Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Dead Sea Scrolls: John J. Collins talks to NPR about the discovery and importance of the Scrolls

I just discovered that John J. Collins gave an interview with NPR about the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is a really good interview! He doesn't just tell the well-worn story about the shepherd boy, but gets into the politics surrounding the scrolls that led to the exclusion of Jewish scholars from the original editorial team. He also discusses what the scrolls teach us about Judaism of the period.

Among the important things that Collins points is that once Jewish scholars were allowed to study the scrolls much of the material came to be understood not from a Christian point of view, but one that understood Judaism in the first century. Certainly the scrolls help us to understand the New Testament better, but they are no longer studied simply as a background to Jesus and the New Testament.

I highly recommend it as a helpful primer on the discovery and importance of the scrolls. And it all comes with a snappy Irish accent.

To listen to the interview of got to Fresh Air on NPR.

On a side note, Collins tells the story about when he was asked by Mel Gibson to be an Aramaic consultant for Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Here is the story.
"Just after I moved to Yale, I went into my office one day and picked up the phone, and the voice — that was a recorded message — [said], 'Mr. Collins, this is Mel Gibson. I'm looking for somebody to translate some material into Aramaic. You were recommended to me by Father Fitzmeyer.' I actually asked to see a copy of the manuscript, and he sent it to me, and I read it until I encountered a talking snake, and at that point, I decided I do not want to be associated with this. But I think the actual Aramaic that was produced was quite good. ... That was the least of the problems of the movie."

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