Bible Symposium Explores Dead Sea Scrolls, Non-Canonical Writings
LAKELAND (April 4, 2012) – Although they are not part of Bibles familiar to many Americans, ancient writings from Jewish and early Christian sources did influence the canonical books of the Bible, according to three scholars at the annual Biblical Symposium at FSC on April 2.
Dr. David A. DeSilva, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, lectured on the “intertestamental” writings known as the Apocrypha and Pseudopigrapha, Jewish literature written between 100 B.C.E. and 250 B.C.E.
Dr. DeSilva discussed the books of Sirach, Tobit, and 1 Enoch and similarities in their themes with those found in the New Testament. They give “a map of Jewish theology” of Jesus’ day, he said.
Dr. Sidnie White Crawford, Willa Cather Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, lectured on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Crawford, a member of the international publication team for the Dead Sea Scrolls that is responsible for editing 14 manuscripts from the collection discovered in the caves at Qumran, explained what was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and what can be learned about the community at Qumran.
The canon, or list of books considered scripture, was not as fixed as it is today, she said, noting that books such as Jubilees and 1 Enoch might have been considered scripture while Esther – found in Jewish, Catholic and Protestant Bibles today – was not.
The Dead Sea Scrolls also provided much earlier manuscripts of some biblical texts and helped give a more correct reading of some passages, she said.
Dr. Crawford noted how inclusive the early Christian community was compared to the sect at Qumran, which had very strict rules about purity. If Jesus had visited there, she quipped, “they probably wouldn’t let him in.”
Dr. Anne McGuire, Kies Family Associate Professor in the Humanities at Haverford College, lectured on New Testament apocryphal writings, especially the Gnostic literature of the Nag Hammadi library, discovered in Egypt in 1945.Dr. McGuire described images of Jesus in three books, the Gospel of Thomas, The Reality of the Rulers, and the Gospel of Philip. The books were finally judged heretical by Christian leaders, but Dr. McGuire noted similarities between the Nag Hammadi texts and passages in the Old and New Test