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What Are The Dead Sea Scrolls?

What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times. They were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. This is an arid region 13 miles east of Jerusalem and 1,300 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea Scrolls are comprised of the remains of approximately 825 to 870 separate scrolls, represented by tens of thousands of fragments. The texts are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one of copper. Most of the texts are written in Hebrew and Aramaic, with a few in Greek.

The Dead Sea Scrolls appear to be the library of a Jewish sect, considered most likely the Essenes. Near the caves are the ancient ruins of Qumran, a village excavated in the early 1950's that shows connections to both the Essenes and the scrolls. The Essenes were strictly observant Jewish scribes. The library appears to have been hidden away in caves around the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD) as the Roman army advanced against the Jews.

The Dead Sea Scrolls can be divided into two categories -- biblical and non-biblical. Fragments of every book of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) have been discovered, except for the book of Esther. Now identified among the scrolls are 19 fragments of Isaiah, 25 fragments of Deuteronomy and 30 fragments of the Psalms. The virtually intact "Isaiah Scroll", which contains some of the most dramatic Messianic prophecy, is 1,000 years older than any previously known manuscript of Isaiah.

Based on various dating methods, including paleographic, scribal, and carbon-14, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written during the period from about 200 B.C. to 68 AD. Many crucial Messianic manuscripts (such as Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 61) date to at least 100 BC. As such, the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized textual criticism of the Old Testament and Messianic prophecy. Phenomenally, the biblical texts of Qumran are in substantial agreement with the Masoretic text, "Septuagint", and variant translations of the Old Testament we use today. 1

Wow, what a find! Until recently (in historic terms), the extra piece of evidence I "needed" didn't exist. Now, it does! We now have dramatic evidence that the key Messianic prophecies contained in today's Old Testament are the same Messianic prophecies that existed prior to the time Jesus walked this earth. There was no contrivance after-the-fact... There was no conspiracy... Simply, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish Messiah!

My study of archaeology had gone full circle... The Dead Sea Scrolls sat untouched in a perfect, arid environment for approximately 2,000 years. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd stumbles upon arguably the most important archaeological find in history. Then, one year later, against tremendous odds, the Jewish people return to their homeland as a formal nation for the first time since 70 AD, fulfilling a number of major historical prophecies.2

Wow, I really felt a sense of wonder! What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? For me, they sealed the door on the timing issue! I now had the utmost confidence that the Old Testament that we read today is substantially the same as existed before the birth of Jesus. This means that the over 300 Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah were in black-and-white before the New Testament writers were even on the scene.

We really live in a remarkable time in history...

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1 See Price, Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1996; Eisenman & Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, 1994; Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?, 1995; Wise, Abegg & Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation, 1999.
2 See, for example, Isaiah 11:11-12, Ezekiel 37:21-23, and Jeremiah 23:7-8.

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