The Qumran-Essene Theory And Recent Strategies Employed In Its Defense

Norman Golb

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Most readers, whether of scholarly or popular literature, by now know that during the first four or five years after the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a theory was created to the effect that they, and others found afterwards, had been written by a sect of pious Essenes. These people, it was claimed, lived at a site known as Khirbet Qumran, located near the discovered scrolls. During the past few decades this theory has become widely known as the Qumran-Essene or Qumran-sectarian theory of Scroll origins. In recent years, with growing awareness of the probable origin of the Scrolls in Jerusalem, scholarly opposition to the original theory has intensified. In return, however, its defenders have engaged in a series of efforts to fortify their traditional position efforts that reveal much about the current state in which that theory now finds itself, and that cast new light on the struggle over the basic issue of origin and significance of these unique manuscripts.