Friday, December 11, 2009

Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

What exactly are the Dead Sea Scrolls and why are they important?

In 1947, Bedouin goat-herders were searching the cliffs along the Dead Sea for (supposedly) a lost goat and came upon a cave containing ancient jars filled with manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts made their way to scholars, spurring a great archaeological race.


Dead Sea Scroll Caves


Eleven caves produced some 825 manuscripts and thousands of scroll fragments, dating from approximately 200 B.C. to 68 A.D. The writings included copies in the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Old Testament (all but Esther), hymns, prayers, and Jewish writings. Much of the writings pre-date Jesus, so there is no direct mention of him. The strict Qumran community called the Essenes hid their writings in the caves before a Roman invasion killed them.


Qumran


What makes these manuscripts so amazingly important to archeologists is that before 1947 the oldest copy available of the Old Testament was from 1008 A.D. Scholars could finally take our most modern Hebrew and Aramaic copies and compare them to the older Dead Sea Scrolls and try to find potential differences. What they found were accurate copies.

Like the transcribers since Jesus' time, transcribers during the Old Testament times were also sticklers for accurately copying the Word of God from one parchment to the next. Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way. Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column. Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink. Each copy had to be made from an authenticated original.

Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original; but every letter was copied singly from the original. No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread. Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

What makes the Dead Sea Scrolls so amazingly important to the rest of us is that we can take our Old Testament today and know it compares accurately with a copy from 2000 years ago. They help show us that we can trust that the Bible is the true and accurate word of God, and build our understanding and faith in God upon it.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." - Isaiah 40:8

21 comments:

Chris Schwenk said...

This is an excellent article, Nathan. Has anyone ever used the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls to perhaps argue that Esther, although historically accurate, does not belong in the Canon of Scripture? That brings me another thought, could you do a series or article on how we came to have the 66 books in the Bible, and how we can know that the list is complete and accurate?

hartdawg said...

i find it an amazing coincedence that this find happend just before isreal became a nation. any connection? i heard people dispute esther before saying it shouldnt be in the Bible cuz the word "God" aint in there.

hartdawg said...

do these scrolls verify the dating of the book of Daniel? if so, shouldnt it silence the critics?

Junbuggg said...

Hart,
A coincidence that the scrolls were found just about the same time Israel became a nation?? No my friend, it was not. Hee hee, but you know that just like I do. And it's no coincidence that the scroll contained the context of Isaiah, practically fully intact! Look at the amount of prophecy contained in Isaiah! To me....that's like Christ saying...Hello guys, it's me, I'll be there soon! **BIG SMILE**

hartdawg said...

i agree jun, when i said any connection implied answer was yes (as you and i well know) still, people can see amazing things and chalk it up to "coincidence" these scrolls (and the timing of their discovery) is an amazing testimony of Gods faithfullness and his word.

DrNofog said...

hartdawg said...
"do these scrolls verify the dating of the book of Daniel? if so, shouldnt it silence the critics?"
Find a copy of "Which Bible" by David Otis Fuller and read the chapter on the Amazing Wilson - Or do a search on Robert Dick Wilson. He devoted 45 years of his life to the book of Daniel. He didn't learn, he mastered 45 ancient languages & dialects, anything that could have had any influence on the writing of the book to disprove his college professor's assertion that Daniel was written as late as 200 AD. He overwhelmingly shredded every "critic" of his day...yet they still come out of the woodwork today!
2 Pet. 3:5 "For this they willingly are ignorant of..." Dude, God's Word says they DON'T WANT to know!!!

hartdawg said...

"they DON`T WANT to know" HOW TRUE!!! is willful ignorance still ignorance? i think not. God has left man without excuse.

hartdawg said...

its " which bible"? i`ll look for it at Barnes&Noble this weekend. it sounds like a very good read.

Junbuggg said...

DrNoFog,

I'll have to check out that book as well. Sounds interesting.

And Hart, that would be "ignorance" mixed with a whopping portion of "arrogance"!!

DrNofog said...

Nathan said: "The middle letter of the Pentateuch...and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed..." That's a lot of counting if they didn't have a short-cut... So how did the scribes count all that with accuracy? Hebrew & Greek are 2 unique [God-given] languages that don't have numbers; the letters of their alphabet are the numbers. The scribes added the numeric value of all the letters in each line just like a string of numbers, noting it in the margin, comparing with the original & then they could total each page break, & finally totaling each book. That's all on the "surface". Like our funny-money [FedRes. Fraud Notes] that have water-marks & a thin black line that contains the denomination, the entire Bible contains "water-marks" of the hand of God. Do a search on the works of Ivan Panin for a real eye-popper that will leave you astounded at the creative genius & works of God! In a casual reading of the Bible by scholars & lay, both saved & unsaved, it is readily apparent that 7 is an very prominent number associated with God & perfection; 7 days of the 1st week, 7x around Jericho, 70 yrs of captivity, 70 weeks [of yrs] in Daniel 9, Jesus on forgiveness "not 7x, but 70x7", 7 lampstands, 7 trumpets, etc.. Let the fun begin! The very 1st verse in the Bible, Gen. 1:1, contains exactly 7 words [Feature #1] in the Hebrew. [2.] The total number of letters is 28, or 7x4. [3.] The sentence divides into 2 equal parts: the first three words, 'In-the-beginning God created,' contain 14 letters, and the remaining four words contain 14 letters. [4.] The second half of the sentence divides again into two equal parts: The two words for 'the heavens' contain 7 letters, and the two words for 'and-the earth' contain 7 letters. [5.]The three nouns, God, heavens and earth have together 14 letters. [6.] The numeric value of these three nouns is 777, or 7x111. [7.] The numeric value of the verb, created, is 203, or 7x29. [8.] The middle word (2 letters) and the one before it (5 letters) have together 7 letters. [9.] The middle word and the one after it have together 7 letters. There are numerous other features yet to go but I won't bore you with the details. In these 9 features alone, for something like this to occur coincidentally it would be like taking nine pennies, shaking them in a bag, letting them fall to the ground, and having them all land on the same side, AND forming a straight line, touching each other. If you added another 9 set of features, it would be like adding 18 dimes to the bag & finding all lying on each side of each penny like wings & all 27 coin heads facing exactly the same direction.

DrNofog said...

The Bible contains 66 books [11x6 - Feature #1] that yield up an intricate number scheme of 11s & 7s. It has 21 [7x3] features of the number 11, but again, I'll only list a few [just to whet your appetite]. [#2.] There are 22 or 2x11 Anonymous books [that do not identify the author internally], leaving [#3.] 44 or 4x11 non-anonymous books, [#4.] Of the 44 non-anonymous books, there are 22 or 2x11 multiple books by single authors, and [#5.] 22 or 2x11 single-book authors. Of the 66 Books, 21 are Epistolatory books [books that are, or contain letters] and 45 are non-epistolatory books. The names of the Epistles are James to Philemon and their numbers are 45 to 65. The sum [#6.] of the 66 numbers is 2,211 (201x11) and this sum can be divided between Epistles and Non-Epistles. The Epistles [#7.] have a sum of 1,155 (105x11) and the Non-Epistles [#8.] have a sum of 1,056 (96x11). [#9.] Seven authors; Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, David and Daniel are expressly quoted in the New Testament. The numbers of their respective Books are 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 13, 15, 16, 27, and 35. The sum [#10.] of these Books is 132 (12x11). The Bible is broken down into 7 divisions. The 3 divisions of the Old Testament are the Law, Prophets, and Holy Writings. the New testament contains the 4 natural divisions: the Gospels, Acts, Epistles & Revelation. You will notice a natural break in the list at Acts/Epistles. When divided here, [#11.] there are 44 books in the first part, and 22 in the second. This is not contrived, seeing that the break occurs naturally.
Had Martin Luther had his way and removed the "straw epistle" of James from the Canon this entire number scheme along with thousands of others that run throughout both the OT & NT would have been destroyed.

DrNofog said...

The genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ is found in the 1st chapter of Matthew. The vocabulary to the 1st half of this genealogy in the first 11 verses has [Feature #1.] 49 words. 49 happens to be 7x7. It has two separate numeric features. [#2.] It is a multiple of 7; [#3.] The sum of its factors is 14, 2x7. [#4.] Of these 49 words 28, or 7x4, begin with a vowel, & [#5.] 21, or 7x3, with a consonant. That is, the words of the vocabulary are divided into words beginning with a vowel and words beginning with a consonant, not at random, but by sevens. So we have 5 features of sevens. [#6.] The 49 words of the vocabulary have 266 letters, which is a multiple of 7, i.e., 38x7, but that is not all. [#7.] The sum of the figures of 266 is 14, or twice seven, and [#8.] the sum of the factors 7x2x19 is also a multiple of seven; and now we have 3 additional features of 7. Now, the 49 words in the vocabulary are divided between vowel words and consonant words by 7. The 266 letters of the vocabulary follow exactly the same plan, [#9.] namely 140 of them, or 7x20, are vowels, [#10.] and 126, or 18x7 are consonants. There is only one chance in a million that these things could have happened accidentally, but if that were all we might say, "Well, a strange thing may happen once in a while, even though the chance is only one in a million;" -but it so happens that of these 49 words, [#11.] 42 are nouns and [#12.] 7 are not nouns. Of the 42 nouns, [#13.] 35 are proper names, [#14.] the other 7 are common names. Of the 35 proper names, [#15.] 28 are male ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This presents not only a set of divisions of seven, but it diminishes the chances 343 times.

Laura said...

All these numbers make my head spin, 'cause I'm a word person--an editor, but please don't edit my sometimes sloppy comments, okay? However, all these numbers remind me of the Bible Codes book by Grant Jeffreys. Now I have no idea if his book is true or false or partially true or what, but it got me to thinking: If God wants to write history and prophecy and then in codes throughout include all kinds of other facts and events before they happen, then HE CAN!!!

Reading this book for me was like my first sight of the ocean. My immediate thought upon experiencing both was: My view of God ain't big enough!!!

Psst . . It still isn't, but I love it when God shows me that!

DrNofog said...

hartdawg... "Which Bible" may be out of print &/or hard to find...I got it back in the early '70s. Pretty moving stuff about the martyrs & the preservation of the Textus Receptus... I still have to lift a hand [& sometimes a foot & leg] & shout Hallelujah every time I read some of Wilson's stuff!
Wiki has an "unbiased" profile on Wilson..."devoted his life to an **attempt** to prove the reliability of the Hebrew Bible"..."Therefore, outside of his own **small circle of like-minded apologists**, he is hardly ever cited or quoted by modern biblical scholars." Bwaaaahaaahaa!!! **A "small circle of like-minded apologists"?!?** Bwaaaahaaahaa!!! - again!!! I would be honored to be at their feet, like Saul before Gamaliel, to discover the mysteries hidden in His Word. Else not the other, larger circle of those "scholars"...Matthew 7:13 [The Narrow Way] "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it."

hartdawg said...

which bible can be found on amazon.com

Nathan Jones said...

Glad the article was a blessing, Chris! Gotquestions.org has a good article on how the canon was put together.

Esther was the last hold-out in making OT canonicity if I remember my Church history correctly. Even without the mention of God, their rescue from an impending holocaust has God all over it, showing God keeps His promise to maintain the Jewish peoples until one day a believing remnant can enter into the Millennial Kingdom to take their positions of inheritance.

son of thunder said...

Those are a lot of facts, DrNoFog. I was just amazed when I found out that Psalm 118:8 is the very center verse of the English Bible, and how foundational it is!!!

Something I've always wondered about, and I haven't gotten a satisfactory answer (at least in my mind) is why the Book of the Maccabees wasn't included in canon. Anyone know?

Billy said...

I'm glad my brain doesn't work like DrNofog...I don't think I'd ever get to sleep!

Sal said...

Thunder they weren't inspired. Satisfying answer? (LOL)

son of thunder said...

I'm not saying Maccabees SHOULD be included, mind you. But of all the apocryphal books, it fits the best, if that makes sense.

I've heard the "not inspired" thing before, but I wonder sometimes, you know? Jesus did celebrate the Feast of Dedication (Hannukah) as written in John 10, which, to me, says there's maybe something to it.

I'm just curious, is all. I do find Maccabees to be a good read, though.

Hebrew Scholar said...

Thanks very much - this is a really great summary of the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and just how the Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Tanakh has remained essentially the same as far back as it is possible to go. All the evidence points to it being fixed prior to that. Saying anything different is just speculation and not where the evidence points.