In the spring of 1947, a Bedouin shepherd threw a stone into a cave, marking an event that would be heard around the world, making the name “Dead Sea Scrolls” more known than any other associated with archaeology. As he released one of his rocks into the cave, the sound of a breaking earthenware jar came back at him. Upon further examination, he discovered the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The discovery of the scrolls’ rise to fame has been partly fueled by controversy among scholars and the media. Sadly, this has left a public scandal, where those not in the know are thrown back and forth by confusion and misinformation. Stories have spread about an enormous conspiracy, driven by anxiety that the scrolls disclose details that would damage the faith of Christians and Jews as well. Nevertheless, what is the real importance of these scrolls? More than 63 years have now gone by; is it possible that the facts can be known?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts of the Old Testament. Many of them are in Hebrew, with some being in Aramaic and a small number in Greek. Many of these scrolls and fragments date to the third and second Century B.C.E., almost 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. There were seven lengthy manuscripts in various stages of deterioration that had been acquired from the Bedouin. Soon other caves were being searched, with new discoveries of scrolls and fragments in the thousands. A total of eleven caves near Qumran, by the Dead Sea, were discovered between 1947 and 1956.
Since, it has been determined that there are 800 manuscripts, once all the scrolls and fragments are considered. About 200 manuscripts, or about twenty-five percent, are copies of portions of the Old Testament. The other seventy-five percent, or 600 manuscripts, belong to ancient non-Biblical Jewish writings, divided between Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.
Various scrolls that produced the greatest interest for the scholars were formerly unknown texts. Among these were the interpretations on matters of the Jewish law, detailed instructions for the community of the Qumran sect, eschatological works that disclose interpretations about the outcome of Bible prophecy and the end times, as well as liturgical poems and prayers. Among them too were unique Bible commentaries, the oldest examples of verse-by-verse commentary on Biblical passages.
 “The Protestant designation for the fourteen or fifteen books of doubtful authenticity and authority that are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament but are in manuscripts of the LXX; most of these books were declared canonical by the Roman Catholic church at the Council of Trent in 1546, and they call these books deuterocanonical (second canon).”―Geisler 1986, 637.
 “A word meaning “false writings” and used to designate those spurious and unauthentic books of the late centuries B.C. and early centuries A.D. These books contain religious folklore and have never been considered canonical by the Christian church.”―Geisler 1986, 642.
 Of course, there were no verses in the ancient texts, as they were simply running text. It was Rabbi Isaac Nathan, while working on a concordance, numbered the Bible into verses in 1440 C.E. Robert Estienne (Stephanus) introduced his system for dividing the Bible’s text into numbered verses in 1550 C.E., which we still use today.
Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All