I’m just north of Masada, on a desolate Terrace between the hills of the Judean Desert and the flats of the Dead Sea. It’s a site known as Qumran, which was inhabited by a communal sect of Jews known as the Essenes until the Romans destroyed them in 68 AD. Qumran consists of a large community building and smaller rooms dedicated to writing, storage and other tasks associated with a self-sufficient community. The ruins also include cisterns, pottery kilns and an elaborate water-collecting system. Thousands of ceramic jars and pots have also been discovered here. Many features at Qumran including these ritual baths known as mikvahs are strong evidence that the Essenes were religious scribes, maintaining a library of Jewish manuscripts. As such Qumran is the strongest candidate for the origin of a set of scrolls and fragments that were discovered in the hills behind me now popularly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We continue with our theme about David here at Qumran because very old manuscripts of Psalms have been discovered in nearby caves. David is traditionally attributed as the author of the Book of Psalms. These old manuscripts are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovery. The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript discovery in modern times. In 1947, two Bedouin shepherds were looking for one of their goats in the Qumran region when they found a cave containing earthenware vessels. Inside these jars were scrolls written in Hebrew and Aramaic, one of them a complete scroll of the Book of Isaiah.
Here is why the Dead Sea scrolls are so important. The scrolls contain an important history of the time but more importantly we can now compare the 2000-year-old manuscripts with a copy of our modern Bible. What we find is that, except for very minor variations such as synonyms or word order, the Dead Sea Scrolls are virtually identical to the later Masoretic text of the Old Testament or the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible. In other words, this gives us a lot of confidence that Scripture has been accurately passed from ancient times to modern day. Archaeologists have now explored about 300 caves in this area finding fragments or scrolls in 11 of them. Remarkably they found part of every book in the Old Testament except Esther. The most famous of the Qumran discoveries is known as the great Isaiah scroll. This nearly complete scroll of Isaiah contains some of the most dramatic prophecies of a coming Messiah or Savior anywhere in the Old Testament. Based on various dating methods, the great Isaiah Scroll dates from 250 to 100 BC. Indeed Isaiah would have penned the original in about 700 BC but this manuscript copied dates to no less than 100 years before Jesus of Nazareth.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized what we call textual criticism of the Bible and prophecy. We now have dramatic evidence that the key messianic prophecies of the Old Testament are the same Messianic prophecies that existed prior to the time Jesus walked on the earth. There was nothing made up after the fact by New Testament writers. There was no conspiracy by religious power mongers. Simply put, the Dead Sea Scrolls put that kind of speculation to bed.
We live in a remarkable time in history. The Dead Sea Scrolls sat untouched in a perfect arid environment for over 2,000 years in 1947 Bedouin Shepherds stumbled upon arguably the most important manuscript find ever. Then one year, later against tremendous odds, the Jewish people return to their homeland as a formal nation for the first time since 70 AD. And now some of the greatest Jewish scriptures pointing to Jesus Christ as Messiah sit as the centerpiece of the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. We now have the utmost confidence that the Old Testament that we read today is substantially the same as existed before the birth of Jesus. That means that the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah were in black and white before the New Testament writers were even on the scene.