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DALL·E 2024-05-16 21.54.19 - A photographic-style image of a modern scholar standing in th
DSS Unit 2 red.png

Unit 2

 

Why are they Important?

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to biblical scholarship. They give us a glimpse into the world Jesus lived in, his neighbors, the various beliefs and conflicts bubbling up around him, and the expectations of people who looked to God to change their circumstances, both personally and politically.

 

Much of this information is firsthand, through writings about current beliefs and community rules and through interpretations, commentaries, and embellishments to the biblical stories.

The Age of the Manuscripts

Before their discovery, the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that we have, dated to around 1000 CE. This means that they were a thousand years old, but Jesus lived two thousand years ago and we had no Hebrew copies of the Scriptures for the first thousand years after the crucifixion. We had no real proof of what the Scriptures looked like at the time of Jesus... and things can change a lot on a thousand years!

 

A thousand years ago, Columbus had not yet sailed, the Vikings were raiding and expanding their range - not only had the crossbow not yet been invented, but buttons for clothing didn't exist yet either! A thousand years is a long time. Add to that time period the fact that the Jews and Christians were fighting with each other, and many modern scholars proposed that Scriptures had been changed to suit the theological preferences of the opposing party.

A thousand years ago, Columbus had not yet sailed, the Vikings were raiding and expanding their range - not only had the crossbow not yet been invented, but buttons for clothing didn't exist yet either! A thousand years is a long time. Add to that time period the fact that the Jews and Christians were fighting with each other, and many modern scholars proposed that Scriptures had been changed to suit the theological preferences of the opposing party.

DALL·E 2024-05-30 15.48.51 - A group of Vikings riding the high seas in a traditional long

And honestly, how were we to know what might have been changed during the arguments and fighting between the two religions as they split, and afterward? With different versions of Scripture in existence, how were we to know which one is the "right" one?

Even the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Bible favored by the Christians, had five hundred years of gap between the oldest full copy and the split of Christianity from Judaism. A lot might have been changed in that time.

Text timeline.jpg

The Dead Sea Scrolls pushed the date of this evidence back by a full millennium, to as early as the 3rd century BCE right up to the days of Jesus. This provided scholars with texts that were much closer to the original autographs of the time of the split.

This was revolutionary, as it allowed scholars to compare the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible (the thousand year old versions) to the textual variants present in the Scrolls, which are two thousand and more years old - some of them probably contemporary with Jesus himself.

By comparing these documents, scholars have been able to better understand the process of how the copies were preserved during that long passage of time. They have been able to prove remarkable consistency in most cases, and to pinpoint variations or changes that have occurred in the texts. We can also better understand why those variations might have developed.

DALL·E 2024-05-30 15.35.04 - A landscape format image divided into three vertical sections

Contemporary Sources of Daily Life 2000 Years Ago

In terms of the historical Jesus and early Christianity, the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided valuable material. We have had a lot of written material from the time of Jesus, but very little of it was written by people whom we could call part of his community. It is mostly Roman accounts, or accounts of events written with the Romans as the intended audience. The focus is not generally on the people who would most reflect Jesus and his culture.

However, scholars have noted parallels in language, themes, and religious practices between the Qumran community and the New Testament writings. This suggests that the Dead Sea Scrolls are documents from a community closely tied to that of Jesus, that their way of life would have been familliar to him, and that there might even have been a lot of overlap between Jesus' human perspective and theirs.

Screenshot 2024-04-26 at 22.12.00.png

For example, the emphasis on the importance of community life, shared meals, and ritual purity in the Scrolls has parallels in the practices of the early Christian communities as written in the New Testament.

 

Think of the community of the Disciples, the Last Supper, ritual washing and baptism... these are just a few of the cultural areas that seem to closely tie the groups together.

Moreover, their themes about the end times and the expectations of a messiah, echo the New Testament's expectations about death and judgement, and the final victory of the righteous over the wicked. This provides a broader context for understanding Jesus' teachings. It also highlights the popularity of end times theology and expectations of the time.

The Scrolls have enriched our understanding of the beliefs and expectations that shaped the world of Jesus and the early Christians. This can, in turn, enrich our own understanding and beleifs.

The Nature of the Scriptures and Scribal Practice

The study of the Dead Sea Scrolls has also influenced theological reflections on Scripture's authority and interpretation. The textual variations found in the Scrolls have led to discussions about the nature of scriptural inspiration. They have improved our understanding of how the biblical books were chosen from among many other options. This has sparked many discussions among scholars and theologians around how divine revelation is passed from generation to generation, and preserved in human langauge in various ways.

DALL·E 2024-05-16 22.00.33 - A photographic-style image of an Essene scribe in white, work

For example, it was once thought that all of the books of the Bible came from one original writing, and only split into different versions as time went on. This is the tree model, as it resembles a tree trunk splitting into branches as it rises.

DALL·E 2024-05-16 22.04.46 - A tree with a single, smooth central birch trunk that splits

Because the tree model assumes one, correct, original version, all of the other versions must be incorrect.

If so many other versions are incorrect, what is it that makes us sure the one we use is the correct one? Inspiration?

This assumes all other groups are deceived.

You can see why this can cause conflicts.

The evidence indicates, however, that there were several versions of the biblical books, each coming out of oral traditions, that have been in existence all along. This looks more like many blades of grass sprouting up and continuing in almost unbroken lines. Scholars suspected this even before the discovery of the Scrolls, but the contents of the Scrolls have shown this beyond any reasonable doubt.

Because the grass model allows for several versions to be accurately passed down from ancient times, the resulting body of Scripture is more nuanced, richer, and allows for differences of understanding, interpretation, and - for members of the faith group - different places along the path of understanding God's will.

It tends to lead to a more humble, compassionate interaction when it comes to reading and applying Scripture.

These several versions underwent very little variation aside from occasional blending of versions to produce a "best" translation. This was (and is) usually done with a theological viewpoint in mind prior to the translation choices. Adding clarification was a scribal practice that has been common throughout the history of the Scriptures, though in most cases (not all) the clarifications are subtle and of little theological consequence.

For example, we know that there were no domesticated camels in the area in Abraham's day, so he could not have had them as pack animals. This detail would have been added in later.

 

Does this addition change the theology or meaning of the text? No.

Important variation of meaning and detail is more noticeable when Scriptures are being translated from one language to another - and some conflict has arisen over choices made in antiquity, and even in the past few generations.

Most are quite minor, but some are whales, like the controversy over Isaiah 7:14.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
isa714-heb.jpg

In the Septuagint (the Greek bible), the Hebrew word for "unmarried woman" almah (עַלְמָה) is translated to the Greek word parthenos (παρθένος), meaning "virgin" (Genesis 24:43 and one in Isaiah 7:14). That is obviously the Christians' preferred translation.

However, there is a Hebrew word that means, specifically, "virgin" in our modern sense, and that is betulah (‏בְּתוּלָה). The hebrew word for a woman's hymen is betulim (בְּתוּלִים), from the same root. But this word was not used, almah was. This is obviously the preferred translation of the Jewish side - and with very good reason.

However, there is an argument to be made for the choice that does not throw out the Christian position altogether.

Here is a parallel example, from medieval times, to illustrate what I mean: The word "celibate" did not originally mean abstaining from sex. It meant abstaining from marriage - the abstinance from sex was implied. If a righteous person was celibate, then they would, of course, not be sexually active.

Can "unmarried woman" carry that same implication to a strong enough degree to mean "virgin"? If she is accepted as being virtuous, and had not been forced into intercourse, then perhaps yes... but you can see where some controversy comes into play.

In all though, the Dead Sea Scrolls have revealed that the writings in existence in Jesus' day are remarkably similar to what has been passed down to us today. Very little change has occurred in each version, and the versions we have today were, for the most part, also variations present (and widely used) in Jesus' day.

In other words, they had almost the same copies as we have, and many of the same arguments and opinions over which versions were best.

This knowledge has allowed us a more nuanced understanding of the world of Jesus, the thinking and textual resources of his day, and the nature of Scripture itself.




That is the end of the information for Unit 2. You can review it before having a discussion, and you can take the (optional) quiz as many times as you like.

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.

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.