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Dead Sea Scrolls


In 1947, in the area of Masada, known as the Wadi Qumran, on the west side of the Dead Sea, about 12 km south of Jericho, a young Arab boy called Mohamed Adib, while looking among caves for his lost goats, discovered some clay jars containing ancient scrolls.  A search began and, between the years 1947 and 1956, it was discovered that many more caves along the west side of the Dead Sea also contained copies of ancient manuscripts.  Many of these were still intact inside their jars.


The manuscripts in this vast collection became generally known as the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’, and were collected mainly from three different locations.  They are thought to be the library contents of three ancient communities; and it seems that, for safekeeping, these communities hid the scrolls in the dry caves by the Dead Sea, and never reclaimed them.


Location 1.   Wadi Murabba’at (about 14 km south of Masada)

This collection contains mostly non-biblical manuscripts.  They are primarily the texts relating to the Bar-Kokhba War (a Jewish revolt against the Romans in AD 132-135), and are mostly letters to and from Simeon Ben-Kosebah, who called himself ‘Prince of Israel.’  However, this library also contains fragments of a Greek version of the Minor Prophets of the Bible.


Location 2.     Khirbet Mird  (north of the Kidron Valley)

This library contains non-biblical manuscripts belonging to a later date than those found from the Wadi Murabba’at.  They were discovered in 1950 by a Bedouin tribe of Ta’amire.


Location 3.     Khirbet Qumran  (close to the area of Masada)

Khirbet Qumran was a building complex, housing the Essenes, an ascetic and monastic community.  These buildings were burned down in AD 68 by the Romans.  The scrolls that came from this area are the most valuable and interesting, and are known as the ‘Qumran Texts’.  There are about 100 scrolls in all, and they are made up of biblical and non-biblical writings, plus some parts of the Apocrypha.  They contain all the books of the Old Testament (except Esther) in Hebrew.  They also contain many Old Testament books in the Septuagint translation, and many Old Testament books from the Aramaic Targums.  They also contain some Old Testament books written in several other languages, which are related to Hebrew and Aramaic.


These scrolls and manuscripts date back to between 150 BC and AD 68.  Some are about a thousand years older than the earliest known surviving copies of the Scriptures, and careful comparison between the two has revealed an almost ‘word for word’ accuracy.


Also From Location 3    Copper Scroll from Cave 3

An interesting scroll, although this may have nothing to do with the Qumran community.  The scroll contains a coded inventory of the Temple treasures.  These treasures were apparently divided into sixty-one caches, and hidden in various areas to the south and east of Jerusalem.


The relatively ‘intact’ manuscripts of greatest interest and significance were found in Caves 1 and 11, and are now housed, preserved and displayed in a museum, near Gavit Ram in Jerusalem, known as the ‘Shrine of the Book’.


Shrine of the Book

The fascinating museum has been built two-thirds below ground level, and has a white-dome roof symbolising the lids of the clay jars that once contained the scrolls.  The white of the dome roof starkly contrasts with a near-by black basalt wall, and the shape and colour of the two structures symbolise the spiritual struggle between the Sons of Light (a name the Essenes gave themselves) and the Sons of Darkness (their enemies, and the enemies of Judaism generally).  These struggles are expressed in the writing of many of the scrolls.














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