Alison Schofield, associate professor of religious studies, is an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient religious manuscripts originating in Jerusalem. Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1955, but it was not until the early 2000s that nearly all of the Scrolls were translated and made available to scholars.
Schofield will give an AHSS Faculty Lecture titled “Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Insights into The Bible, Early Judaism and Christianity” at 4 p.m. Thursday. To register, visit www.alumni.du.edu/ahsslectures.
Schofield’s research has focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls throughout her academic career, and as a result, she has been granted rare access to the scrolls themselves in the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. While writing a new translation and commentary of “The Community Rule,” Schofield found some missing scroll fragments which had been mistakenly attributed to another text. In piecing together these lost fragments, she was able to discover a missing section of the charter text which had been lost to scholars for over 2,000 years. Schofield’s translation and commentary of “The Rule” has been sanctioned as the official edition and translation of the text by the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation.
“Alison’s erudition is grounded in strong linguistics, textual analysis, history and archaeology,” says Anne McCall, dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “The multiplicity of methods that she masters and the combination of in-depth and broad knowledge that she has have given her the means to make discoveries that have eluded scores of other scholars. She has achieved world recognition for her work, and much more is on the way.”
Schofield has been fascinated with the Dead Sea Scrolls since she was very young. She says her interest very much has to do with her love of learning, languages, adventure, archaeology and a small obsession with Indiana Jones. In addition, her Christian background influenced her interest in the Bible’s history. She began reading about the scrolls well before she left for college.
When she was 15 years old, Schofield attended an international Dead Sea Scrolls conference in her hometown. She convinced her older brother to drive her to the conference and attend with her.
“In the plenary address, after giving an important lecture on the scrolls, a world-renowned scholar on the scrolls asked the audience of 300 if there were any questions,” Schofield says. “My hand shot up about as quickly as my brother sank in his seat of embarrassment. Dr. James VanderKam was very gracious in answering my questions. Years later, Dr. VanderKam ended up being my dissertation adviser.”