DEAD SEA SCROLL - Qumran Cave
The Qumran Caves Scrolls contain significant religious literature. They consist of two types: “biblical” manuscripts—books found in today’s Hebrew Bible, and “non-biblical” manuscripts—other religious writings circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. Of this second category, some are considered “sectarian” in nature, since they appear to describe the religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. They were found in caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The texts are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.
The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some written on papyrusand bronze. The manuscripts have been dated to various ranges between 408 BCE and 318 CE. Bronze coins found on the site form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (135–104 BCE) and continuing until the First Jewish-Roman War(66–73 CE).
The scrolls have traditionally been identified with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, although some recent interpretations have challenged this association and argue that the scrolls were penned by priests in Jerusalem,Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups.
Due to the poor condition of some of the Scrolls, not all of them have been identified. Those that have been identified can be divided into three general groups: (1) some 40% of them are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible, (2) approximately another 30% of them are texts from the Second Temple Period and which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc., and (3) the remaining roughly 30% of them are sectarian manuscripts of previously unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk and The Rule of the Blessing.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a series of twelve caves around the site known as Wadi Qumran near the Dead Sea in the West Bank (of theJordan River) between 1946 and 1956 by Bedouin peoples and archeologists.
Initial discovery (1946–1947)The initial discovery, by Bedouin shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib, his cousin Jum'a Muhammed, and Khalil Musa, took place between November 1946 and February 1947. The shepherds discovered 7 scrolls (See Fragment and scroll lists) housed in jars in a cave at what is now known as the Qumran site. John C. Trever reconstructed the story of the scrolls from several interviews with the Bedouin. Edh-Dhib's cousin noticed the caves, but edh-Dhib himself was the first to actually fall into one. He retrieved a handful of scrolls, which Trever identifies as the Isaiah Scroll, Habakkuk Commentary, and the Community Rule, and took them back to the camp to show to his family. None of the scrolls were destroyed in this process, despite popular rumor. The Bedouin kept the scrolls hanging on a tent pole while they figured out what to do with them, periodically taking them out to show people. At some point during this time, the Community Rule was split in two. The Bedouin first took the scrolls to a dealer named Ibrahim 'Ijha in Bethlehem. 'Ijha returned them, saying they were worthless, after being warned that they might have been stolen from a synagogue. Undaunted, the Bedouin went to a nearby market, where a Syrian Christian offered to buy them. A sheikh joined their conversation and suggested they take the scrolls to Khalil Eskander Shahin, "Kando", a cobbler and part-time antiques dealer. The Bedouin and the dealers returned to the site, leaving one scroll with Kando and selling three others to a dealer for GBP7 (equivalent to US$29 in 2003). The original scrolls continued to change hands after the Bedouin left them in the possession of a third party until a sale could be arranged.