KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–A workshop on Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls drew more than 330 people to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, filling the chapel auditorium and overflowing into the library for the opening session of the two-day event.
Craig A. Evans, distinguished professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, addressed the relationship between the Dead Sea Scrolls and extra-canonical gospels (those not included in the New Testament).
Evans, author of “Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls” and other books, noted popular culture’s hype of writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, Egerton Papyrus 2, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark. Too many scholars, Evans said in regard to the authenticity of the canonical Gospels, are “hypercritical when it comes to the canonical Gospels, but gullible and uncritical when it comes to the non-canonical gospels.”
Commenting on people’s interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Evans said, “There are lots of people out there with a spiritual hunger, interest in things about Jesus, things about God, but they don’t really know where to turn. They have vague ideas of what Christian faith is all about, vague ideas of the church and what it stands for and its mission and so forth.
“So I think you have non-Christians and seekers, Jewish people interested in the scrolls because maybe [they think] the scrolls will tell us something about where it all comes from, maybe the scrolls will shed light on things we ought to know about, think about God.”
On the second day of the conference, Evans noted, “What the Dead Sea Scrolls provided us with … was the vital linguistic and conceptual background that we needed to sort out better what [the Apostle] Paul was talking about in Galatians.
“And when that got sorted out, we were able to resolve the tension between Paul and James. And that’s the value of the scrolls,” Evans said. “It isn’t like, ‘Well, now I can believe,’ or ‘Now I have faith’ or ‘All my doubts have been answered.’ The scrolls help us answer important questions that lead to fresh further-clarifying discoveries, and that’s the value.”
Workshop speakers from Midwestern’s faculty were Stephen J. Andrews, professor of Old Testament, Hebrew and archaeology; Terry Wilder, associate professor of New Testament and Greek; N. Blake Hearson, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; and Radu Gheorghita, associate professor of biblical studies.
MBTS President R. Philip Roberts described the Dead Sea Scrolls as “a very critical issue for Christian apologetics. A working knowledge and understanding of them is important for every believer.” The large turnout for the Feb. 9-10 conference, Andrews said, “reminded me of the great importance of the scrolls for the study of the Bible and for understanding the background of our faith.”
MBTS is making plans for a follow-up workshop, “Jesus, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” scheduled for the end of April with Evans returning as the featured speaker.