It has been forty-five years since the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave at Qumran, twenty-five miles to the east of Jerusalem. For twenty of those years, scholar and theologian Barbara Thiering has pursued their meaning and tracked their secrets.
The result of her historical detective work is a bold rereading of the origins of Christianity based on her discovery of the interpretive key to the Scrolls and New Testament. This reading recognizes two levels of meaning--a symbolic surface level of miracle and mystery designed to inspire awe and fear in the "babes in Christ," and a stylized, yet purely historical, level that tells the story of Jesus' very human life.
This historical subtext, obscured by faulty dating assumptions in early scroll scholarship and contradicted by official Christian teaching, grounds the life of Jesus in its social, political, and religious context.
Thiering's interpretive key deconstructs traditional mysteries to show that Jesus was born into the royal priestly line of a strict Jewish sect at Qumran, not Bethlehem; was born out of wedlock to a betrothed, and thus, officially "virgin" woman; did not die on the cross but was drugged and later revived in the burial cave; married twice and fathered three children; as a hated outcast, befriended the poor, the sick, women, and gentiles and rejected the harsh legalism of his sect; and performed no miracles.
Thiering brilliantly refutes both those who insist on a faithful, literal reading of the events described in the Gospels and those who view these events as myths and legends. She argues instead for a historical Christianity that lends new meaning and relevance to what has, for two thousand years, been the source of our deepest and most powerful human values.