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Screenshot 2024-04-27 at 11.26.55.png

Table of Contents

An Accidental Discovery by an Unlikely Explorer
DALL·E 2024-05-16 21.54.19 - A photographic-style image of a modern scholar standing in th
Why are the Scrolls Important?
DALL·E 2024-05-21 12.03.17 - A photographic-style image of a cave interior, completely dar
What Scrolls were Found and Where are they Now?
DALL·E 2024-05-03 21.16.00 - A refined scene in first-century Jerusalem in landscape confi
The Historical Context and the Four Empires of
the Second Temple Period
DALL·E 2024-05-31 12.45.37 - A photographic style image of Jesus walking along a crowded J
The Time of Jesus
DALL·E 2024-05-05 15.18.47 - Illustratio
Messianism at Qumran
Screenshot 2024-04-30 at 23.54.52.png
Traditions, Translations, and Trust
DALL·E 2024-05-17 20.41.22 - A photorealistic landscape image featuring several key figure
The Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Books
essenes in white writing on scrolls on their laps.webp
The Sectarian Writings - A Glimpse at Jesus' Neighbors
Screenshot 2024-04-23 at 14.29.32.png
The Archeology of Qumran
About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

The scrolls changed hands several times before coming to the attention of scholars. One of the first to recognize their value was Khalil Iskander Shahin, known to most as Kando. Kando was a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem. He bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for seven Jordanian pounds (approximately $28, or $382 in 2023 dollars), and then sold them to Archbishop Samuel, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The purchase value of the scrolls quickly rose into six figures and would now fetch much more.

One of the scrolls Kando had was the Temple Scroll, which we'll talk about in more detail later. Kando refused to hand it over to Israeli officials until he was improsoned briefly, and revealed that it was hidden in a shoebox beneath a floor tile in his home. It had already begun to deteriorate. The government seized the scroll and gave Kando $125,000 as a (forced) purchase price for the scroll.

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kando.jpg

Kando secretly held onto some fragments, which he hid in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank. His son has now inherited them, and has begun selling them, seventy years after the initial purchase! Even stamp-sized fragments can fetch millions today, as wealthy evangelicals want to own a piece of this marvellous treasure.

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

The scrolls attracted scholarly attention in 1947 when they were shown to Eliezer Lipa Sukenik (at left, in 1951) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who immediately recognized their approximate age and significance. He was able to acquire some of the scrolls for the university.

Meanwhile, John C. Trever, a scholar from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), became aware of the scrolls owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church. He compared them to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest known biblical manuscript at the time, and saw some intriguing similarities. He also photographed them extensively, which helped in their identification and study.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. It has provided invaluable insight into the history of the Hebrew Bible, the early Jewish movements and communities of the Second Temple period, and the development of early Christianity.

 

The initial find led to further explorations, eventually uncovering a total of 12 caves in the area and around a hundred thousand fragments from nearly 1,000 different manuscripts.


 

davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

Some of the scrolls were intact - the longest being a whopping 9m long! - but most are in smaller fragments, some tinier than Cornflakes. Imagine 100,000 pieces of 1000 jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up, and no overall picture to work from... that's was the task ahead of those early scolars and archeologists.

Publishing Controversy

It took 55 years for the Scrolls to be published, and this has led many to believe that there were conspiracies to keep the writings secret. The proposed reasons for this alleged secrecy included:

  • Contents include the name of Jesus as Messiah and therefore the Jewish authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Contents disprove Christianity and therefore the Christian authoriteis wanted them hidden.

  • Contents prove that alternate gospels or writings that were not chosen to be part of the biblical canon (official list) are actually true, and therefore Christian authorities wanted them hidden.

  • Catholic doctrine is undermined by the contents and therefore the vatican wants them hidden.

  • The documents prove Christianity and therefore athiests and muslims want them hidden.

 

...and the list goes on.

The fact is, logging, organizing, preserving, and translating the scrolls was a massive job, with inadequate funding at times, and was subject to the arduous process of academic publishing. In other words, it simply took a long time.

In the early days, scholars were using scotch tape to stick the fragments together, working on this in bright sunlight while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and tea. By the end of the process, techniques had advanced, and they were treating the items more like we treat precious and fragile items today. They were also using advancements in technology to tease out more text from the fragments.

DALL·E 2024-04-27 15.04.08 - A detailed, photographic-style image of a scholar carefully e

They used cocktails of infrared and other rays to bombard the darkened fragments to reveal letters. They used shallow-angle lighting to detect indentations in the surfaces to reveal more letters. They used DNA testing to match fragments of parchment together in order to put fragments together in their proper groups for easier sorting and matching (this also told them what kind of animals were used for the hides).

 

Familliar documents could be more quickly patched together (like puzzles with pictures on the boxes), but variations, newly-discovered writings, and badly damaged fragments took more time (like puzzles with no pictures to guide the puzzler). Perhaps it might have been possible to do it more quickly, but that might have led to errors and poor quality work.

Add to this the political unrest, war, difficulty in gaining access to or possesion of certain scrolls or fragments, the death of scholars involved, and many other factors... and perhaps we don't need wild theories to explain what is simple a fact of difficult scholarship:

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most gripping stories in archeology. The story began late in 1946 or early in 1947, near the ancient settlement of Qumran. Qumran is located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now called the West Bank.

map west bank.jpg
davies-qumran-caves-map-small copy.jpg

 

 

The discovery was made by a young Bedouin shepherd named Muhammed edh-Dhib, or "Muhammad the Wolf." Legend has it that he had always felt he would discover treasure one day, and be rich and famous as a result. He may not have become rich from his discovery, but the fact that we are learning about him today has proven him at least partly right.

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

Muhammed edh-Dhib, some years after the discovery, and an image of the first cave found to have scrolls hidden within it.

The story goes like this: While tending to his flock, Muhammad noticed an animal was missing. While looking for it, he threw a rock into one of the limestone caves in the area, in case the animal was hiding in the cool shade inside.

 

Instead of hearing the bleating of a startled sheep, or the crack of echoing stone on stone, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Curious about the noise, he later entered the cave with his cousin, and found a collection of large clay jars, some of which were sealed with pitch.

DSS Scrolls.png

In his mind he immediately thought he had found treasure – gold or silver, maybe something even more precious!

 

To his disappointment, instead of finding the treasure he had hoped for, Muhammad found scrolls wrapped in linen inside the jars.

 

It was still treasure though, as these scrolls were later identified as some of the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible and other religious texts, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. That is from 300 years before the birth of Jesus, to a few years after the crucifixion.

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

Initially, the significance of the scrolls was not recognized. Muhammad and his fellow Bedouins removed the scrolls from the cave, hoping to sell them for a modest sum. The first scrolls he found were the Isaiah Scroll (a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), the Habakkuk Commentary (a scholar's or leader’s comments on a book later included in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament), and the Community Rule Scroll, a document written by the people who hid the scrolls, and which details the rules they lived by… but more on that later!