The Dead Sea Scrolls, in Ten Easy Steps


1)     Khirbet Qumran, meaning ‘ruin of’ Qumran, sits on a plateau at the top of an irregular border of limestone cliffs beside the Dead Sea. Many of these cliffs contain caves which, given their location, are accessible only with difficulty. To the West lies the Judean Desert, and to the North is a mountain that houses the Qumran caves numbered 1, 2, 3, and 11.

2)     Khirbet Qumran was occupied until 68 CE by the Essene Jews, one of the major schools of Jewish philosophy at that time. The complex was destroyed in 68 CE. Ashes from the burned reed‑rooftops and Roman arrowheads found at the site suggest a battle. The simple fact that nobody returned to recover the scrolls suggests a massacre. The timing fits, because the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire put the two at war from 66 to 73 CE.

3)     Cut to recent history. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd discovered seven scrolls in what is now known as Cave 1. After that, the race was on. Archaeologists tried to excavate the caves scientifically, while Bedouins plundered them for whatever they could sell. In 1952, a French Dominican named Roland de Vaux located Cave 4. That cave contained over 15,000 fragments of over 800 manuscripts. A year later, an international team of eight scholars was assembled, with De Vaux as project director. Thirteen years after that, in 1966, De Vaux’s team was publicly accused of obstructing release of the scrolls because the content’s contrary to Trinitarian Christianity.

4)     After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel expanded its border to the Jordan River. The Qumran complex was in that territory, so became property of Israel. And so did the scrolls. In 1972, a Spanish scholar named José O’Callaghan claimed that papyrus fragments from Cave 7 represent some of the New Testament books. Other scholars disagreed, and claimed the fragments from Cave 7 are too small to know what they represent. But O’Callaghan’s assertion excited a lot of imaginations. Here’s why: The Essenes occupied the Qumran complex for over thirty years following Jesus’ ministry, and their complex was less than a day’s walk from Jerusalem. Yet none of the Qumran Scrolls (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls) was New Testament material. They represent all of the Old Testament books except Esther, but to date, nothing has been found that’s provably New Testament.

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Fun Facts about the Dead Sea and the Dead Sea Scrolls


Not all history is as dry as desert dust. Some is sprinkled with murder, mystery and intrigue. Now, I’m not saying the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls reads like a James Bond novel, but if written correctly, it’s not far off the mark. And if you’re looking for a romp through history with a scriptural bent, you’ve simply got to tune in to the story of the Scrolls.

Sooo . . . can they be interesting and fun?

Absolutely. But don’t trust me; read the following fun facts and decide for yourself:

1)      The Dead Sea is dying—now go and figure that one out. To begin with, at roughly 1400 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the surface of Planet Earth. And it’s getting lower. Surface evaporation and reduced inflow from the Jordan River have caused the level to drop and the shoreline to recede. Over the past fifty years, the sea has lost one-third of its volume. The only thing that seems to be increasing is its salinity, which at 35% is eight times that of the world’s oceans. Few microbes can survive the concentrated mineral salts, and anything larger hasn’t a chance.

2)      The desert around the Dead Sea receives an average of two inches of rain per year, and mean summer temperatures approximate 1000F. It is barren, dry, and sun-bleached. The only thing that grows on the shores is scant, stunted brush and hotels. Oh, and sinkholes. Well, sinkholes might not exactly grow as much as they (now, stay with me here) sink, but they are a new hazard in the area. Three thousand of them pockmark the area, and an equal number (or more) of subterranean cavities are believed to exist, even now, as we wait for them to collapse. What happens is this: As the sea level sinks, fresh water flowing down into the sea attacks underground salt deposits previously maintained by the brine of the Dead Sea. When the fresh water dissolves these salt deposits away, the resultant cavity collapses, frequently at the blink of an eye, sucking down everything above it. As a result, certain areas around the Dead Sea are becoming geological mine-fields.

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Five Reasons to Get Excited about the Dead Sea Scrolls

by : Laurence B. Brown

1)    They’re old. So what? Yeah, well, I understand. Grandpa’s old, but the only one who’s excited about him is grandma, and even there, the magic wore off twenty years ago. But the key is not the age of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather, it’s the bloody, tumultuous period in which they were hidden away. It was 68 CE, and Judea was in the middle of its revolt against Roman rule. Emperor Nero, infamous for his persecution of the Christian/Jews in the wake of the great fire of Rome, assigned General Vespasian to sweep the Roman legions across Judea and wipe out Jewish insurgency. Midway through this campaign, Nero was deposed and committed suicide. With the Roman Empire in upheaval and the Jews of Judea waging civil war as well as combating the Roman onslaught, the keepers of the scrolls hid their treasured scriptures in the caves at Qumran (the area of the Dead Sea where they were found).
2)    They’re incomplete. Even the best preserved scrolls have holes in them and are missing sections of text. The library of Dead Sea Scrolls looks like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Who knows what essential information is missing? Nonetheless, the texts we have hint at mind-boggling religious concepts.
3)    There may be undiscovered scrolls still hiding out in the Holy Land. Scholars estimate as many as twenty of the caves at Qumran were lost, together with their contents, due to collapse. Being collapsed, these caves cannot be found unless excavated by accident. Caches of scrolls may exist elsewhere in the Holy Land, as well. However, Israel’s stranglehold on this flow of information has resulted in scholars leveling charges of academic and/or religious conspiracy.

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