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The Dead Sea Scrolls

Lesson #7

Victor M. Eskew




A.    The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was very important in confirming the accuracy of the Old Testament Scriptures.


B.      Most have not studied the Dead Sea Scrolls very much.  In this lesson, we want to introduce them to you very briefly.




A.    Palestine


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B.      Thirteen miles east of Jerusalem on the shores of the Dead Sea is what is now called “The West Bank.”


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C.     The caves were located near the Qumran Community.


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D.    There were a total of 11 caves that were discovered having various manuscripts in them.


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A.    The Essenes

1.      A sect of the Jews that are not mentioned in the New Testament.

2.      They flourished from the 2nd century B.C. until the first century A.D.

3.      The claim to have succeeded from the Zadokite priesthood.

4.      They enjoyed communal life.

5.      They practiced asceticism and celibacy.

6.      One of these groups settled at Qumran in Palestine.

7.      The Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been their library.

8.      It is believed that this community of Jews was destroyed by the Roman armies in A.D. 68.


B.      Qumran

1.      It is a community that was located about 1 mile from the NW shore of the Dead Sea and about 13 miles east of Jerusalem.

2.      It has been known to archaeologists since the mid 1800s.

3.      Roland de Vaux began the major work on the site in 1947.

4.      There are two main buildings on the site and a large cemetery.  There was a water system located on the site as well.

5.      The population would range from 170 to 200 people.

6.      The caves appear to have been used to house the residents of Qumran.

7.      The ruins have turned up pottery, coins, writings, and numerous inkwells.

8.      It is believe that this community very seriously copied ancient documents, especially the scriptures of the Old Testament.


C.     The Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70

1.      The Fall of Jerusalem began with the First Revolt of the Jews.

2.      The Jews despised the Romans and rose up against the taxation of Rome.

3.      The Romans sent in troops which damaged the city of Jerusalem, but the Jews were very strong opponents and drove the Romans out.

4.      Ultimately, Rome sent Titus and the city of Jerusalem was conquered and the temple was destroyed.

5.      It was during this period of warfare that the Qumran community came under attack by the Romans.

6.      Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the Essenes hid their scrolls in various caves in the Qumran area so they would not be destroyed.




A.    In 1947 several shepherds were tending to their flocks of goats and sheep in the Qumran area.


B.      One of the shepherds threw a rock into a cave opening and heard the shattering of a pot.


C.     The men went into the cave and found numerous pots containing scrolls and fragments of manuscripts.



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A.    The Dead Sea Scrolls were excavated from eleven caves in and around the Qumran Wadi between 1947 and 1956.  They had been dormant for almost 2000 years.  The arid environment helped to preserve these precious artifacts.


B.      The scrolls can be divided into two categories:  biblical and non-biblical.


C.     The scrolls are made of animal skins, but also papyrus, and one of copper.


D.    They were written upon with a carbon-based ink, from right to left, using no punctuation except for an occasional paragraph indentation.  In fact, in some cases, there are not even spaces between the words.


E.      The scrolls are the for the most part written in Hebrew, but there are several in Aramaic.  In addition, a few are written in Greek.


F.      Scholars have identified as many as 900 separate scrolls by piecing the fragments together jigsaw-puzzle-style.  NOTE:  One cave contained about 15,000 fragments.


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G.     Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon have been discovered except the book of Esther.


H.    Often they have found multiple copies of some of the books:  19 copies of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, and 30 copies of Psalms.


I.        The temple scroll is the largest at more than 26 feet long.

J.        The Isaiah scroll, found relatively in tact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah.  In fact, the scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.


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K.     NOTE:  The reason it is believed that the Essene community at Qumran had these is because of the traditions outlined in a document called the Community rule, a scroll outlining the laws of an unnamed Jewish sect was almost identical to a description of the Essene rituals revealed by the Roman historian Flavius Josephus.


L.      Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are located at two sites in Israel. One is the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, which is under the authority of the Israel Antiquities Authority and for which access is granted only to certified researchers. The other is the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in West Jerusalem.



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A.    Remember, these manuscripts predate manuscripts that we had before 1947 by 1000 years.


B.      When the manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are compared to the existing manuscripts, the Old Testament writings were found to be 99.5% identical.  There were very, very few discrepancies.  Those who had copied the Old Testament had copied the manuscripts with extreme accuracy.


C.     We can rest assured that we have the same Old Testament that was revealed to the Jews thousands of years ago.