The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Beginnings of Midrash

James Kugel


One of the things the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown is what Jews in ancient times thought about the Bible, even before its last chapters were written. The scrolls have provided some of the most ancient written examples of traditional Jewish interpretation, and a snapshot of how interpretation, known as “Midrash”, arose.

James Kugel came to Jewish Book Week 2013 to explore how one interpretation was sometimes specifically created to contradict an earlier one, or to answer a question that an earlier one had inadvertently raised. A number of these interpretations ultimately made their way into Talmud and midrash.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, of enormous historical and religious significance, are a collection of 972 ancient texts first found found at Qumran in 1946. They are the earliest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, which also preserve evidence of Judaism in the late period of the Second Temple.

James Kugel

James Kugel, a specialist in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, was Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University 1982-2003 and later Director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is author of 13 books, including How To Read The Bible and In the Valley of the Shadow.

Maureen Kendler