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DALL·E 2024-05-31 12.45.37 - A photographic style image of Jesus walking along a crowded J
u5 title.png

Unit 5

The Time of Jesus

 

The timing of Jesus' life - the time between his birth and crucifixion - could not have been better placed to both mold and receive his particular message. The religious, cultural, and political landscape were just right to create the fertile ground into which his life was planted.

  • It was during the time of Roman Rule that Jesus was born, grew up, and was killed.

  • This happened just before the Jews rebelled against Rome (66CE), and therefore just before Roman retribution and the destruction of the Temple (70CE).

  • His life was also, quite notably, just a little before the Scrolls were hidden in the caves, time capsules for the Twentieth Century discoverers.

 

It is important to understand, though, that the tensions between the Jews and Rome did not begin in 66CE, when the rebellion did - no, the tensions began much earlier... they were in full bloom even in the days of Jesus and the early Christians.


Roman Religion

Part of the problem was the Roman attitude toward religion.

 

The Romans were comfortable with many gods in their own pantheon and were also very tolerant of other religions - in one sense. That is, they allowed people to worship various gods according to individual choice and traditions, so long as tributes and taxes were paid and the people didn't cause any trouble.

This sounds like it was good for the Jews and early Christians, and in many ways it was... but there was a catch.

Many Roman Emperors were declared (by themselves or others) to be divine. In other words, they were to be worshipped as gods. This was not optional, and it is believed that it was enforced by demanding some kind of token of emperor worship in exchange for permission to buy or sell in the marketplaces - probably verified by a mark on the right hand, or forehead.

This tension, ironically born of conflict with Jewish traditions, helped to fuel the animosity between early Christians and their Roman rulers.

 

Remember that Jesus himself did not resist Roman rule or taxation (Mark 12:17) - he was far more at odds with the Temple establishment and hypocritical and judgmental Jews, than he was with the Romans. Remember that it was his opponents in the Temple establishment that demanded punishment for his words, not the Roman authorities.

It was different later on though, when the writings of Paul and the Gospels were being written. During that time, early Christians took on Roman rule as a top-tier enemy.

Let's take a look at the Roman emperors of the time and what was going on during their respective times of rule.

Augustus as Jove.JPG

Augustus, depicted as Jupiter, chief god of ancient Rome.

Roman Emperors in Relation to Jesus' Lifetime

  • Augustus (27 bce–14 ce)

    • Jesus is born (around 4 ce)

    • Saul of Tarsus ((Paul) born around 5 ce)

  • Tiberius (14–37 ce)

    • Jesus is crucified around 33 ce

  • Caligula (37–41 ce)

  • Claudius (41–54 ce)

  • Nero (54–68 ce)

    • Most of Paul's ministy took place under Nero (5ce to 65ce)

    • Paul's writings would have been composed here

    • Christianity effectively split from Judaism during this time

    • Jewish (Maccabean) Revolt in 66 ce

  • Galba (68–69 ce)

  • Otho (January–April 69 ce)

  • Aulus Vitellius (July–December 69 ce)

  • Vespasian (69–79 ce)

    • Gospel of Mark written (around 70 ce)

    • Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Romans

  • Titus (79–81 ce)

  • Domitian (81–96 ce)

    • Gospel of Matthew written (around 85 ce)

    • Gospel of Luke likely written (80-90 ce)

    • Book of Acts likely written (70-90 ce)

    • Gospel of John written (90-100 ce)

  • Nerva (96–98 ce)

 

(There were more after this... but we'll stop here.)
 



 

Roman Rhetoric and Propaganda - and the Christian Writings that Echoed Them

As you read the phrases below, compare them to the dates of the emperors, and the major Christian dates (in bold print) in the section above.

  • Augustus called himself "The Son of God." - Luke calls Jesus "The Son of God."

 

  • Augustus said, “I saw the son of God ascend to the right hand of god the father.” - Stephen the martyr said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts ch6-7

 

  • Augustus said, “There is no name, except Augustus, by which men can be saved.” - In Acts it says "There is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts ch4

 

  • Each time Augustus conquered some new territory, he proclaimed a “euengelion” (ἐυαγγέλιον), the word from which we get the “good news," "evangelist," and “evangelical.”

 

  • If the governing authorities of a city within the Roman Empire confessed “Caesar is Lord”, that city would officially be designated an “ecclesia” (ἐκκλησία). This is the word we translate “church,” and "ecclesiastical" means "to do with the church."

 

There are more of these (Domitian and the Book of Revelation is worth a course in its own right), but you get the idea.

Divi-Filius.png

This coin reads:

Caesar Augustus, Son of God.

The point of sharing this is to point out that many of the famous declarations of the early chruch are not original, and they are more than simple religious proclamations. There is that aspect to them, yes, but they are also clear (and provocative) statements against the Roman ruling power of Jesus' day - not just the day of the writers, but the day of Jesus, the day of the figure around whose identity the religion was developing.

It is noteworthy that the sayings they echoed were those of Jesus' own day, and therefore were likely handed down from that day to that of the writers of the Gospels and other new testament books, like Acts. This gives support to the sayings being historically accurate and legitimate sayings by, and about, Jesus. It is not enough to be called historical proof, but it is supportive.

The intention of using these sayings seemed to be to take the claimed authority of Roman rule and give it instead to the person of Jesus, and therefore also to God and the church built by Paul and the other apostles in Jesus' name.

In light of this, we can understand another level of political and religious tension around the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the early church. The Romans would not tolerate anti-Roman sentiments for long, especially if they were made by a growing group.

 

The Christian religious statements that so angered the religious establishment also put the non-Christian Jews in danger of Roman punishment. If the non-Christian Jews were to be lumped together with these politically-rebellious Christian Jews, their very lives and existence could be in danger as well... and for something they did not believe in.

 

The split had begun.

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

That is the end of the information for Unit 5. You can review it before having a discussion, and you can take the (optional) quiz as many times as you like.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

DSS Scrolls.png

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

 

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

 

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

​​

timeline scroll writing copy.png

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

Community Rule.png

 

The Community Rule (1QS)

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

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

Untitled design.png
kando.jpg

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

Sukenik_1951.jpg

 

 

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

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

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

 

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


 

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

 

 

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

Publishing Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

...and the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

It took time to do it right.

About your instructor
About this course

Unit One

 

The Discovery

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

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

 

 

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

The Wolf.png
Cave 1 copy.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

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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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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.

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The discovery w