The Theologian-in-Residence lecture series is held annually on Tuesdays in February. The sessions focus on a theological topic or other issue of interest to church leaders and lay people.

The series began in 1991 and has explored such topics as music and worship, Christianity and popular culture, reflections on the Trinity, religion in Appalachia, John Calvin and the Reformed tradition, God and athletics in the modern world and Christian principles for managing finances.

The series is sponsored by Tusculum University with partial funding from Ron Smith.


The nature of scripture at the time of Jesus, as revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls will be the focus of the 2016 Theologian-in-Residence series. The series, sponsored by Tusculum University with funding from Ron Smith, will be led by Dr. Travis B. Williams, Assistant Professor of Religion at the College. Dr. Williams previously served as Theologian-in-Residence in 2014, when he lectured on the formation of early Christian identity in response to persecution.

As a New Testament scholar, Dr. Williams has published extensively in the area of 1 Peter. More recently, the Dead
Sea Scrolls have come to hold an important place in his research. He has written on the pesher commentaries within the scrolls corpus, particularly as they relate to the phenomenon of inspired exegesis, and he is currently exploring the traditions surrounding the Teacher of Righteousness within the Dead Sea communities.

Although a native of East Tennessee, Dr. Williams received his doctorate in New Testament from the University of Exeter in England. After moving back to the U.S., he began his career at Tusculum in 2010. His teaching duties at the college focus primarily on the Jewish and Christian traditions; however, he regularly leads courses that fall within the broader sphere of Religious Studies. He and his wife, Amy, have two sons (Bryce and Trent), and are members at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, where Dr. Williams serves as an elder.


The Dead Sea Scrolls have been described as the most important archaeological find of the 20th century. Since their initial discovery in 1947, this collection of over 900 manuscripts (written between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE) has been the subject of concentrated study and intense debate. After years of excavation, reassembly, and translation, the scrolls have profoundly shaped the modern understanding of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. One of the many benefits of these texts is the new light they shed on the nature of the Bible during the time of Jesus. This corpus has helped to clarify not only which books held a place of authority within ancient Judaism, it has also provided an unprecedented window into the way that the scriptural text was transmitted in antiquity – including the manner in which scribes omitted problematic passages, added their own insights, and rewrote stories to align with their ideology.

Session 1: Feb. 2 – What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? This session will introduce the Dead Sea Scrolls, explaining both what they are and what they are not. It will detail the history of their discovery, along with the various conspiracy theories surrounding their publication.
View Lecture 1 Presentation

Session 2: Feb. 9 – Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? In this session, we will attempt to identify the group associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Various Jewish movements from the Second Temple period will be considered, and we will explore the connection between the caves in which the scrolls were found and the ruins of the nearby settlement at Khirbet Qumran.
View Lecture 2 Presentation

Session 3: Feb. 16 – The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Transmission of Scripture This session will examine the fluidity of the scriptural text, as revealed in the biblical manuscripts found at Qumran. In addition, we will review the phenomenon of “Rewritten Bible,” which is a work that closely reproduces a biblical book (or portion of a book), but modifies the text by means of addition, omission, paraphrase, rearrangement, or other types of changes.
View Lecture 3 Presentation

Session 4: Feb. 23 – The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Limits of Scripture In this session, we will discuss the view of continuing revelation (especially prophecy and inspired exegesis) which was held by the authors of the scrolls and its impact for understanding the nature of authoritative scripture. The discussion will conclude by considering which books held an authoritative position at Qumran, along with the reasons for their prominence.
View Lecture 4 Presentation


Dead Sea Scrolls Resources

Story of Discovery





Links to previous brochures for The Theologian-in-Residence series are provided below: