The Dead Sea Scrolls in the American Religious Landscape


ACLS Fellowship Program


Religious Studies


When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, they were immediately recognized by scholars for how they might rewrite the history of ancient Judaism. An early press release published in the Times of London declared to the public that the DSS were a product of a “comparatively little-known sect, or monastic order, possibly the Essenes.” As the scrolls became available to the public, mild statements about the value of the scrolls for shedding light on an obscure period of Jewish history gave way to dramatic claims about their potential to undermine the foundations of Christianity. In the aftermath of the discovery, several modern Essene movements have emerged in the United States. This project documents these new religions, and investigates how the Dead Sea Scrolls, and scholarship on the scrolls, has influenced their formation.