The Intrigue of the Dead Sea Scrolls

April 3, 2014 admin

caveAll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Punch the words “Dead Sea Scrolls” into Google, and you will often find something current in the news. These documents continue to evoke interest —and controversy!

Example: last month, 9 tiny documents and fragments from the Scrolls – until now overlooked by analysts for 6 decades – were discovered within vaults at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The original discovery in 1946 resulted from young Bedouin shepherds throwing rocks into the many caves pocketing the cliffs near Qumran at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. Alerted by the sound of shattering pottery, their investigation uncovered earthen jars containing scrolls of parchment (made from animal skins) and papyrus (from reeds). Initially, they had little understanding of what they had uncovered. Some of the scrolls were sold for a few dollars. Others were crudely cut into pieces, ironically thought to maximize their monetary value on the antiquities market.

Over the next decade, almost 1000 documents were salvaged from 11 caves, the majority from Cave #4 (pictured). Of interest to biblical students: 40% of the find is from the Old Testament, with every book represented (except Esther).

The Scrolls were enthusiastically tagged as “the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times!” by American archaeologist and biblical scholar, William Foxwell Albright.

The most prized find – of incalculable value – was the Isaiah scroll: 17 sheets of parchment adjoined side-by-side and measuring 25’ in length; however, initially the text was confusing and identification was therefore uncertain.

When Albright received 2 photographs of the scroll, he quickly recognized the text as being an ancient Hebrew script and was able to read the words of Isaiah.

But what sent shockwaves through the archaeological and biblical communities was Albright’s assertion on the age of the scroll. At that point, the oldest manuscript of Isaiah was from the 11th century AD; but Albright declared the Dead Sea scroll to be over 1000 years older – more than a century before the birth of Christ! This was subsequently confirmed by more comprehensive analysis over a dozen years.

And to the student of the Bible, the most amazing part: the transmission of the Prophet’s writing through copying and translation was so precise and meticulous, that the book was virtually unchanged in content over that span of 10 centuries, providing more proof that what we read today is precisely what Isaiah wrote 2700 years ago!

Takeaway: when the Bible – Old Testament or New – is scrutinized, the student of God’s Word has powerful evidential grounds for trusting that today’s English text is an accurate portrayal of what was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. God has chosen to reveal Himself in His Word, and to ensure that it continues to portray with great accuracy, Who He is and What He is doing!