The Dead Sea Scrolls
The historic importance of the dead sea scrolls, both archaeological and theological can never be overstated. These ancient Hebrew/Jewish manuscripts give us a deep understanding into the religious practice during the time of the Second Temple. They are said to be able to date back at least 3 centuries. Here are a few things you didn’t know about the dead sea scrolls.
They were found by shepherds
In 1947 there was a shepherd simply tending his flock. Eventually one of the animals went missing and he went looking for it. He looked for the animal in some nearby caves close to the Dead sea where the flock was. The cave was called Qumran Caves.
The scrolls were preserved in jars
The shepherd that found them noticed that they were in jars. Burying old Hebrew manuscripts was a common Jewish practice at that time. In Judaism it has always been forbidden to abandon religious manuscripts in a casual way. This preserved them as far back as 3 centuries BC.
The shepherds sold them to antique dealers
He did not know the significance of what he had found. If they did they could have gotten a lot more for them as you will read a little later. But once he had them brought back to his camp, he began looking for someone to sell them to. Eventually he sold them to 2 antique dealers. Three scrolls were sold to someone named Salahi while four were sold to someone named Kando.
They were resold several times
An archaeologist named Chaim Sukenik, working with the Hebrew University, purchased them at one time. They were also rescued by an Archbishop named Samuel who sent them to New York to keep them safe. The Archbishop eventually decided to sell them In 1954.
Can you believe the dead sea scrolls were sold through an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. This ad was seen back in Israel by the son of Professor Sukenik. His name was Yigael Yadin. This almost seems like the scrolls wanted to be found.
He purchased them for $250,000. The price that they eventually sold for could have gotten the shepherd family a lot of money in the beginning.
The dead sea scrolls are one of the oldest surviving manuscripts
They were later put into the Hebrew Bible. Most of the scrolls were written on parchment, with some on papyrus and a few of them were written on copper.
About forty percent relate to the Hebrew scriptures and about thirty percent are related to the Hebrew Bible but are not canonized. The remainder relate to apocryphal manuscripts. That is, they hold books not included in Jewish canon.
Some of them are written in Aramaic
The writings on the scrolls are in a Semitic language that was mainly spoken during that period and sometimes used in the writing of holy scriptures.
Half of the text of the dead sea scrolls have been identified
They were in such poor condition due to their age that they are still being studied today. The miracle that so much text was preserved is what gives these scrolls their significance.
Many words in the dead sea scrolls are different in the same passages in the old testament
This proves that the words of the Bible have altered over time. This fact has caused huge arguments between scholars all over the world. Leaving some to debate their origins and how they came to be in the caves in the first place.
Some Scholars believe the dead sea scrolls were left in the caves by an ancient sect
Many believe the dead sea scrolls were buried there by the Essenes; a sect in ancient times who were regarded as being extremely pious.
You can still visit the burial place of the dead sea scrolls even today
The Qumran caves are still located not far from Dead Sea. They can be seen from afar during the day.
If you have an interest in archaeology or history you can choose to travel to the park alone. There are also private tours that offer trips to the dead sea. These trips take about 50 minutes by car and they are located around 20 miles from Jerusalem.
One of the most prominent world renown museums dedicated to the dead sea scrolls is the Israel Museum. It also boasts one of the worlds finest art collections. There is also a Model of the Second Temple there.
You can visit the museum 7 days a week.