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Prof. Zeitlin Disputes Value of Dead Sea Scrolls for Judaism

February 22, 1956
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Dead Sea Scrolls “have no value for Judaism or the history of early Christianity” Dr. Solomon Zeitlin, professor of Rabbinic Literature at Dropsie College, said last night at a lecture here. He asserted that the scrolls are not of great antiquity, but were written in the Middle Ages by “none too literate writers and hence have no value for Judaism or early Christianity.”

Dr. Zeitlin based his argument on his study of “the internal evidence” in the scrolls. He pointed out that the spelling of various Hebrew words and terms which occur in the scrolls did not come into usage among the Jews until the Middle Ages. He also indicated that the scrolls contained references to Jewish laws which were not in vogue during the pre-Christian period but were enacted centuries later.

“If one assigned to Shakespeare the authorship of a newly-found manuscript wherein there were words like Fabian, ‘telephone’, ‘automobile’, ‘New Deal’, and reference was made to laws which were enacted in the Victorian age, would any student of English literature regard the manuscript as that of Shakespeare?,” Prof. Zeitlin asked. “Similar reasoning applies to the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he said.

Prof. Zeitlin also disputed the importance of the famous “so-called Manual of Discipline” of the Essene sect, and the Commentary on Habakkuk and the Zadokite Fragments in which the expression “Teacher of Righteousness” is held to be significant for anticipating the ministry of Jesus. “Detailed study of these scrolls show that they were written in the Middle Ages by uneducated Jews who either belonged to one of the Karaitic sects or were influenced by one of them”, he claimed.

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