Biblical Archaeology Review 33:5, September/October 2007
The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls: How They Changed My Life

By James H. CharlesworthJames C. VanderKam

35 Scrolls Still in Private Hands

By James H. Charlesworth

In 1954, at the age of 14, I was living with my family in Delray Beach, Florida. I would spend summers exploring the Everglades in my kayak, wondering wide-eyed at the alligators and other gar in the clear water, or skin-diving off the coast, scanning the hulks of ships sunk by the Nazis a decade earlier.

My grandfather and father were both Methodist ministers and erudite scholars. They instilled in me a love of church and scripture. But neither could hide from me the ugly face of dogmatism (what appeared to be cold answers devoid of the fire of questioning) and ecclesiasticism (the tendency to assume the church was perfect and had all the answers). Even then I was offended. I often felt I was being force-fed rigid dogma. Looking back from the vantage point of more than 50 years, I think the Dead Sea Scrolls beckoned me when I was 14 because they were challenging the status quo in the church, which at that time still saw no problem with two water coolers, one for Whites and one for Blacks.

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