The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1946, near a desolate spot in the Judean desert known as Khirbet Qumran, a Bedouin teenager crawled into a cave and discovered multiple clay jars that he hoped were filled with treasure. He was disappointed when what he found inside was just some old scrolls. These old scrolls they turned out to be more valuable than treasure though, and this teenage boy's accidental discovery exploded into an 11-year search that produced almost 900 different manuscripts. He didn’t find the treasure teenage boy dreams of, but he did make archaeological history. It was the greatest biblical manuscript discovery of all time because the scrolls confirmed the reliability of the Old Testament!

The manuscripts range from full scrolls to tiny fragments, written on papyrus, parchment, and bronze. They are written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and can be divided into two categories: biblical books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms, etc.) and non-biblical books (prayers, legal, and end-time documents). The initial scrolls were in such great shape that buyers doubted they were actually ancient. The scrolls were most likely hidden in this near perfect environment when word came of the approaching Roman army bent on crushing the Jewish Revolt (66-73 A.D.). It was written by the Essenes, a separatist sect of Jews who had retreated into the wilderness, and among other things, painstakingly transcribed the Scriptures over several years.

The scrolls are significant because they are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.

The ruins of the Qumran community where the Essenes lived can be visited today. The excavations revealed pools that were used for ritual baths, cisterns, storehouses, and a large meeting hall. The most interesting room is the Scriptorium, where two inkwells were found with benches for scribes to do their work. This room is probably where many of the manuscripts were copied and some real history was made.

When history was made by the Wright brothers with the discovery of flight, Orville Wright said, “Isn't it astounding that these secrets have been preserved for all of those years just so we can discover them?” How much more astounding the discovery of the clay jars that held these biblical treasures?