The Dead Sea scrolls are a compilation of manuscripts that is known as the most significant manuscript of the 20th century. It was discovered in years 1947 and 1956 at the eleven Qumran caves down the northwest coast of the Dead Sea (13 miles east of Jerusalem and 22feet below sea level). This priceless collection holds significance in understanding the history of Judaism, the beginnings of Christianity, and the development of the Hebrew Bible. These scrolls are celebrated as a result of their significance in religion and history. There are about 800 manuscripts written on animal skin or Papyrus. The scriptures include the only surviving Biblical documents such as the Psalms. While most of the papers are in fragments, others are complete.
Written over 200 years ago, the Dead Sea Scrolls were placed in the caves to protect them from the Roman army during the First Jewish Revolt. Research has shown that none of the scrolls were written later than 68AD or earlier than 150BC.
Though there are still ongoing debates among scholars on the original writers, they are probably copied out by scribes of an ancient community who live at Qumran, near the caves where they were discovered. However, what is clear is that the authors were Jewish. Also, the documents were preserved due to the dry climate of the red seashores. The scrolls were the earliest surviving source of the Hebrew Bible, unlike the Christian Bible, which survived in various manuscripts all over the world.
The manuscript has comprised of around 800 documents but in many tens of thousands parts. The scrolls were written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic and dated back to approximately 250 B.C. to 68 AD. They contain prayers, apocryphal and Biblical works, sectarian documents and legal texts, named according to the cave where they were found.
Though most of the manuscripts were damaged and some only contained written fragments, some were well-preserved and survived. Researchers have been able to assemble a collection of 981 different manuscripts.
About a quarter of the scrolls found are books of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). Only Esther and Nehemiah were not seen. Psalms and Deuteronomy are the most common, with about 126 out of the 150 Psalms in the Standard Bible are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection. Also, religious texts like the book of the Jubilees or the book of Enoch were part of the scrolls. The remaining portion of the manuscript comprises a range of secular writings, religious texts, advice on war, and a catalog of places where the treasures were buried. Besides, a few of the scrolls have not been identified. Hebrew was the primary language of the manuscript, as well as Aramaic and Koine Greek.
How the Scroll was Discovered
Legend has it that they were discovered by Mohammed, a young Bedu. He found the scrolls in a cave in 1947 while searching for a goat. Over the years, the quests to discover more scrolls have become intensified. The caves were thoroughly investigated, and 11 caves were discovered to contain scrolls. They were wrapped in linen and stored in jars.
Historical and Religious Significance
The discovery of these manuscripts associated with the Scriptures has influenced our perception of the sacred writings. Besides, the apostolic writings and Gospels quotes them often. Also, the scrolls have altered our understanding of the society where the early Church was founded. Most importantly, the Dead Sea scrolls have been a basis for several religious researches over the past half-century and our present times.
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