In 1947, three young men from the Bedouin tribe in the West Bank were herding their goats and sheep near Qumran, a settlement on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. One of the young men casually tossed a rock into a small cave tucked into a nearby cliff and heard a shattering sound. Surprised, the three young men entered the cave and found several large clay jars containing seven scrolls.
This discovery launched a series of archaeological digs in this cave and the surrounding areas. From 1949 to 1956, fragments of 950 additional scrolls were discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known records of the Hebrew Bible, written as far back as the second century B.C. These texts contain pieces of nearly every book of the Old Testament. While many parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew, there are also parts written in Aramaic. Some of these scrolls include Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible.
A monumental find from the expeditions is the Isaiah Scroll, which contains the entire book of Isaiah. It is also believed to be the oldest scroll, written as early as 100 B.C. Another captivating text is the Copper Scroll, which was written on copper instead of parchment or papyrus like the other scrolls. The Copper Scroll lists sixty-four places where gold and silver were buried, making it essentially a treasure map.
In March 2021, Israeli archaeologists discovered about eighty new pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls that include Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum. These fragments were found in southern Israel in a cave known as the Cave of Horror, where the remains of Jewish refugees from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136 A.D.) were discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the world’s greatest modern archaeological discovery and are an incredible connection we have to our history. In his book Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, John Bergsma shows how these ancient texts can shed light on the Church as a sacred society that offered hope, redemption, and salvation to its members. You can get your own copy here.