The Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls are known to be some of the most important historical and scholarly artifacts, dating back to 1947 when they were uncovered in caves above the North West Dead Sea. “Previous studies on the scrolls contained in the jars in Qumran's first cave have shown that they were either written or copied between the first century B.C. and A.D.” (VanderKam, 2010). Two copies of the Book of Isaiah are said to be over a thousand years older than any historically published Hebrew biblical manuscripts. Another example of the scrolls is the “Manual of Discipline for an ascetic community” which has been mainly associated with the ruins near “Qumran and the Essenes” (a ‘religious sect’ in the Jewish community that lived in the region). This paper, therefore, seeks to find out the historical factors and the significance of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’.

Literature Review

Previous research by Brîn (2001) revealed the presence of “Dead Sea Scrolls” in the modern Bible (both “the Old and the New Testament”). For instance, the Book of Isaiah (19 copies), Deuteronomy (25 copies), and Psalms (thirty copies) are considered the oldest manuscripts of the ‘Old Testament’ ever found (Keady, 2017. However, the existence of the order of commentaries on the Old Testament, Liturgical tests, septennial writings, benedictions, and Thanksgiving has never been established. Since Aramaic was the most common language in Jews, most of the writings were done in Hebrews and Aramaic language. Besides, studies also reveal that other few texts were written in Greek. It is evident the scrolls must have been the library of the Essenes (the Jewish religious sect). According to Keady (2017), Qumran community had enemies known as “the Sons of Darkness’ or ‘the Sons of Light”. This group of people believed to be very holy since the ‘Holy Spirit’ dwelt with them. Cave 3 contained the copper scroll that had the records of about sixty-four underground hiding places in Israel while Cave 11 contained the temple scrolls that had the unknown stories about the biblical figures like Abraham, Noah, and Enoch.

Regional Setting

The Qumran Community

The ancient Qumran Community was perched on the arid plateau near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The community comprised of homes, a fortress, cisterns, and a cemetery. Series of caves contained the scriptures (like “the Dead Sea Scrolls”). “The eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea are about 13 miles east of Jerusalem (and approximately 1300 feet below the sea level)” (Wise, Abegg & Cook, 2005). The texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls are numbered based on the caves that they were founded. “The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves” is one of the reasons why Qumran has gained much focus from historians, believers, and scholars (Wise, Abegg & Cook, 2005).

The Qumran archaeological site was established during the 18th century. The rectangular fortress at Qumran lasted until the time of the invasion of Judea by the Babylonians. The site was abandoned due to the Babylonian exile and later resettled during the Hasmonean era. There have been arguments about the periods of continuous habitation due to the presence of bronze coins. The times were estimated to be 135 BCE to 104 BCE during the rule of John Hyrcanus and then continued to through 1st Jewish-Roman War.

The Essenes

The Essenes are a group of a religious sect (Judaism) believed to have lived in Qumran during the Hasmonean era extending to the beginning of the Roman period. Moreover, various ascetic, messianic, and mystic sects abandoned the Judean social order. They rejected the Jewish denominations like the Pharisees and the Sadducees thereby inheriting the Zadokite priestly traditions. According to Wise, Abegg & Cook (2005), the existence of similarities between the ideas contained in the scrolls and the ideologies of the Essenes have led to the widespread belief that they must have lived in Qumran. Thus, the Essenes either authored the scrolls or assembled and stored them.

Archeological Methodologies

Ahmed el- Dhibi (Muhammad) who came upon a small cave while searching for his goat initially discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. He discovered several sealed jars containing scrolls (Keady, 2017). Later on, archeologists began the searching of the nearby caves for the ancient documents. It’s through this search that the Dead Sea Scrolls among other early manuscripts were discovered. In order to confirm that the Dead Sea Scrolls were indeed the most ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament, three dating tools were adopted. They include carbon-14 dating (radiocarbon dating), orthography, and paleography. Adoption of the three methodologies ensured that accurate results were obtained from the study.

“Archaeologists investigated the pottery, coins, and garments at Qumran, where the Essenes lived” (Tigchelaar, 2012). From the study, it was evident that the Essenes possibly” lived in Qumran between the 2nd Century B.C and the 1st Century A.D” (Tigchelaar, 2012). Paleographers, on the other hand, studied the writing styles used in the manuscripts and concluded that they must have been written between 3rd century B.C and the 1st century A.D. Moreover, scientists used radiocarbon dating (carbon-14 dating) and concluded that the scrolls “were written between 4th century B.C and 1st century A.D” (Tigchelaar, 2012). The three archaeological methodologies arrived at consistent dates thereby proving their reliability to some extent.

According to Coloe & Thatcher (2011), the documents discovered from the eleven caves contained numerous ancient documents including scrolls and fragments. They include religious texts, manuals of discipline, commentaries, and apocryphal books. A comparative study conducted to compare the Isaiah Scroll and the books of Isaiah. The comparative study reveals that the two documents were identical except for some minor differences regarding grammar and spelling.


The need to establish the link between the ancient manuscripts and the current biblical scriptures necessitates the need to find out the ancient writings like “the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Although the contributions of “the Dead Sea Scrolls” to the Essenes were based on speculations, the archeological discoveries have proved that they served various roles among the Qumran community and the Essenes. The claims that the scrolls belong to a Jewish; the Essenes can be confirmed by the results of the three tools adopted by the scientists, archeologists, and the paleographers (Brîn, 2001). From the result of their findings, it is evident that the materials were written around the 2nd century B.C and 1st century A.D. The discovery of the caves and “the Dead Sea Scrolls” has been considered the greatest discoveries of all times since it tried to shed light on the origin and evolution of the modern Christianity. Based on the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, people have been able to find out the connection between the ancient religion, Messianic beliefs in Jesus Christ, and foundation of theology. Furthermore, their discovery reaffirms the confidence of Christians in the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts. To some extent, it can be seen how God preserved his words for many years, preventing them from any error or extinction.

From the findings, it can be widely accepted the earlier followers of Jesus not only belonged to the Jewish Society but also cited the same biblical texts, shared similar ideas, and adopted the same terminologies in communication. Besides, the contemporary significance of Dead Sea Scrolls is its close relations to the Bible. The 220 “Dead Sea Scrolls” provides valuable insights on the association between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Although the argument that the writing, selection, and transmission of the canon books are purely human activities, the discoveries helps in reaffirming that there was divine intervention in the whole process.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have also helped in the streamlining the various versions and textual variants that existed in the early versions of the scriptures. However, it failed to answer the claims that the followers of Jesus only belong to a particular subset of the community.


The Dead Sea Scrolls are relevant in the interpretation of the Old Testament books and how the ancient societies practiced their religion. The similarities that exist in the writings found in the messianic texts and fragments Masoretic texts reaffirm the close link between Jesus Christ and the prophesized messiah scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls continues to serve a great significance in shaping the Christianity as a religion by reassuring the believers’ confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament.


Brîn, G. (2001). The Concept of Time in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrollls (Vol. 39). Brill.

Coloe, M. L., & Thatcher, T. (2011). John, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Sixty Years of Discovery and Debate (No. 32). Society of Biblical Lit.

Keady, J. M. (2017). Vulnerability and Valour: A Gendered Analysis of Everyday Life in the Dead Sea Scrolls Communities (Vol. 91). Bloomsbury Publishing.

Tigchelaar, E. (2012). Classifications of the Collection of Dead Sea Scrolls and the Case of Apocryphon of Jeremiah C 1. Journal for the Study of Judaism, 43(4-5), 519-550.

VanderKam, J. (2010). The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, Rev. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Wise, M. O., Abegg, M. G., & Cook, E. M. (2005). The Dead Sea Scrolls-Revised Edition: A New Translation. HarperOne.

January 25, 2023

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