Dead Sea Scrolls
Between 1947 and 1956, fragments of many manuscripts, both biblical and non-biblical, were found in Israel in caves 13 miles east of Jerusalem. These had never before been seen. The Essenes probably wrote these between 200 B. C. and 68 A. D. The scrolls were found near the ruins of the Qumran community. These Qumran caves were excavated in the 1950's.
The story is that a young shepherd boy in the low area near the Dead Sea was looking for a stray sheep and saw a cave in a narrow opening on the cliff. He was curious and threw a rock in the cave which, by the sound, appeared to smash a clay pot. He investigated and found clay jars, some with the lids still on. He opened some and found some scrolls. He didn't think they were valuable. However, some were brought to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. Eventually, a professor at Hebrew University discovered the real value of the scrolls.
The Essenes were not mentioned in the New Testament. However, the Jewish historian Josephus of the first century A. D. does in his two works about the history of the Jewish people. They were a community who observed the Torah but believed in the coming of the Messiah. They practiced baptism. Their leader was called the 'Teacher of Righteousness.'
The Dead Sea Scrolls came from eleven different caves. The scrolls are thought to be a library of a Jewish sect possibly hidden for safety during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome between 66 and 70 A. D.
They are numbered by which cave they came from. Cave 4 contained the largest fragments. They came from 500 different scrolls. 825 to 870 scrolls have been identified altogether in all the caves.
The scrolls contain fragments of every book of the Old Testament except Esther. These scrolls contain the oldest group of Old Testaments fragments ever found. Psalms of David and Joshua not collected in the Old Testament were found in these scrolls. More prophecies by Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel appear also.
The scroll of the Book of Isaiah seems to be 1000 years older than any other known manuscript. Writings said to contain the last words of Joseph, Levi, Naphtali, all sons of Jacob, are contained in the scrolls, as are the last words of the father of Moses, Amram.
The scrolls were made of animal skins, papyrus or even copper. The text was written from right to left with hardly any punctuation and sometimes not even spaces between words. Most of the scrolls are written in Hebrew with quite a few in Aramaic. Aramaic was the language of the Palestinian Jews from 200 B. C to 200 A. D.
A copper scroll was found in cave 3. It tells of 64 different hiding places in Israel where various treasures are located. These were supposedly items belonging to the temple at Jerusalem and were stored in secret places. The longest scroll was found in cave 11, most likely originally over 28 feet long.
Unknown stories about famous Old Testament figures, like Enoch, Abraham and Noah, are in the scrolls. The writer of one scroll tells why God wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Some scrolls are about non-biblical topics, such as the law, wise sayings and war conduct.
In 1999, access to photographs of the scrolls was made available to the public by the Biblical Archaeological Society. These scrolls reveal much information about both Judaism and Christianity.
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