2.05 Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS)

Digital DSS.
Digital DSS.
Digital DSS.

Translators Additional Notes.

Translators General Notes.


by Fred P Miller

Dead Sea Scrolls N/T & O/T

Dead Sea Scrolls (also Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish religious, mostly Hebrew, manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea.

Many thousands of written fragments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. They represent the remnants of larger manuscripts damaged by natural causes or through human interference, with the vast majority only holding small scraps of text.

However, a small number of well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts have survived — fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves. Researchers have assembled a collection of some 981 different manuscripts – discovered in 1946/47 and in 1956 – from 11 caves. The 11 Qumran Caves lie in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, in the West Bank. The caves are located about one mile (1.6 kilometres) west of the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, whence they derive their name. Scholarly consensus dates the Qumran Caves Scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and from the first century CE. Bronze coins found at the same sites form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (in office 135–104 BCE) and continuing until the period of the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), supporting the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls.

In the larger sense, the Dead Sea Scrolls include manuscripts from additional Judaean Desert sites, dated as early as the 8th century BCE and as late as the 11th century CE.

The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. (Biblical texts older than the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered only in two silver scroll-shaped amulets containing portions of the Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers, excavated in Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom and dated c. 600 BCE. The third-oldest surviving known piece of the Torah (the En-Gedi Scroll) consists of a portion of Leviticus found in the Ein Gedi synagogue, burnt in the 6th century CE and analyzed in 2015. Research has dated it palaeographically to the 1st or 2nd century CE, and using the C14 method to sometime between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE.)

Most of the texts use Hebrew, with some written in Aramaic (for example the Son of God text; in different regional dialects, including Nabataean), and a few in Greek. Discoveries from the Judaean Desert add Latin (from Masada) and Arabic (from Khirbet al-Mird) texts. Most of the texts are written on parchment, some on papyrus, and one on copper.

Archaeologists have long associated the scrolls with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, although some recent interpretations have challenged this connection and argue that priests in Jerusalem, or Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups wrote the scrolls. Robert Eisenman vigorously posits his theory that the later, non-biblical “sectarian” scrolls must be viewed in the context of a wider first-century CE “Opposition Movement,” including Essenes, Zealots, Sicarii, and/or Nazoreans, and particularly the early Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem, the Ebionites, whose leader, James, the brother of Jesus, was acknowledged by the entire “Opposition Movement,” and who is no other than the Scrolls’ Teacher of Righteousness. He thus creates a strong link between the Scrolls and the pre-Pauline Jewish Christian community.

Owing to the poor condition of some of the scrolls, scholars have not identified all of their texts.

The identified texts fall into three general groups:

1.0 Some 40% are copies of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures.

2.0 Approximately another 30% are texts from the Second Temple Period which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc.

3.0 The remainder (roughly 30%) are sectarian manuscripts of previously unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group (sect) or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk, and The Rule of the Blessing. 

Source: wikipedia.org