When I first heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls, they sounded like something out of a fantasy novel to me. When I learned more about them, the reality was just as interesting. But just like a good novel, to really appreciate their significance, you have to start at the beginning. So here are the answers to the questions I had when I first learned about this amazing discovery.
How Were The Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered?
The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946 when a shepherd was caring for his flock in an area near the Dead Sea known as Qumran. He went looking for a goat that had wandered off and discovered a cave opening. Curious, and probably bored, he tossed a rock into the darkness.
When he heard the unexpected sound of pottery breaking, he decided to investigate. Inside he found clay jars which contained seven separate scroll fragments. Since that time, thousands of fragments have been recovered in a total of 12 caves in the same region, although many more caves have been explored.
What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient texts consisting of fragments from over 900 different manuscripts. These manuscripts are mostly copies of biblical texts and related religious writings.
Archeologists believe they were left behind by a separatist Jewish sect that existed around 100 BC, which makes them the oldest copies of the Old Testament scriptures ever discovered at over 2000 years old!
So, Why Are They Important?
There are two main reasons why the scrolls matter. Firstly, the Dead Sea Scrolls gave us new insight and understanding of the world during this time. Getting a direct look into the past through the eyes of a specific group of people helps shape our understanding of the cultures of the time and how different groups thought of each other.
Secondly, the Dead Sea Scrolls hold particular significance for Christians and Jews, as it verifies the accuracy with which the Old Testament scriptures were copied over the last 2000 years. In fact, there are fragments of every Old Testament book except Esther. That’s what I call dedication!
Are There More Scrolls?
Possibly. Archeologists are hopeful about the prospect of finding additional Dead Sea Scrolls in two newly discovered caves, named cave 53b and cave 53c.
They have already discovered pottery fragments and remnants of rope or string in cave 53b. In fact, they even found an oil lamp near the entrance to the cave. However, it is still unclear if this cave was used to store scrolls.
In cave 53c, they discovered pottery from a scroll jar and have begun excavations to determine if there are any scroll fragments remaining. Now only time will tell.
Whether there are more scrolls to be found or not, there is certainly still a lot more to learn by continuing to investigate and study the contents of these caves.
And it looks like there are still plenty of caves left to explore!