Dead Sea Scrolls Essay Research Paper While

Dead Sea Scrolls Essay, Research Paper

While pursuing one of his goats into a cave near the Dead Sea in the Jordan

Desert, in 1947, a fifteen year old boy by the name of Muhammad adh-Dhib,

stumbled on to a great discovery. Inside the cave, he found broken jars that

contained scrolls written in a strange language, wrapped in linen cloth and

leather.1 This first discovery produced seven scrolls and started an

archaeological search that produced thousands of scroll fragments in eleven

caves. The Dead Sea is located in Israel and Jordan, east of Jerusalem. The dead

sea is very deep, salty, and it?s the lowest body of water in the world.

Because the dead sea is at such a low elevation, the climate has a high

evaporation rate but a very low humidity which helped to preserve the scrolls.2

Archaeologists searched for the dwelling of the people that may have left the

scrolls in the caves. The archaeologist excavated a ruin located between the

cliffs where the scrolls were found and the dead sea. This ruin is called

Qumran. The ruins and the scrolls were dated by the carbon 14 method and found

to be from the third century which made them the oldest surviving biblical

manuscript by at least 1000 years. Since the first discoveries archaeologists

have found over 800 scrolls and scroll fragments in 11 different caves in the

surrounding area. In fact, there are about 100,000 fragments found in all. Most

of which were written on goat skin and sheep skin. A few were on papyrus, a

plant used to make paper, but one scroll was engraved on copper sheeting telling

of sixty buried treasure sites.3Because the scrolls containing the directions to

the treasures is unable to be fully unrolled, the treasures have not been found

yet. In all, the texts of the scrolls were remarkable. They contained unknown

psalms, Bible commentary, calendar text, mystical texts, apocalyptic texts,

liturgical texts, purity laws , bible stories, and fragments of every book in

the Old Testament except that of Esther, including a imaginative paraphrase of

the Book of Genesis. Also found were texts, in the original languages, of

several books of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. These texts?none of which

was included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible?are Tobit, Sirach, Jubilees,

portions of Enoch, and the Testament of Levi, up to this time known only in

early Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Ethiopic versions.4 John Trever of the W.F.

Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, was allowed to investigate the

scrolls and was stunned to find that the scrolls closely resemble 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. Trever also examined three other scrolls; the Manual of Discipline, a

commentary on the book of Habbakuk, and one called the Genesis Apocryphon.

Trever took photographs of the texts to William Foxwell Albright ; of John

Hopkins University in Baltimore, who declared the scrolls dated back to around

100 BC.5 The scroll and fragments found in the Qumran is 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 Hebrew Bible. Apocryphal or

psuedepigraphical – Works not in some Bibles but included in others. Sectarian -

ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and sacred works.6 One

of the longer text, found in Qumran is the Tehillim or Psalms Scroll. It was

found in 1956 in cave 11 and unrolled in 1961. It is a assortment of Psalms,

hymns and an indifferent passage about the psalms authored by King David. It is

written on sheep skin parchment and it has the thickest surface of any of the

scrolls.7 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 scroll was found in cave 4 and cave 5 and It was

written on parchment. The longest version was found in cave 4.8 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 fragment.9 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.10 Many believe 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 who 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 sects main settlements

were on the shores of the Dead Sea.11 In some scholars views the site was the

wilderness retreat of the Essenes. According to these 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. 12 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.

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. 13 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. This was the time that Qumran was a judean military

fortress which was destroyed in a battle with the Romans 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. 15 The Dead Sea Scrolls give us a better view of a crucial

period in the history of Judaism. 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 a 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.16 Scholars have emphasized similarities between the beliefs and practices

shown in the Qumran material and those of early Christians.17 These similarities

include rituals of baptism, communal meals, and property.18 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 Israel. 19 The Dead Sea

Scrolls were written during the birth of Christianity and an important time in

Jewish history. The scrolls have giving an insight into the lives and customs of

the people who lived in a time of Roman invasion and Jewish history. Although

the text do not hold all the answers, they do give people a tool to use when

studying biblical history. Only a very few scholars had access to the scrolls

before copies of the scrolls were published in the 1990?s; now we all have a

chance to read an come to our own conclusions about the text. Whether the

scrolls uphold Jewish or Christian beliefs is not the only interesting part of

the scrolls. The text also give a more personal look at the people who lived in

a major part of Jewish history.

Burrows, Millar. (1955). The Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Grammercy Publishing

Company Roth, Cecil. (1965). The Dea Sea Scrolls. A New Historical Approach. New

York: W.W. Norton & Company. Schubert, Kurt . (1959). The Dead Sea

Community. Great Britain: Bowering Press Plymouth. Shanks, Hershel. (1998). The

Mystery And Meaning Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Random House. Project

Judaica Foundation, Inc.(1996-1999) . Welcome to SCROLLS FROM THE DEAD SEA. The

Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship, an Exhibit at the Library of

Congress, Washington,DC,

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