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Unit 7

Traditions, Translations, and Trust




The Books Found at Qumran

The biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls are extremely important, as they include portions of each book of the Hebrew Bible (with the exception of Esther) in a much earlier copy than we had before - about a thousand years earlier. These texts are invaluable for the study of the text's history and the development of the Bible (in all of its versions) as we know it today.

Notably, the Scrolls feature the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, with the Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) being one of the most complete and well-preserved examples. This particular scroll contains the entire Book of Isaiah and is nearly identical to the Masoretic Text, the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible from the medieval period, a thousand years later.

Not sure what 1QIsa means in the text above?

This is the special way of naming the Scrolls, used by scholars, to keep track of the many versions and fragments. This video will explain what the numbers and letters mean.

If you want to explore some of the scrolls themselves, click on the image below to view the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project. I assisted Prof. Flint with part of this project, which was a joint effort between the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and Google. The purpose of it is to provide hi-res images of the scrolls to anyone who wants to view, read, or study them.

Isaiah Scroll.png

The biblical manuscripts included in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit a variety of textual traditions. While many align closely with the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew tradition), others correspond to the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, with mostly complete manuscripts from the fourth century CE) and some present unique readings not found elsewhere.

Interestingly, some of the 7 Deuterocanonical Books (Baruch, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Tobit and Wisdom) are present in the collection as well.

These books were removed from the Bible by Martin Luther, because they are not included in the Masoretic texts, which he mistakenly thought were more "original" because they were in Hebrew, rather than Greek.

Because many Christians have the perception that the Old Testament is a Hebrew book, and the New Testament is in Greek, there is a common assumption that Hebrew is the older, more authentic language for the Old Testament.

DALL·E 2024-05-17 20.03.53 - Alexander the Great on a rearing horse, overlooking a Palesti

In truth, however, Greek versions go back well before the time of Jesus to the time of Alexander the Great and his Hellenization (greek culturization) of the area.

Some Bibles, such as the Catholic tradition, retain these books, though they take a less important place than the others.




Which Apocryphal Books did they use at Qumran?

The Apocryphal books in use at the time of Jesus included Baruch, Judith, 1 and 2 Macabees, Sirach, Tobit, and Wisdom. But were they included in the Dead Sea Scroll finds? The answer varies depending on the book in question.

Yes...

The apocryphal scrolls found in the caves include fragments of Sirach, Tobit, and Wisdom.

Maybe...

It is possible that fragments of Baruch are present as well, though this is not determined definitively. Judith was not found among the scrolls, which is not proof that it wasn't there, but makes it less likely.

No...

1 and 2 Macabees are not found among the scrolls, which is not surprising. The Qumran Essenes were quite antagonistic to the Hasmonean dynasty established by the Macebees, and would not have held their stories in any kind of high regard.

There were other apocryphal books in use in Jesus' day as well, but the seven above have survived into regular use today.

Diversity in the Texts of Jesus' Day

DALL·E 2024-05-17 20.05.56 - A group of Jewish leaders from the first century, each holdin

Understanding the textual diversity of ancient times is crucial for understanding the transmission and preservation of biblical texts over the centuries.

What we mean by this is that the people using these Scriptures in the time of Jesus weren't bothered by differences in the text, as long as the spirit of it and the general themes remained intact. This is very different from some traditions today, in which the belief in exact copies and single accepted versions and translations is very important - but that kind of exactness of translation and transmission did not really happen.

To those who come from a tradition like that, I offer this bit of encouragement: The ancient copies were not in English, or Spanish, or German, or any other modern language - they were in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The very act of translating them demands some judgment calls, as those original languages and modern ones cannot say things exactly alike.

 

Language also changes over time, as do the meanings of words in different contexts.

word change.png

In order to maintain the same meaning, some words might need to be updated, or at least their original meanings clarified or reinforced. In that way, changes are actually ways to keep the message the same.

Consider this shift in meaning of an English word, and the implications it might have on translation techniques. One to consider might be the phrase "Fear of the Lord." What did that mean when it was written down as the translation? Does it hit the ear the same way now?

Words sometimes mean many things in a particular time, culture, and subculture. Think of these words: bad, sick, hot, cool... have they always meant the same thing? Would the various meanings be obvious to those outside of the context?

 

These are all things scholars and translators must consider. Many times, we simply cannot know if there are nuances in the way the word was used or understood. If the scribes translators were trying to stay true to the original meaning and spirit of the writing, then why not also consider what each of them thought the original meaning and spirit was? After all, in many cases they were much closer to the context and original events than we are.

These are all reasons why scholars look at several versions in orignial and modern translations. Considering several translations and versions actually enriches our understanding of what was easily conveyed in the original languages.

That's the skinny of it.




Did the People of Jesus' Day have a Set Canon of Books?

This is a good question. The most likely answer is no, not in the way modern groups do, with the texts all in one book, or on one list - but the exact way that some books became what we call "authoritative" (biblical, Scripture with a capital S) is unclear.

Part of the problem is that there is no concensus (general agreement) among scholars on when the Hebrew canon was established. Some scholars place the date in the Hasmonean dynasty (as early as 140 BCE), while many others argue that it was not fixed until the second century (100-199CE) or even later.

 

There are religious motivations for each of these positions too, which cloud the issue.




Translations as Group Identifiers

Part of the root reason that Jews and Christians have argued over textual variants probably has more to do with cultural identities than religious positions. A significant part of the difference between the Christian sect and the other sects of the Jewish religion was the degree to which they embraced Greek, or "Hellenistic," ideas and ways of thought, especially as time went on after the split.

When the schizm occurred, and in the years following that break, Jewish, and Greek, and foreign Christians embraced the Greek translation (Septuagint), and the (non-Christian) Jews moved back toward exclusive use of the Hebrew texts.

 

It is interesting to note that this translation choice based largely on cultural resonance happens even today.

When variants were present, groups chose those variants that most supported their theological positions, or which went against the beliefs of their opponents. The Gospels, especially Mark, Luke, and John, are very Greek in the way they express ideas and conceptualize realty.

This background is part of the reason that the Scrolls are so important - they give us a look at which scriptures Jesus himself would have used and taught from. Because remember, there was no such thing as a Christian or Christian sect when Jesus lived in Palestine, never mind a separate Christian religion or a New Testament - that all came about later, when Paul began to write and spread the new doctrines concerning Jesus' nature and identity.

 

And the Gospels (except perhaps for Mark) came even later than that.

Screenshot 2024-04-27 at 14.54.03.png

That is the end of the information for Unit 7. 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.

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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.

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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.