Stephen Pfann, a member of the International Team of Editors
for the Dead Sea Scrolls* and the founder of
the Center for the Study of Early Christianity, visited with managing
editor Ken Horn in Jerusalem.
Evangel: You attended Bethany College of the Assemblies of God.
What brought that about?
I felt clear direction from God to go to Bethany College [in
Scotts Valley, Calif.]. It was just the right springboard for me
in terms of academics and the spiritual demeanor of the college.
After graduation I went to Israel and worked on my doctorate at
Hebrew University. I felt we were to build a school here where people
could study the background of their Christian faith. A lot of the
Semitic/biblical culture is still alive here, so we can actually
get a clear picture of what it was like in biblical times.
Evangel: You are one of the editors working on the Dead Sea
Scrolls. Tell us about the scrolls.
Pfann: About 60 scholars have different amounts of text
assigned to them. I have 11 or 12 scrolls to publish.
I came in 1982, and in 1983 I was in the scroll room examining
the text of Daniel that hadnt been published. Since then I
have started working on other manuscripts. I became assistant to
the editor in chief in terms of cataloging some of the photographs
and created a database on the scrolls.
Some manuscripts were written in scripts which neither of us could
recognize. The editor in chief assigned these. A scholar who had
worked in ancient scripts looked at them and said he couldnt
do anything with them.
I knew another scholar had already worked on them to some extent
and had made transcriptions of one of the three scripts known as
Cryptic scripts. Manuscripts are written in three different scripts.
He said I should be the one to publish them. So I did. The language
is Hebrew, but there is a substitute alphabet using symbols no one
had ever seen. These were the private library of the head of the
Evangel: You recently made an exciting find.
Pfann: I was walking on property where we had talked about
making a visitors center and a village, similar to the time of Jesus,
when I noticed this terracing. I started picking up Roman potsherds.
I found a winepress and a double winepress down below.
Within the year this was going to be built over. Now we are excavating
a farm in Nazareth that was contemporary with Jesus less
than half a kilometer from the traditional home where He lived.
It is a complete farm. This is a farm that helped provide Jesus
with the images He had in His parables. This is where He spent most
of His life; these were His surroundings 12 acres of virgin
farmland that havent been touched by modern man.
We are going to gain so much in the Galilee area the place
of Jesus childhood and the beginnings of His ministry.
Evangel: Tell us about the Center for the Study of Early Christianity
in Jerusalem that you founded.
Pfann: The centers goal is to illuminate the New
Testament, particularly the life of Jesus. We have short-term programs
for those interested in study tours in the land and also a forum
for scholars. We now have an archaeological department in our institution
and are directing our first dig in Nazareth.
Evangel: Should people be concerned about coming to Jerusalem
or the Holy Land?
Pfann: In general, no. The San Francisco Bay area is approximately
the same population as Israel and is far more dangerous. I would
say a person is risking his skin more wherever he is in the United
States than he is coming here.
Evangel: Anything else?
Pfann: It is exciting to realize how much there is still
to be excavated that will tell us about the life of Jesus and the
*Editors note: The Dead Sea Scrolls
were found in 1947 in caves in Israel at Qumran near the Dead Sea.
They contain manuscripts of the Old Testament much older than any
discovered before that time and are considered by many the greatest
archaeological find of the last century. The Essenes, the Jewish
sect at Qumran, were the source of the scrolls.