The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in modern times around 1947, in the Judean Desert. A group of Bedouin shepherds, looking for a stray goat, came across an untouched cave, the interior of which had jars containing ancient manuscripts. Over the next decade, thousands of fragments were found in eleven caves near the Dead Sea region. The span between the caves and the actual Dead Sea, known as the Qumran ruins, was excavated by archeologists around this time also. Carbon-14 dating and other research indicated both the writings and the Qumran ruins date back as far as the third century B.C.E. In fact, the texts are older than any other discovered biblical manuscripts by almost one thousand years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls on DisplayCredit: Wikimedia CommonsThe Dead Sea Scrolls recovered include over 900 separate writings. Although many are biblical, some also consist of non-biblical content including information on the law, war conduct, and wisdom of that time. Over 90% of the texts were written in Hebrew, with the small remainder written in either Aramaic or Greek. Most were composed of animal skins while a few consisted of other materials, specifically parchment and copper.

Copper ScrollCredit: Wikimedia Commons

The Copper Scroll, found in Cave 3, contains a list of 64 underground hiding places in Israelthat contain great deposits of gold, silver, and manuscripts. Unlike the other manuscripts, which were mainly found by Bedouins, the Copper Scroll was found by an archeologist As far as it is known, most of the treasure listed has not been recoverd, mainly because the detailed explanations are not completely decipherable or refer to landmarks and structures that no longer exist. However, it is possible that some of these physical treasures will be discovered over time.

The biblical writings include fragments of every Old Testament book except for Esther. Included are 19 copies of the book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, and thirty copies of the book of Pslams. Prophecies not found in the Bible by the likes of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezekial were also found; and never before seen psalms by King David and Joshua were also discovered. Last words by many notable individuals including Joseph, Judah, Levi, and Amram (Moses’ father) were also among the findings. However, since they predate Jesus by about 80 years, there are no direct references to His life or teachings.

Qumran CaveCredit: Wikimedia CommonsWhy were the Dead Sea Scrolls placed in caves in the Qumran region? It is thought that they were hidden away during the First Jewish Revolt around 66 A.D., as the Roman army threatened the Jewish sect present in that area. For many, these findings strongly affirm that Christianity is rooted in Judaism. In addition, many view them as an evolutionary linkage between these two religions.