I will periodically send you short readings about current events by e-mail. These will be sent to your university e-mail account. You must have access to your assigned UNI e-mail address for this class. If you need help with your university e-mail account, please consult the ITS home page for assistance ( Make certain that you periodically delete old messages since these accounts are rather small.

Final Exam: Note the Final Examination Schedule in your Spring 2008 Schedule of Classes (page 17) or the UNI website ( Please read this information and keep this chart handy since some exams are scheduled for different dates and times. I am required to adhere to this schedule unless you follow the procedures described on page 17 of your Spring 2008 Schedule of Classes. It is a good idea to hold onto this book since it contains much useful information. Pay particular attention to the Liberal Arts Core requirements on page 18 of this book or the UNI website ( I am always happy to answer any questions you may have about this chart or the university. The final exam is not a cumulative test, but only covers the last portion of the course.

•Policy on Late Work: All assignments must be completed for class on the day listed on the syllabus. Late submissions will not be accepted. No exceptions! If you do not show up for an exam, presentation, or quiz, you will receive zero points for that exam, presentation, or quiz.

•Disabilities and Assistive Testing Services: Assistive Testing Services are provided to enrolled students approved by the University of Northern Iowa Office of Disabilities Services for accommodations.  Alternative testing formats, as well as auxiliary aids such as readers, scribes, or assistive technology, are available.  Tests are to be scheduled in advance with the Department of Academic Services -- Examination Services office.  The test service is provided for University course tests and final examinations (not quizzes) to students enrolled in classes that are unable to provide the approved accommodations (i.e. extended time, large print options, reader/recorder, or computer testing).  Course testing accommodations are based on disability documentation as determined by the University of Northern Iowa Disabilities Services.

I will make every effort to accommodate disabilities. Please contact me if I can be of assistance in this area. All qualified students with disabilities are protected under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A., Section 12101. The ADA states, “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” Students requesting instructional accommodations due to disabilities must arrange for such accommodations through Student Disability Services. The Office of Disability Services is located in 103 Student Health Center (319-273-2676 [Voice] or 319-273-3011 [TTY]). Email: See page 10 of your Spring 2008 Schedule of Classes for more information or consult the Office of Disability Services website (

Discrimination: It is the policy of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, disability, veteran status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or any other basis protected by federal and/or state law. Further details concerning UNI’s policies may be found in your Spring 2008 Schedule of Classes (pages 12-13). For additional information, visit:

Plagiarism: The University of Northern Iowa has a very specific policy statement related to the issue of plagiarism.  This policy statement can be found in several places on the UNI website, but it is most prominent in the UNI Student Handbook in Section 3.01 “Academic Ethics/Discipline” ( You should become familiar with the Academic Ethics Policies found at this website or in the University Catalog. Cheating on the exams or quizzes may result in a grade of an “F” for the entire course.  I consider plagiarism the copying from someone else’s written work in whole or in part, and trying to pass of the finished product or answer as your own. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes plagiarism or cheating, I will be happy to discuss these issues with you, or the entire class, at any time. If you would like me to devote class time to this issue, and provide specific examples of what I deem to constitute plagiarism or cheating, please do not hesitate to ask.

•Weather Policy: My policy is to conduct class as long as the university is open. You will find additional information on my weather policy, as well as your local weather, on my web site. I do not expect you to risk your life to attend this class. If you feel that it is not safe for you to attend class, then please stay home. I will trust your judgment and will allow you to make up any assignments you have missed without penalty. Just let me know that you could not attend class due to the weather and I will not count your absence. For UNI’s weather policy, see:


DSS=Dead Sea Scrolls

VF=VanderKam and Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls

WAC=Wise, Abegg, and Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation

NT=New Testament




Week 1--The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

January 14

Class Introduction

January 16

Discovery of the DSS: Part I

VF Chapter 1

January 18

Discovery of the DSS: Part II

Week 2--The Controversy over the Dead Sea Scrolls

January 21

No Class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

January 23

The Official Scroll Committee

January 25

Scroll Wars

VF Chapter 18

Week 3--Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls

January 28

Dating the DSS

VF Chapter 2

January 30

Reconstructing the DSS

VF Chapter 4

February 1

Publishing the DSS

Quiz # 1

Week 4--Archaeology & the DSS

February 4

Khirbet Qumran and the Scroll Caves

VF Chapter 3

February 6

The Qumran Settlement

February 8

An Essene Settlement and Cemetery?


Week 5--The DSS & the Bible

February 11

The Bible Before the DSS

VF Chapter 5

February 13

The Text of the Old Testament

VF Chapter 6

February 15

Exam One

Week 6--Scripture and Canon

February 18

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

February 20

Canon and Scripture

VF Chapter 7

February 22

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

VF Chapter 8

Quiz # 2

Week 7--The Nonbiblical Scrolls

February 25

A Survey of the Nonbiblical Scrolls

VF Chapter 9

February 27

Who Wrote the DSS?

VF Chapter 10-12

February 29

The Copper Scroll

WAC 211-23

Week 8--Foundation Documents?

March 3

The Damascus Document; Horoscopes

WAC 49-78, 275-8, 567-8

March 5

The Community Rule, 1QSa, and 1QSb

WAC 112-143

March 7

Foundation Documents, Continued

Week 9--History and the Dead Sea Scrolls

March 10

Bible Interpretation

VF Chapter 13

WAC 89-105, 278-303, 316-338

March 12

The Pesharim

WAC 79-89, 236-253

March 14

Exam Two

Week 10--Spring Break

March 17-21

No Class

Read your WAC over break. When you return, share with the class an interesting text that you have found.

Week 11-- Legal Documents & Calendars

March 24

4QMMT: Part I

WAC 454-62

March 26

4QMMT: Part II

March 28


WAC 379-99

Week 12--The DSS and the NT: Part I

March 31

The NT and the DSS: Part I

VF, Chapter 14

April 2

The NT and the DSS: Part II

WAC 346-7, 530-41

April 4

Jesus and the DSS

Quiz # 3

Week 13--The DSS and the NT: Part II

April 7

Jewish Sectarianism and the NT

April 9

Other NT Books and the DSS: Melchizedek

VF, Chapter 15

WAC 590-93

April 11

Exam Three

Week 14--Apocalypticism

April 14

Apocalyptic Beliefs

WAC 339-345 263-67

April 16

Apocalypticism in the DSS

WAC 108-112, 344-5

April 18

Revelation and the DSS

VF, Chapter 17

WAC 557-63

Week 15--Messianism in the DSS

April 21

Messianic Terminology and History

Reading to be posted on my web page.

April 23

Messianic Expectations

WAC 346-347

Reading to be posted on my web page.

April 25

Messianism in the DSS and the NT

Reading to be posted on my web page.

Quiz # 4

Week 16--New Directions in DSS Research

April 28

Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls

WAC 230-233, 272-273, 348-352, 357-362, 365, 518-519

April 30

New Scroll Discoveries

May 2

The Legacy of the DSS

Week 17-Final Exam Week [Consult the final examination schedule (page 17) in the spring 2006 schedule of classes if you have any questions.]

May 5 (Monday)

Exam Four

3-4:50 p.m.