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Archaeology and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls Examined at B’nai Sholom

Are the Dead Sea Scrolls “the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century”? A course at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will answer that question and more with an in-depth look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, their meaning and their impact.

“The Archaeology and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls” will be taught over eight Tuesday mornings beginning April 29 from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. at B’nai Sholom, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, N.Y.

The ancient manuscripts have captured both the attention of scholars and the imagination of the public.  Indeed, there are those who consider them to be the most important archaeological find of both the 20th and 21st centuries.  Translations of the texts that are included in the Scrolls continue to be published more than 60 years after their discovery in the remote caves of Qumran, and there is no end in sight to the nearly annual conferences to discuss them and the articles and books written to explain them.  After all, they represent the oldest Biblical texts known to exist.

In the early years following their discovery, the Scrolls were hailed as a primary source for the development of Christianity.  More recently, however, scholars have learned that only through understanding what the Dead Sea Scrolls teach about the history of Judaism is it possible to learn what they teach about the history of Christianity, since Early Christianity came into being only after these texts were composed and copied.  This eight-session course will address the discovery and publication of the Scrolls; the “Judaisms” or sects of the Second Temple Period; the founding and later development of the Qumran sect; the archaeology of the settlement at Qumran and nearby caves; the character of the Qumran community; women in the Dead Sea Scrolls; the theology and beliefs of the sect; and “messianism” in the Scrolls and its influence on Judaism and Christianity.

Steven Stark-Riemer, the course instructor, has taught about the scientific study of the Biblical world since 2007.  He studied anthropology at City College of New York, where he specialized in archaeology, and received his degree in 1972.  He conducted field work at the Tel Gezer excavations in Israel under the direction of William G. Dever, director of the Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School at the time.  Stark-Riemer continues to pursue his interest in the archaeology, history and religion of the ancient Near East.

“The Archaeology and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls” is open to the public.  Fee for the eight-session course is $60 ($40 for B’nai Sholom members), and registration is required.

For more information, visit or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or e-mail

Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region.  Nearly 150 diverse households from six counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.

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