The Dead Sea Scrolls - What are they and why do they matter?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century and perhaps of all time. They include 972 documents from approximately 300 B.C. to A.D. 70. Among them are over 200 scrolls of Old Testament writings, such as the famous Isaiah scroll, found in excellent condition even though it is 1,000 years older than any previous manuscript of the book. These documents have provided an abundance of evidence that has helped to confirm the text of the Old Testament is astoundingly accurate.
The first of the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries occurred in 1947 in Qumran, a village situated about twenty miles east of Jerusalem on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. A young Bedouin shepherd, following a goat that had gone astray, tossed a rock into one of the caves along the seacliffs and heard a cracking sound: the rock had hit a ceramic pot containing leather and papyrus scrolls that were later determined to be nearly twenty centuries old. Ten years and many searches later, eleven caves around the Dead Sea were found to contain tens of thousands of scroll fragments.
The Dead Sea Scrolls comprise a vast collection of Jewish documents written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. They include manuscripts or fragments of every book in the Hebrew Bible except the book of Esther, all of them created nearly one thousand years earlier than any previously known Old Testament manuscript. The scrolls also contain the earliest known biblical commentary, on the book of Habakkuk, and many other writings.
In recent years, many shocking accounts of what was contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls have been reported. These sensational stories go far beyond what was actually found. There were no "lost" books of the Bible or other "secret" literature. Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were copies of books of the Old Testament from 250-150 B.C. There were many other writings found as well, yet the most important finds have been many early copies of Old Testament books.
The Dead Sea Scrolls can give us confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts since there were minimal differences between the manuscripts that had previously been discovered and those found in Qumran. Clearly, this is a testament to the way God has preserved His Word down through the centuries, protecting it from extinction and guarding it against error.
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