Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls so Important?

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.