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DALL·E 2024-05-03 21.16.00 - A refined scene in first-century Jerusalem in landscape confi
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Unit 4

Historical Context

 

Since some understanding of the historical context is essential for a deeper understanding the origins of Christianity, it is worth taking some time to get familliar with the political and cultural events leading up to the world into which Jesus was born.

The historical context of the Second Temple period, a time of significant religious development and political change, is crucial for understanding the background of both the Scrolls and the New Testament. This era saw the rise of various Jewish sects, including the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Fourth Philosophy, Zealots, and the early Christian movement, each with its own interpretation of Jewish law and tradition.

The Dead Sea Scrolls provide firsthand evidence of the religious diversity that characterized this period, showing a range of beliefs about messianism, the afterlife, ritual purity, and the interpretation of Scripture.

There was significant animosity between some of the various Jewish groups at the time, and if we are not careful, we might conclude that the Bible itself depicts a unified Jewish opposition to the teachings of Jesus. This is not so, however. Scenes like the one in which Paul turns the Sadducees and Pharisees against each other, regarding ressurection theology, is a case in point (Acts 23:6).

The Scrolls have also illuminated the Second Temple period's socio-political landscape, marked by the Hasmonean dynasty and the Roman occupation of Judea. They offer insights into the community's views on these political powers, including their resistance to foreign rule and their hope for divine intervention in history and politics.

 

This context is essential for understanding the New Testament, as the early Christian texts were written against the backdrop of these same socio-political and religious dynamics - and there are some intriguing similarities.

Let's begin with a lesson in the history of the times, including the reason we use the term "Second Temple period."

The Empires of the Second Temple Period

The Babylonian Backdrop

The theme of exile plays a large role in Jewish thought of the time, and persists up to and beyond the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, just a year or so after the discovery of the Scrolls.

 

But what are we talking about when we say "the exile?"

Let's explore this.

To begin with, note that "Palestine" is the ancient name of the region in which Israel was located in antiquity (and in which the modern state is located today). This does not refer to a country, or a particular government or even people group, but to the region itself. It is also often called the Levant in scholarly literature.

 

The Palestinian people take their name from the region, rather than the other way around, so don't let that confuse you. Both the Jews and the Arabs are technically "semitic" peoples, from similar (or the same) genetic stock, both hailing from this area in ancient times.

Because of its location on a narrow piece of land between the continents of Asia and Africa, this region has known a lot of conquest and foreign invasion. In 597 BCE, it was the Babylonian Empire that took over the area.

map-neo-babylonian-empire-regions.webp

It was the policy of the Babylonian Empire to remove powerful families from conquered areas and relocate them to Babylon (modern day Iraq, 50 miles south of Baghdad). This prevented them from mustering local dissent and resisting Babylonian Rule. They also destroyed the Temple built by King Solomon when they took over the region.

The powerful families of Israel, and many less powerful ones, were therefore in forced exile in Babylon from 597 BCE to 538 BCE when Cyrus the Great defeated the Babylonian Empire and soon took over rule of Israel. In Jewish thought and writings, this is referred to simply as "The Exile."

This is the period that immediately preceded the Second Temple period.

1. The Persions (586-332 BCE)

 

Cyrus the Great was the ruler of Persia, and the Persian policies of conquest were different from the Babylonian ones. In fact, Cyrus is called "anointed" (Messiah) in Scripture, as a delvierer of Israel (Isaiah 45:1). This doesn't mean he was considered the Messiah, though, he was simply considered God's means of delivering Israel from earthly exile.

 

Cyrus allowed those who wanted to, to return to Israel. Many stayed in Babylon, but about 40,000 people returned, including many of the elite. He even allowed those who returned to rebuild the walls and the Temple.

This construction of a second temple (later expanded by King Herod) marked the beginning of the Second Temple period, in 516 BCE. The period would last for roughly 500 years.

 

As long as they paid tribute to Persia, and did not cause any trouble, they were allowed to functionally rule themselves.

temples.webp

2. Hellenistic Period (332-63 BCE)

Begining in 323 BCE a young Macadonian (Greek) man, by the name of Alexander, effectively took over the known world (that is, he conquered the world that was known to him). Palestine was among the first places he took. He brought with him the Greek way of thinking, called Hellenism.

Hellenism highlighted physcial beauty, athletic prowess, and the power of human thought and ingenuity. It was far from the contemplative, self-depreciating traditions of the Hebrews, and many people were attracted to it, even reversing circumcisions (drawing the skin of the penis forward and stitching it over the glans) to allow them to compete, without embarassment or "othering," in the wrestling and other sports of the gymnasia, which were done in the nude.

When Alexander eventually died, his lands were divided up among his generals, and the area came under the control of the Seleucid Dynasty - effectively a continuation of Hellenistic-style rule.

Ptolemy, another of Alexander's generals, ruled Egypt but covetted Seleucid-ruled Paletsine too.




The Hasmoneans

The Hasmoneans were a prominent Jewish family. The famous "Hasomonean Revolt" seems to have occurred because the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, mistook priestly infighting as a full scale rebellion, and clamped down on the Jewish religion around 168 BCE. He banned Jewish practices and set up a pagan-Jewish cult in the Temple, complete with pig sacrifices - very taboo to the Jewish people, to say the least.

The response to this was that Jewish fighters, led by Judas Maccabeus (Judah Maccabee, a member of a "priestly family") rebelled, took control, and held it until 63 BCE. The story of the rebellion is chronicled in 1 and 2 Maccabees.

It is worth noting that the rejection of these two books (1 and 2 Maccabees) by the Qumran Community was on the grounds that the Maccabees were not legitimate rulers in their eyes. The blending of priesthood and open political rule was problematic for many Jews of the day.




4. The Romans (63 BCE to 324 CE)

By 63 BCE, Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and its surroundings, threw out the ruling Hasmoneans, and in 40 BCE he declared Herod the Great "King of the Jews"... under the Roman State.

 

It is of note, of course, that "King of the Jews" was his official title.

King Herod enlarged the Temple Mount in 37 BCE, and rebuilt the temple.

 

It is still considered the Second Temple, as there was no discontinuation of worship, no foreign destruction of it, and the work was done with the consent of the people.

The End of the Second Temple Period

It was during the time of Roman rule that Jesus lived, from about 4CE to around 30CE.

In 66 CE, the Jews rebelled against Roman rule. In 68 CE, the Romans destroyed Qumran on their way to attack Jerusalem and regain control of the area.

In 70CE, they took Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, thus ending the Second Temple period.

DALL·E 2024-05-31 12.02.47 - A panoramic view of the destruction of the Second Temple in J

The hiding of the Dead Sea Scrolls, therefore, was probably in response to the approaching Roman forces, and occurred at a startlingly key point in the religious and political history of the area...

                           ...but more on that later.

DALL·E 2024-05-31 12.11.27 - A realistic, photographic-style image of two Essene men climb
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.

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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.

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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!

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The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

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Kando 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.

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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.


 

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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.

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Unit One