Skip to content

6.3 Scrolls’ Significance

At the beginning the scrolls were ignored by most New Testament scholars even if, from 1948, many articles have been published in archaeological and biblical journals. Even the general public was finally informed. In 1955, for instance, Mr. Edmund Wilson wrote a good article in the New Yorker, and the New Testament scholars had to react, even if they did not like the intrusion of this well-informed reporter in their field of study. The same scholars have also attacked Professor Dupont-Sommer from Paris’s University. Even if they had to recognise his competence in the subject, they did not like his hypotheses that they believed too bold, too challenging for their own preconceived opinion. Professor Albright arrived also to the conclusion that the scrolls were throwing a new light on primitive Christianity and that a new approach was needed. However the New Testament scholars were not yet ready and asked for more research and time whereas, from the start, some new information was readily available.

In contrast, there was soon an important popular interest in the Dead Sea scrolls and their influence on our knowledge of early Christianity. The laymen understood very soon that the discovery was important, even if it mainly confirmed previous assumptions that were not sustained by material proof. It was widely thought, for instance, that Christianity absorbed many elements from Pagan religions of the Mediterranean area during the early stages of its development. Even the Jewish Sabbath, which both Jewish and Gentile Christians observed on the seventh day, initially was given up for the Mithraic Sunday, the first day of the week.