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LCU Alumni Deliver Insight On Dead Sea Scrolls

With the opening of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit underway at Lubbock Christian University, two LCU alumni, Dr. Curt Niccum, associate professor of New Testament at Abilene Christian University, and Dr. Rodney Thomas, associate minister at Broadway Church of Christ, are preparing to deliver lectures on topics related to the scrolls.

Both Niccum and Thomas’ lectures will complement the Third Annual LCU and Lanier Theological Library Lecture by renowned Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar Dr. Weston Fields on Friday, Oct. 24.

Dr. Niccum graduated from LCU with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Languages in 1985. He then earned a Master of Divinity degree from ACU in 1992 and his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. While at Notre Dame, Niccum’s minor was Old Testament, which required him to take a class in Hebrew, and that class opened the door to his first hand study of the scrolls.

“It just happened that the editor of the biblical scrolls was assigned to teach Hebrew that year. When he learned that I also had skills in several other languages and had experience working with New Testament manuscripts, he hired me for the project,” Niccum said.

While working on the scrolls, Niccum’s primary responsibility was to compare the readings of the scrolls with other Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions of the Bible.

Following Niccum, Dr. Thomas graduated from LCU with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Languages in 1989. While serving as a missionary in England, Thomas completed both his graduate and doctoral studies in New Testament at the University of Durham. Thomas’ interest in the scrolls began while taking History of the Bible at LCU and flourished at Durham. Thomas said that his time at Durham allowed him to explore new avenues by having access to scholars with advanced knowledge in the scrolls.

Thomas’ study of the scrolls spanned over nine years, two of which were spent working on his Master’s degree, and in the preparation of his thesis for his Ph.D. His study of the scrolls not only influenced his scholarship, but his personal life as well.

“The Qumran community was a community that appears to have been tremendously compassionate even though they could also be incredibly harsh. To me, looking back, those things seem to contrast in so many ways with Christianity and the message of Christ. This helps me to avoid some of the things that led [the Qumran community] into their extreme legalism and always to seek to err on the side of mercy and compassion,” Thomas said.

Both Niccum and Thomas agree that the Dead Sea Scrolls are essential to Christianity as they provide a glimpse and understanding of early Christian writings.

“First, the scrolls bring our evidence for the Hebrew Bible forward one thousand years. Translations printed before 1950 rely on Hebrew manuscripts written in the tenth century or later. We now have evidence for much of the biblical text that dates to the first centuries, and in a few cases, even earlier. Second, the scrolls provide a wealth of material that contributes significantly our understanding of the historical and literary contexts of early Christian writings,” Niccum said.

If you would like to learn more, Dr. Niccum’s lecture will be held on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. in the Baker Conference Center and Dr. Thomas’ lecture will be held on Sunday, Oct. 26, at 2 p.m. in the Cardwell Lecture Hall located in the American Heritage building. Additionally, two current LCU Bible professors will be making presentations on Sunday.