Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls comprise roughly 850 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran, near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The texts are of great significance, as they are practically the only remaining Biblical documents dating from before A.D. 100.

Physical appearance

Fewer than twelve scrolls were discovered more or less intact - the other scrolls were in over 25,000 fragments. The first scrolls were discovered in 1947 by Muslim Bedouin herdsmen. Most of the scrolls are of leather (parchment - goatskin or sheepskin). Many were wrapped in linen and stored in earthenware jars with 'bowl-like' lids. Some were written on papyrus, and a scroll on copper was also discovered.

Language and content

Most discovered scrolls were written in Hebrew, with about 25% in Aramaic. Nineteen intriguing fragments found in "Cave 7" were written in Greek, the language of the early Christians.

Two hundred of the scrolls were books of the Old Testament, representing every book of the Hebrew Bible except possibly Esther. In addition to the "official" Old Testament books, versions of apocryphal works not included in either the Orthodox/Catholic or Protestant Bibles, e.g., the Book of Jubilees, were found.

The content of the other 600 scrolls included previously unknown Psalms; Old Testament commentaries on the books of Isaiah, Hosea, Nahum, and Habakkuk; apocalyptic writings; and a set of scrolls that seemed to define the laws of some unknown Jewish sect.

Who wrote them

Several theories exist. These include:

  • The scrolls represent the library collection of an obscure sect of Essenes [1], who lived in a monastery at Qumran;
  • The Qumran caves are a sort of genizah (in Hebrew, a storage area where holy books and other Hebrew writings are hidden away in a respectful manner after they are no longer usable); and
  • A theory held by John Romer and Norman Golb of the University of Chicago that the scrolls were brought from Jerusalem to Qumran for safekeeping during the first Jewish Revolt around 68-70 A.D. [2]

Sources and external links


  • Geza Vermes. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-7139-9131-3)]