Dead Sea Scrolls
Around the year 70 A.D. the Roman general Vespasian was about to destroy Jerusalem, just as Jesus had prophesied. The library of a particular Jewish brotherhood was in danger. After carefully sealing some of their precious treasure in large jars, they hid them in desert caves in the mountain wilderness of Judea near the Dead Sea.
The scrolls remained undisturbed until a shepherd boy threw a stone through a small opening of one of the caves nineteen hundred years later, in 1947. The boy’s tribe had no idea of the value of the find. They removed some of the scrolls from the cave and carried them place to place as they tended their sheep.
They brought the scrolls to a dealer in Bethlehem who indifferently heaped them on the floor, thinking to someday use them as material for his part-time shoe repair business! After again scanning the strange writings, the dealer-cobbler considered the possibility they may be valuable, and brought them to a Syrian convent in Jerusalem. It soon became apparent these scrolls were indeed valuable, and after finding the cave of the initial discovery he removed the remainder of the seven scrolls and many fragment pieces.
The removal and selling of manuscripts is illegal, and all excavations had to be done in secret; the buying and selling of the precious, ancient manuscripts was done in the intrigue of the underworld. Someone buried manuscripts in a garden and upon retrieving them found only globs of glue. Everything was further complicated by the Israel-Egyptian war that broke out immediately after Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.
Eventually some of the manuscripts, including the complete book of Isaiah, ended up in the American School of Oriental Research. Photographs were taken of the priceless manuscripts and were finally examined by competent paleographers. It was concluded the writings were very old, even pre-Christian. The world was most excited as the news of the find hit the press.
The manuscripts were smuggled to America for safekeeping and then, upon demand of the Jordanian government, returned to Israel. During that interval the Americans managed, with permission, to translate and publish the material, and the scholastic world became much richer for it.
The remainder of the discoveries were very difficult to obtain because now their value was no secret. Much money in bribes was spent retrieving the documents from the Bedouin tribes before they were smuggled out of the country or sold to tourists. Over the next few years other caves were discovered by Bedouins and by the Department of Antiquities, yielding great finds.
Tens of thousands of fragments from every Old Testament book except the book of Ezra were found and, when possible, pieced together. Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are today placed in the Shrine of the Book, the Palestine Archaeological Museum and the Museum of the Department of Antiquities.
The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the accuracy of the Bible. Critics had often questioned the accuracy of the Old Testament, suggesting it must have lost accuracy through the process of copying and recopying through the centuries. But since the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls of the second century B.C. matched so well with the scrolls of a much later period already in our possession, those critics have been forever silenced and the integrity of God’s Word to man has been greatly reinforced.