The Dead Sea Scrolls

The "Dead Sea Scrolls" Were Discovered Forty Years Ago

It was Spring 1947. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed adh-Dhib was guarding his father’s sheep in the Judean desert, not far from the north-west coast of the Dead Sea and the ruins of Qumran. He was bored and was throwing stones into the caves, of which there are thousands, situated on the steep slopes of the Dead Sea. When he threw a stone into one of the caves, it rattled. He assumed there was treasure in it! The next morning he climbed into the cave with his friend. They found some clay jugs and old, stinking leather rolls which they brought out into the daylight. When they turned out to be precious archaeological discoveries, more than 250 other caves in the surrounding area were also investigated. There were artefacts found in many of them.

All the leather rolls and scrolls hidden in the clay jugs came from a Jewish community, called the Essenians, who lived at the time of Jesus. They stood in opposition to the religious circles of the Pharisees and Sadduccees who ruled in Jerusalem. They had withdrawn themselves to Qumran, a monastic location in the dreary desert by the Dead Sea and lived in cultic purity and strict loyalty to the Law in order to prepare themselves for the final battle between good and evil - between the "sons of light" and the "sons of darkness". Here they waited for the coming of the Messiah and the end of the world. However, before their territory was destroyed, they hid all their hand-written books and scriptures in the surrounding caves. There they remained untouched for nearly 2000 years, until they were discovered by chance in 1947.

These finds are very special and precious. They consist mainly of Bible manuscripts, some of which are 1,000 years older than any other known Old Testament manuscripts. A complete Hebrew text of the prophet Isaiah was found, as well as commentaries on the books of the prophets Habakkuk, Micah, and Zephaniah. An Aramaic reproduction of parts of the book of Genesis was also found, as well as texts which are repeated nearly word for word in the New Testament (which was written much later). They all prove the astounding reliability of the biblical text as we have known it for centuries.

However, the most important and most precious finding of this, the greatest discovery of biblical manuscripts in modern times, is the so-called "Temple roll". It contains previously unknown laws given to Moses by God which are not included in the standard text of the Bible, as well as a complete design of an eschatological-apocalyptic building for a new temple in Jerusalem. For that reason the "Temple roll" was also given the name "Hidden Torah" by the scientists.

Many scientists have been working on the analysis of these "Dead Sea Scrolls" for decades. They are still far from finished. The well-known Israeli archaeologist Yigale Yardin bought many of these biblical manuscript rolls for the state of Israel. Since then they have been guarded like a state secret. Original copies are shown in the "Hechal ha Sepher" (Temple of the Book) in the University of Jerusalem and are admired by many visitors.

Translated from the German: "Vor 40 Jahren wurden die ‘Handschriften vom Toten Meer’ endeckt”