The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 973 texts dating back almost 2000 years, they were originally discovered in caves close to the ancient Qumran settlement near the Dead Sea in Israel in 1947. After further exploration of the area a total of 11 caves were found to contain texts which had been sealed in earthenware jars. Some of the texts were not within jars and those scrolls were found in bad condition.

Who discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls?

In 1947 Bedouin shepherds discovered the first cave with seven scrolls, the shepherds sold the scrolls to an antique dealer and they eventually reached E.L.Sukenik, a scholar who recognized the significance of the scrolls. He bought 3 of the scrolls for the Hebrew University, the other 4 scrolls found their way to the USA where they were advertized in the “for sale” section of The Wall Street Journal. Yigael Yadin, E.L. Sukenik’s son, bought the scrolls and returned them to Israel. An archaeological expedition lead by Vaux examined the Qumran caves and uncovered several more scrolls in a number of the caves. Bedouins in the area discovered caves 1,2,4,6 and 11 while the archaeological endeavors uncovered caves 3, 5,7,8,9 and 10.

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls Written On?

Most of the scrolls are written on hide parchment and others on papyrus there is also one written on copper strips.

What language are the Dead Sea Scrolls written in?

The scrolls are written primarily in Hebrew with some written in Aramaic and Greek.

How many scrolls were found?

Originally when the caves were discovered by chance in 1947 seven scrolls were found, since then all together 800-900 texts have been recovered, some are in fragments, all together there are about 50,000 fragments. The longest complete scroll is the Temple Scroll which is 8 meters long.

Where do the scrolls originate from?

It is believed that the scrolls were written in the nearby Qumran settlement, near to the Dead Sea in Israel by members of a Jewish sect, the scrolls were then stored in the caves for safe keeping. The scrolls date from between 150BC to 70AD.

Where can I see the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The scrolls are now on display in a specially constructed museum called the Shrine of the Book on the grounds of the Museum of Jerusalem. The Copper Scrolls discovered in Cave 3 in 1952 are on display in Amman Museum, Jordan.

On a visit to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 11 caves you can see the caves from a distance (it is not possible to enter them) and you can visit the adjacent Qumran archaeological site in the Qumran National Park. The authors of the scrolls would have lived in the Qumran settlement, the remains of which are quite extensive with a two storey tower, cemetery, stables and remains of many household items and pottery.

What is written in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

All Old Testament books are present except for the Book of Esther, there are several copies of each book of the Bible (for example 39 Psalms, 33 Deuteronomy) as well as several non-Biblical texts. There are Biblical commentaries which quote lines of the Bible. The non-Biblical texts tell of the life in Qumran and the Sect’s beliefs. These are described in the Manual of Discipline, Damascus Document, War Scroll and Thanksgiving Psalms. There is no reference to the New Testament in the scrolls.


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