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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics The Dead Sea Scrolls

About the Dead Sea Scrolls (Video)

By Jeff A. Benner


Very few ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible have been found and are very rare, that is until 1947 when the discovery of a depository of scrolls in the Dead Sea Caves provided us with a library of ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.

Between 1947 and 1956, ancient scrolls and fragments of the Hebrew Bible were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea dating to the 1st C. BCE and the 1st C. CE.

The manuscripts discovered in the Dead Sea Caves include the Canonical Books of the Hebrew Bible with the exception of the book of Esther (30%), non-Canonical Books such as Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit and Sirach as well as Psalms that are not part of the 150 Psalms in the Canonical Bible (40%) and Sectarian Books such as, the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Damascus Document and Peshers, which are commentaries on books of the Bible (30%).

There are several different theories on the origin of these texts. The predominating theory is that the scrolls were the work of a Jewish sect called the Essenes who, it is believed, resided in nearby Qumran and that the scrolls were hidden away in the caves to protect them from the advancing Roman army. Other theories for the writers of the scrolls include Early Messianics (often called Christians) or Zadokite Priests. A newer theory, is that the scrolls were from various libraries and synagogues, in Jerusalem, about 15 miles from the caves.

While most of the scrolls are fragmented, deteriorating or incomplete, the Isaiah scroll is the only complete scroll found. Torah Scrolls still in use in synagogues today are over 500 years old. The Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Caves has been dated to around 200 BCE. Isaiah wrote his original scroll around 700 BCE and may have been in use up until around 200 BCE. This means that is possible for the Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Caves to be a copy made directly from Isaiah's original scroll. The Isaiah scroll, as well as many other scrolls and fragments from the Dead Sea, are currently on stored and on display in Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book.




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