What are the Dead Sea Scrolls, what do they contain, and what is their significance?


What are the Dead Sea Scrolls, what do they contain, and what is their significance?

In: 7461

11 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The Dead Sea scrolls are the second oldest copies of nearly the entire Hebrew Bible written in Hebrew (mostly), Greek, and Aramaic. They are significant because they helped to indicate that the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible we have today has not changed significantly in content over the last 2,000-3,000 years.



Anonymous 0 Comments

What everyone else said — but they’re also significant for helping establish historic timelines. I started to write this but wanted to fact check myself beforehand, so it’s probably easier to just share what Britannica had to say;

“Study of the scrolls has enabled scholars to push back the date of a stabilized Hebrew Bible to no later than 70 CE, to help reconstruct the history of Palestine from the 4th century BCE to 135 CE, and to cast new light on the emergence of Christianity and of rabbinic Judaism and on the relationship between early Christian and Jewish religious traditions.”

Anonymous 0 Comments

At the end of the second world war, a Bedouin shepherd found a bunch of pottery in a network of caves in the archaeological site of Qumran in British Mandatory Palestine as it was at the time. Within that pottery were a number of scrolls that shed light on what religion was like when they were written – from 3rd century BC to 1st century CE.

There are a number of different theories as to who wrote them, but the dating of the texts obviously has a lot of importance for early Christianity and the Abrahamic religions of the same era.

The main source for the Bible that we use today is the Masoretic Text, which dates to the 9-10th century CE. There is a small ethnoreligious group called the Samaritans who have their own canon that is mostly the same but has some significant changes. Samaritan language diverged from other Hebrew forms long ago – probably before the Babylonian captivity and their canon has a lot of references to a holy place in Samaritan religion that isn’t in the Masoretic Text. The DSS include Samaritan canon.

For the most part, the texts do not differ massively, but some parts do, suggesting that some of what Christians call the Old Testament canon was in flux until the second century CE and that a large part of what survived to the traditional Masoretic Text has a fairly high fidelity.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Before DSS, the oldest copy of the Old Testament was a Greek translation. As a translation, it was treated with suspicion, and when there was a difference between it and later Hebrew texts, the Hebrew was preferred. The early Hebrew copy found with the Dead Sea Scrolls gave clues to the older form of the text.

Anonymous 0 Comments


Anonymous 0 Comments

A lot of people think the Christian Bible getting new updates and translations is like a game of telephone. There was an original message, and each time we have a new version it gets further and further from the original. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a great explanation for why this is not true.

The King James version of the Bible was the first English translation, made in the year 1611. This translation was made from a Greek Bible, and that version was based on between 6-10 more recent manuscripts. This was the first English Bible, but is likely one of the further from the original text versions, since it was based on fewer manuscripts that were more recent in history.

Just like in telephone, the closer we get to the start the more confident we are that the message is the same or similar to the original. Finding the Dead Sea Scrolls gave us some of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible writings that we have today. This allows Bible historians to compare texts, see what was mistranscribed or added later, and get a version closer to the original texts.

So finding a document like the Dead Sea Scrolls allow us to get Bible translations closer to the original writings, and it also helps take away the argument that it is one big game of telephone with accuracy getting worse and worse.

(It also takes away the argument that it was adjusted over time by those in power as a way to hold power over the people, but that’s a longer and separate conversation.)

Anonymous 0 Comments

The only scroll preserved on copper making it the one they wanted to preserve the most was a treasure map and not the old testament. I always found that interesting.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They contain the plan to the Human Instrumentality Project, but if you value your life you shouldn’t look further into it 😐

Anonymous 0 Comments

Think of it like finding a smaller, Hebrew version of the Library of Alexandria in some forgotten caves, and then being able to accurately date when the manuscripts were preserved. Here’s what I mean by that:

Part of the big deal about the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they have many copies of many important Biblical texts and they certainly pre-date Jesus Christ by more than 100 years. Being firmly before Christ is important because it shows that the Biblical and prophetic texts were not later changed to match Christian belief, and that the copies of the Old Testament we have today are highly accurate with regard to earlier manuscripts.

But there’s a lot more to the Dead Sea Scrolls than their strengthening the Old Testament’s claim to accurate transcription. It’s very likely the scrolls were preserved by the Essenes, who were outcast purists from the mainstream religious establishment as it was under pressure from Roman and Greek influence. The Essenes were fanatically dedicated to preserving important documents as well as *understanding* of those documents. In other words, we get the documents, we get commentary on the documents, and we also get the contextual documents supporting the core documents. We get everything from songs to poems to instruction manuals, not to mention whole works. We’re up to nearly 1,000 manuscripts so far, and counting. The Essenes worked hard to interpret prophecy because they were heavily focused on the coming Messiah. (Depending on your belief as to whether or not Jesus Christ was that Messiah, the Essenes were pretty darned accurate in their predictions based on ancient prophecies.)

As a result of the breadth and depth of information contained in them, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide phenomenal insight into the ancient near-Eastern mindset pre-Christ. For Bible scholars, that’s very important because much of the Old Testament was written for ancient Hebrews, so proper understanding of the Bible means being able to estimate how the audience to whom it was written would have originally understood the content. Getting into the head of an ancient near-Eastern culture is difficult, to say the least, for a 21st-century westerner, but we can make better quality efforts thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The contextual documents are also really helpful for language translators because they give them a much larger base of sample vocabulary and usage to understand what any given word or phrase might mean. In other words, our translations get more accurate.

Let’s not forget, the non-Biblical-canon portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls are a really big deal because some of the texts were previously mere legends, or very unsubstantiated or partial copies from much later sources, but then were hugely validated by their being included in the Scrolls. The Book of 1 Enoch is a really good example of this effect: it was considered canon by a very small minority of Christians and largely ignored by mainstream Christianity because nobody could prove if it was accurate from ancient times. But, thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1 Enoch is taken a lot more seriously by a much wider swath of Christianity now than it was 50 years ago. It helps us understand how these ancient people thought about the events at the very beginning of human history. If you want to read Genesis and understand some of the references, 1 Enoch is super helpful. Pretty cool stuff.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Dead Sea Scrolls are *recent* in terms of their effects on our understanding of ancient scriptures. What I mean is, we’re still finding stuff, then there’s a lag from when a jar is found to when it can actually be opened, then assembled and interpreted, then picked up by scholars, then studied and analyzed, and then make it into mainstream sources able to be read and understood by your average church-goer or history buff. In other words, the Dead Sea Scrolls are changing commentaries and study materials as we speak because we’re learning more and more. One example of this development is recent scholarly work being done to understand what the Hebrew calendar originally was prior to being changed and influenced by Gregorian and Julian calendars.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are much more than just validation of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). They’re a comprehensive and extraordinarily detailed source of an entire mindset, culture, and religious scholarship that, without the Essenes or whomever went to great effort to preserve the manuscripts, was lost to and/or obscured by the passage of time.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Biblical scholar here. I’ll try a short answer: the Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient documents found at the site of Qumran and other locations in the Judean Desert. Some of these texts are biblical texts written in Hebrew with a few in Greek translation. Others are other ancient Jewish texts such as the book of Jubilees, which is not accepted as authoritative Scripture by Jews or Christians today, apart from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Jubilees and other works like it have been called “rewritten Scripture” since they contain texts found in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) in expanded or rewritten form (similar to fan fiction). Other texts found at Qumran are commonly called “sectarian” documents, such as the Community Rule, meaning that they were produced by the religious community at Qumran whose beliefs sometimes differed from other branches of ancient Judaism. Almost all of these documents survive in physically fragmented states they but help us to get a better understanding of the development of the biblical text and ancient Judaism.