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Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947 in a cave near the Dead sea in the Jordan Desert, a fifteen year old boy chased after one of his goats that wandered off. This boy's name was Muhammad adh-Dhib. While going after his goat, the boy stumbled upon perhaps the greatest religious discovery of the modern era. Inside the cave, he found broken jars that contained scrolls written in a strange language, wrapped in linen cloth and leather. These scrolls would later become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. This first discovery produced seven scrolls and started an archaeological search that produced thousands of scroll fragments in eleven caves.

The Dead Sea is located in Israel and Jordan, east of Jerusalem. The dead sea is very deep, salty, and it's the lowest body of water in the world. Because the dead sea is at such a low elevation, the climate has a high evaporation rate but a very low humidity which helped to preserve the scrolls. Archaeologists searched for the dwelling of the people that may have left the scrolls in the caves. The archaeologists excavated a ruin located between the cliffs where the scrolls were found and the dead sea. This ruin is called Qumran.

The ruins and the scrolls were dated by the carbon method and found to be from the third century which made them the oldest surviving biblical manuscript by at least 1000 years. Since the first discoveries archaeologists have found over 800 scrolls and scroll fragments in 11 different caves in the surrounding area. In fact, there are about 100,000 fragments found in all, most of which were written on goat skin and sheep skin. A few were on papyrus, a plant used to make paper, but one scroll was engraved on copper sheeting telling of sixty buried treasure sites. Because the scrolls containing the directions to the treasures is unable to be fully unrolled, the treasures have not been found yet. In all, the texts of the scrolls were remarkable. They contained unknown psalms, Bible commentary, calendar text, mystical texts, apocalyptic texts, liturgical texts, purity laws , bible stories, and fragments of every book in the Old Testament except that of Esther, including a imaginative paraphrase of the Book of Genesis. Also found were texts, in the original languages, of several books of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. These texts, none of which was included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible, are Tobit, Sirach, Jubilees, portions of Enoch, and the Testament of Levi, up to this time known only in early Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Ethiopic versions. John Trever of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research was allowed to investigate the scrolls and was stunned to find that the scrolls closely resemble the Nash Papyrus, the once known oldest fragment of the Hebrew Bible dated at or around 150 BC. One of the scrolls was a complete copy of the book of the prophet Isaiah. Trever also examined three other scrolls; the Manual of Discipline, a commentary on the book of Habbakuk, and one called the Genesis Apocryphon. Trever took photographs of the texts to William Foxwell Albright of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, who declared the scrolls dated back to around 100 BC.

The scroll and fragments found in the Qumran is a library of information that contains books or works written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Many scholars separated the scrolls into three different categories: Biblical - Books found in the Hebrew Bible. Apocryphal or psuedepigraphical - Works not in some Bibles but included in others. Sectarian- ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and sacred works. One of the longer texts found in Qumran is the Tehillim or Psalms Scroll. It was found in 1956 in cave 11 and unrolled in 1961. It is a assortment of Psalms, hymns and an indifferent passage about the psalms authored by King David. It is written on sheep skin parchment and it has the thickest surface of any of the scrolls. The Manual Of Discipline or Community Rule contains rules, warnings and punishments to violators of the rules of the desert sect called Yahad. It also contains the methods of joining the community, the relations among the members, their way of life , and their beliefs. The sect believed that human nature and all that happens in the world is predestined. The scroll ends with songs of praise of God. The scroll was found in cave 4 and cave 5 and it was written on parchment. The longest version was found in cave 4. The War Rule is commonly referred to as the "Pierced Messiah" text. It refers to a Messiah who came from the line of David, to be brought to a judgment and then to a killing. It anticipates the New Testament view of the preordained death of the messiah. It is written in a Hebrew script and is only a six line fragment. Most of the scrolls were found in caves near Qumran.

The Qumran site was excavated to find the habitation of those who deposited the scrolls in the nearby caves. The excavations uncovered plates bowls and cemeteries with over twelve hundred graves that have the same characteristics which suggest religious uniformity, along with a complex of structures which suggested that they were communal in presentation. Many believe this is where a community of a distant Jewish sect called the Essenes may have once lived. The Essenes were members of a Jewish religious brotherhood organized on a communal basis who practiced strict disciplines. The order had around 4000 members and they existed in Palestine and Syria from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. The sects main settlements were on the shores of the Dead Sea. In some scholars views the site was the wilderness retreat of the Essenes.. According to these scholars, the Essenes or another religious sect resided in neighboring locations, most likely caves, tents, and solid

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