Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest available Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament was one produced around 1000 AD, almost 1400 years after the last book (Nehemiah, c.425 BC) was composed.
According to carbon dating, textual analysis and handwriting analysis the scrolls recovered from caves in and around Wadi Qumran near the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran were written at various times between the middle of the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.
Scrolls represent about 500 books, divided into two categories. • 100 are books of the Hebrew Bible; rest are sectarian (non-biblical). • Every book represented except for Esther. • Most books are in fragmentary form, but some are relatively complete.
Discovered in 1947 by Bedouin goat- or sheepherder Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed (nicknamed edh-Dhib, “the wolf”).
Most commonly told story: He threw a rock into a cave to drive out a missing animal under his care.
The sound of shattering pottery drew him into the cave, where he found ancient jars containing seven scrolls wrapped in linen.
Scrolls first brought to Bethlehem antiquities dealer Ibrahim ‘Ijha, who returned them after being warned that they may have been stolen from a synagogue.
The scrolls then fell into the hands of Khalil Eskander Shahin (nicknamed “Kando”), a cobbler and antiques dealer in Bethlehem.
By most accounts the Bedouin removed only three scrolls following their initial find and, encouraged by Kando return, revisited the site to gather more. • Alternatively, Kando engaged in his own illegal excavation. He possessed at least four scrolls.
Arrangements with Bedouin left the scrolls in the hands of a third party, George Isha’ya, until a sale could be negotiated. • Isha’ya, a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, contacted St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem hoping for an appraisal of the texts.
News of the find reached Metropolitan Athanasius Yeshue Samuel (referredto as “Mar Samuel”). • After examining the 4 scrolls, Mar Samuel negotiated a purchase for about $97.00, intending to re-sell them on behalf of the church.
In the meantime, anotherman had been following the rumors about ancient scrolls. • E. L. Sukenik of Hebrew University, an expert on ancient texts and archaeologist, acquired three scrolls not bought by Mar Samuel.
Israel’s 1947 War of Independence forced Mar Samuel to move the scrolls in his possession first to Beirut, Lebanon and ultimately to Worcester, Massachusetts. • Despite his best efforts, there were few interested buyers in the U.S. • In a desperate attempt at publicity, Mar Samuel took the scrolls to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. for display.
With nothing to lose, Mar Samuel placed an ad in the Wall Street Journal on June 1, 1954:
The ad was brought to the attention of E.L. Sukenik’sson, recently retired general of the Israeli Defense Forces, Yigael Yadin, who had returned to his first love, archaeology. • Working through an intermediary, Yadin purchased Mar Samuel’s 4 scrolls for $250,000 and returned them to Israel.
Throughout most of the 1950s into the 1960s, Jordanians and Israelis scoured their respective portions of the Judean Desert, searching for more scrolls. • Ultimately, 11 caves with scrolls were discovered.
June 1967 - Israel defeated Arabs in the Six Day War. • Israel occupied Palestine to the Jordan River, gaining control of Khirbet Qumran, the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and all the scrolls (except the Copper Scroll and fragments from Cave 1 sent to Amman, Jordan).
Josephus identified Essenes asone of three major Jewish sects—with Pharisees and Sadducees—of that period. • Practiced frequent baptism. • Required to commit to a threeyear study period, prior to acceptance into the Brotherhood.
Sadducees: • Priestly and aristocratic families who interpreted the law more literally than the Pharisees. • Dominated Temple worship and its rites, including the sacrificial cult. • Recognized precepts derived directly from the Torah as binding. • Denied the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels. • Unpopular with the common people.
Pharisees: • The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, maintained the validity of the oral as well as the written law. • Flexible in their interpretations and willing to adapt the law to changing circumstances. • Believed in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. • By the first century AD they came to represent the beliefs and practices of the majority of Palestinian Jews.
Essenes: • Separatist group, some of whom formed an ascetic monastic community and retreated to the wilderness of Judea. • Shared material possessions and occupied themselves with disciplined study, worship, and work. • Practiced ritual immersion and ate their meals communally. One branch did not marry.
More about the Essenes: • Essenes lived a communal life: collective ownership, elected a leader whose orders they obeyed, forbidden from swearing oaths and sacrificing animals, controlled their temper, served as channels of peace, carried weapons only as protection againstrobbers, had no slaves but served each other, did not engage in trading, may have been strict vegetarians.
Essenes supported descendents of Zadok who served during time of David and Solomon as the only legitimate high priests. • Essenes viewed Hasmonean priest/kings as usurpers. • Essene leader known as the Teacher of Righteousness, possibly the High Priest forcibly retired (and killed?) when Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean dynasty was appointed to replace him.
Enemies of the Essenes were called “Sons of Darkness.” • Called themselves “Sons of Light,” “the poor,” and members of “the Way” (same as early Christians). • Thought of themselves as “the holy ones,” who lived in “the house of holiness,” because “the Holy Spirit” dwelled with them.
Essenes believed in immanent arrival of the Messiah. • Looked to a time of God’s judgment when the wicked would be punished and the righteous rewarded. • Were not confined to Qumran; according to Josephus they lived “in large numbers in every town.” • Essene quarter in Jerusalem.
Qumran community apparently lived and slept in huts, tents and caves outside the settlement. • Essenes at Qumran may have been celibate, but Essenes, like other Jewish sects, were not forbidden to marry and have children. • Word Essene is never distinctly mentioned in the scrolls. • Essenes refer to themselves in the scrolls as “Judah.”
Located on dry plateau about a mile west of the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, 8.5 miles south-southwest of Jericho, 13 miles east-southeast of Jerusalem (about 40 minute drive). • Identified with the “City of Salt,” a frontier post in the tribal territory of Judah listed in Joshua 15:62. • Constructed during reign of Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus (134-104 BC).
Finds of pottery and coins indicate Qumran was occupied at distinct periods:135 BC to 68 AD. • About 135 BC - Occupied by Essenes until 31 BC earthquake destroyed water systems and walls. • About 4 BC - Essenes returned; buildings repaired, tower reinforced, shaken walls buttressed, new rooms erected and industrial kilns constructed.
68 AD (2 years before destruction of Temple) - Romans under General Titus destroyed site during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD) • Just before the Romans came, the members of the community hid their scrolls in nearby caves. • 70 AD - Jerusalem and Temple destroyed. • 73 AD - Masada fell.
132-135 AD - Qumran last occupied by Jewish insurgent during second revolt against Rome (Bar Kochba Revolt). • Use ruins as stronghold or hiding place.
Aerial view from the west: remains lie on barren plateau above deep valley of Wadi Qumran
Visitor center Tower Aqueduct Bath with cracked stairs Cistern Aqueduct Cistern 1st Temple period? Potter’s kiln Scriptorium Assembly and dining hall
Scroll caves 4&5 Scriptorium Assembly Hall Potter’s Kiln Laundry Aqueduct Kitchens Tower
Watchtower in the middle of the north side of the settlement. Most people approached Qumran from Jerusalem and Jericho to the north.