daism and Christianity
World Hist. H.
The year was 1947, with World War II just over and the hectic nations
recovering from a magnanimous drain in supply, a wondrous event occurred.
Something extraordinary, happening once in a world's history, befell in the
form of a child. Fifteen year old Muhammad adh-Dhib, a Bedouin shepherd,
was chasing one of his goats that ran off. Running in the Jordan Desert
and of the coastlines of the Dead Sea, stumbled upon a series of caves.
These caves were stacked with jars, in which scrolls were written in a
foreign language. A small discovery eventually led to a mass excavation
and archaeological investigation that produced thousands of scroll
fragments in eleven caves. These detailed scriptures describing Judaism in
its entirety are a priceless addition to our understanding of our own
origin. These Sacred Writs have thus dubbed the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the Dead Sea, thus its name. The
Dead Sea is located in Israel and Jordan, east of Jerusalem. It is a salt
sea which encompasses 390 sq mi. It passes through the Jordan trough of
the Great Rift Valley between the Ghor on the north and Wadi Arabah on the
south, on the border between Israel and the West Bank and Jordan. The
coastal surface of the Dead Sea, 1,292 ft below sea level, is the lowest
dry point on earth. Situated between steep, rocky cliffs, 2,500 to 4,000 ft
high, the sea is divided by the Al Lisan peninsula into two basins-a larger
northern basin c.1,300 ft deep, and a smaller southern basin, 35 ft deep.
The lake is fed by the Jordan River and a number of small streams and has
no outlet. Since it is located in a very hot and dry region, the Dead Sea
loses much water through evaporation; its level fluctuates during the year.
Biblical names for the Dead Sea include Salt Sea, East Sea, and Sea of the
Plain. Due to its low elevation, the climate has a high evaporation rate
and very low humidity, thus a dry preservation of the scrolls was possible.
When the scrolls were first discovered, the initial belief was that
the seven that were found were it. But, nearly a decade later, the
aftermath included thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves.
Archaeologists searched for the dwelling of the people that may have left
the scrolls in the caves. They excavated a ruin located between the cliffs
where the scrolls were found and the Dead Sea. This ruin is called Qumran,
and consequently a series of scrolls were named that also. Since the first
discoveries archaelologists have found over 800 scrolls and scroll
fragments in 11 different caves in the surrounding area. In actuality,
there are about 100,000 fragments found in all. The ruins and scrolls were
dated using a carbon-14 method. They were found to have been written or
copied between the 1st century BC and the first half of the 1st century of
1 AD. This makes the scrolls the oldest surviving biblical manuscript by
at least 1000 years. The scrolls were primarily written on goat and sheep
skin. A few were inscribed upon papyrus, a plant used to make paper, but
was not the most prominent. One scroll was engraved on copper sheeting,
telling of sixty buried treasure sites. Those scrolls were unable to
totally unfold, thus, the treasures still remain buried. One institute
performing research on the scrolls were able to find striking similarities
to that of the Nash Papyrus, the once known oldest fragment of the Hebrew
Bible dated at or around 150 BC. One of the scrolls was a complete copy of
the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The mass of scrolls contained a plethora of information: portions
included unknown psalm excerpts, Bible commentary, calendar text,
apocalyptic texts, purity laws, bible stories, and fragments of every book
in the Old Testament except for that of Esther. There is also an
imaginative paraphrase of the Book of Genesis.A set of 3 types of
documents can be used to summarize the massive amounts of fragments. Found
in these are the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, Apocrypha, and
Pseudepigrapha. At Masada, manuscripts of Sirach and the Songs of Sabbath
Sacrifice were found.
The scrolls found in the Qumran are a library of information that
contains books or works written in three different languages: Hebrew,
Aramaic, and Greek. Many scholars separated the scrolls into three
different categories: Biblical Books found in the Hewbrew Bible, Apocryphal
or Pseudepigraphical- works not in some Bibles but included in others, and
Sectarian- ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and
sacred works. One of the longer texts found in the Qumran is the Tehillim
or Psalms Scroll. It was found in 1956 in cave 11 and unrolled in 1961. It
is an assortment of Psalms, hymns and a passage about the psalms authored
by King David. The Manual Of Discipline or Community Rule contains rules,
warnings and punishments to violators of the rules of the desert sect
called Yahad. It also contains the methods of joining the community, the
relations among the members, their way of life, and their beliefs. The sect
believed that human nature and all that happens in the world is
predestined. The scroll ends with songs of praise of God. The War Rule is
commonly referred to as the "Pierced Messiah" text. It refers to a Messiah
who came from the line of David, to be brought to a judgment and then to a
killing. It anticipates the New Testament view of the preordained death of
the messiah. It is written in a Hebrew script and is only a six line
Most of the scrolls were found in caves near Qumran. The Qumran site was
excavated to find the habitation of those who deposited the scrolls in the
nearby caves. The excavations uncovered plates, bowls, and cemeteries with
over twelve hundred graves that have the same characteristics which suggest
religious uniformity, along with a complex of structures which suggested
that they were communal in presentation. This is where a community of a
distant Jewish sect called the Essenes may have once lived. The Essenes
were members of a Jewish religious brotherhood, organized on a communal
basis and practiced strict disciplines. The order had around 4000 members
and they existed in Palestine and Syria from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd
century AD. The Essene's main settlements were on the shores of the Dead
Sea. According to a few scholars, the Essenes or another religious sect
resided in neighboring locations, most likely caves, tents, and solid
structures, but depended on the center for community facilities such as
stores of food and water. Many scholars believe the Essene community wrote,
copied, or accumulated the scrolls at Qumran and deposited them in the
caves of the neighboring hills. Others question this explanation, claiming
that the site was no monastery but rather a Roman fortress or a winter
residence.The Temple Scrolls were a section of the Qumran scrolls that
revealed a list of rules of conduct resembling standard Christian ethics.
These were believed to be written by the Essenes.
Some also believe that the Qumran site has little if anything to do with
the scrolls and the evidence available does not support a definitive
answer. A lapse in the use of the site is linked to evidence of a huge
earthquake. Qumran was abandoned about the time of the Roman invasion of 68
A.D., 14 two years before the collapse of Jewish self-government in Judea
and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The scrolls are
believed to have been brought from Jerusalem the Judean wilderness for
safekeeping when Jerusalem was threatened by Roman armies.
Judaism was divided into numerous religious sects and political parties.
With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD., all that came to an end. Only
the Judaism of the Pharisees; the most powerful Jewish sect--Rabbinic
Judaism--survived. Qumran literature shows Judaism in the midst of change
from the religion of Israel as described in the Bible to the Judaism of the
rabbis as explained in the Talmud, which tells the rules that Jews live by.
Scholars have emphasized similarities between the beliefs and practices
shown in the Qumran material and those of early Christians. These
similarities include rituals of baptism, communal meals, and property. One
of the most fascinating similarities is how the people divided themselves
into twelve tribes led by twelve chiefs. This is very similar to how Jesus
had twelve apostles who would sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of
The scrolls today are mostly entrusted to the Rockefeller Museum in East
Jerusalem. The remaining scrolls are in the Israel Museum's Shrine of the
Books. These and the Rockefeller books were published, but those that are
under private ownership are kept private. In 1967, the Arab-Israeli War
placed the scrolls under the Israeli Antiques Authority. They control a
good portion of the scrolls now. Huntington Library, San Marino,
California pursued the idea of having the IAA's scrolls published. In good
time, the deed was accomplished.
Since their discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of great
scholarly and public interest. For scholars they represent an invaluable
source for exploring the nature of post- biblical times and probing the
sources of two of the world's great religions. For the public, they are
artifacts of great significance, mystery, and drama. Being in a crucial
area of religion and greatly expanding and teaching the origins of Judaism
along with Christianity, the scrolls were a goldmine find for the religious
historians and rabbis. The Qumran Scrolls provided great insight into the
world of Judaism and the people of the area. From the scrolls society was
able to expand its knowledge of the people, religion, and events of the
time. The Dead Sea Scrolls give us a better view of a crucial period in the
history of Judaism, and the most influential religions of today would not
be the same.
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Smith, Mahlon H. May 1999. 03 Mar 2004.
"Dead Sea Scrolls." Columbia Encyclopedia. Online. 6th ed. 2004
Sanders, J.A. "Psalms Scroll". Library of Congress. 03 Mar 2004
2/27/2004. Library of Congress. 03 Mar 2004.
VanderKam, James, and Peter Flint. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls :
Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and
Christianity. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper, 2002.
Baigent, Michael, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
Reissue ed.: Dell, 1983.