One of the mysteries surrounding the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, explained Sister Eileen Schuller, professor in McMaster University’s Department of Religious Studies, to students, faculty and area clergy in a convocation on 10 February, was that no one really knew what they were or what to do with them. Subsequently, many first ended up in private hands and remained unseen for years, some even appearing in “Miscellaneous for sale” ads in The New York Times! Dr Schuller, recently elected to the Royal Society of Canada, was one of only a few international researchers responsible for the Scrolls’ initial decipherment and publication and is considered Canada’s preeminent scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A lot has changed in how the scrolls are now housed and handled, she explained.
During this luncheon convocation she went on to explain the different kinds of writings discovered and how they provide insights and context for Christ’s life and ministry. In some cases the copies of biblical books clarify formerly mildly-confusing passages. Others provide insight into the life and rituals of the Qumran community. Some fragments are too small or incomplete to decipher (initially, some gathering the fragments broke up larger pieces because they were getting paid per fragment!)
Over the years portions of the scrolls have been purchased by Israel and the rest are intrusted to its care and housed in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.
Dr Schuller was invited to speak at the seminary by student Paul Luth, who heard her lectures in Hamilton.