The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of roughly 1,000 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1947 and 1979 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea) in the West Bank. The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include practically the only known surviving copies of Biblical documents made before 100 AD, and preserve evidence of considerable diversity of belief and practice within late Second Temple Judaism. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus.
Publication of the scrolls has taken many decades, and the delay has been a source of academic controversy. As of 2007 two volumes remain to be completed, with the whole series, Discoveries in the Judean Desert, running to thirty nine volumes in total. Many of the scrolls are now housed in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. According to The Oxford Companion to Archeology, "The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100."
The scrolls were found in 11 caves, ranging in distance of 125m (Cave 4) to about 1000m (Cave 1) from the settlement at Qumran, located 1km off the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. None of them were found at the actual settlement. It is generally accepted that a Bedouin goat- or sheep-herder by the name of Muhammed edh-Dhib made the first discovery toward the beginning of 1947.
In the most commonly told story the shepherd threw a rock into a cave in an attempt to drive out a missing animal under his care. The shattering sound of pottery drew him into the cave, where he discovered several ancient jars containing scrolls wrapped in linen. Another theory was that two young boys were looking for a lost goat and came upon some of them.
Dr. John C. Trever carried out a number of interviews with several men going by the name of Muhammed edh-Dhib, each relating a variation on this tale.
The scrolls were first brought to a Bethlehem antiquities dealer named Ibrahim 'Ijha, who returned them after being warned that they may have been stolen from a synagogue. The scrolls then fell into the hands of Khalil Eskander Shahin, "Kando", a cobbler and antiques dealer. By most accounts the Bedouin removed only three scrolls following their initial find, later revisiting the site to gather more, possibly encouraged by Kando. Alternatively, it is postulated that Kando engaged in his own illegal excavation: Kando himself possessed at least four scrolls.
Arrangements with the Bedouins left the scrolls in the hands of a third party until a sale of them could be negotiated. That third party, George Isha'ya, was a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who soon contacted St. Mark's Monastery in the hope of getting an appraisal of the nature of the texts. News of the find then reached Metropolitan Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, more often referred to as Mar Samuel.
After examining the scrolls and suspecting their age, Mar Samuel expressed an interest in purchasing them. Four scrolls found their way into his hands: the now famous Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), the Community Rule, the Habakkuk Pesher (Commentary), and the Genesis Apocryphon. More scrolls soon surfaced in the antiquities market, and Professor Eleazer Sukenik, an Israeli archaeologist and scholar at Hebrew University, found himself in possession of three: The War Scroll, Thanksgiving Hymns, and another more fragmented Isaiah scroll.
By the end of 1947, Sukenik received word of the scrolls in Mar Samuel's possession and attempted to purchase them. No deal was reached, and instead the scrolls found the attention of Dr. John C. Trever, of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). Dr. Trever compared the script in the scrolls to the Nash Papyrus, the oldest biblical manuscript at the time, finding similarities between the two.
Dr. Trever, a keen amateur photographer, met with Mar Samuel on February 21, 1948, when he photographed the scrolls. The quality of his photographs often exceeded that of the scrolls themselves over the years, as the texts quickly eroded once removed from their linen wraps.
In March of that year, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War prompted the removal of the scrolls from the country for safekeeping. The scrolls were removed to Beirut.
In early September 1948, Mar Samuel brought Professor Ovid R. Sellers, the new Director of ASOR, some additional scroll fragments that he had acquired. By the end of 1948, nearly two years after the discovery of the scrolls, scholars had yet to locate the cave where the fragments had been found. With the unrest in the country, no large scale search could be undertaken. Sellers attempted to get the Syrians to help locate the cave, but they demanded more money than Sellers could offer. Cave 1 was finally discovered on January 28, 1949 by a United Nations observer.
After some time, the Dead Sea Scrolls went up for sale in a June 1, 1954 advertisement in the Wall Street Journal.
MISCELLANEOUS FOR SALE
THE FOUR DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Biblical manuscripts dating back to at least 200 B.C.
are for sale. This would be and ideal gift to an educational
or religious institution by an individual or group.
Box F 206 WALL STREET JOURNAL
On July 1, after some delicate negotiations, the scrolls, accompanied by the Metropolitan and two others, came to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. They were purchased for US$250,000. Only some of this Mar Samuel actually got: due to a mix up in paperwork, the US government received most of the money, due to taxes.
The exception to this was the documents from Cave 4, which represent 40% of the total finds. The publication of these had been entrusted to an international team led by Father Roland de Vaux, a member of the Dominican Order in Jerusalem. This group published the first volume of the material entrusted to them in 1968, but spent much of their energies defending their theories regarding the materials, instead of publishing them. Geza Vermes, who had been involved from the start in the editing and publication of these documents, blamed the delay—and eventual failure—on de Vaux's selection of a team unsuited to the quality of work he had planned, as well as relying on "his personal, quasi-patriarchal authority" to control the completion of the work.
As a result, a large part of the finds from Cave 4 were not made public for many years. Access to the scrolls was governed by a "secrecy rule" that allowed only the original International Team or their designates to view the original materials. After de Vaux's death in 1971, his successors repeatedly refused even to allow the publication of photographs of these materials, preventing other scholars from making their own judgments. This rule was eventually broken: first by Ben Zion Wacholder's publication in the fall of 1991 of 17 documents reconstructed from a concordance that had been made in 1988 and had come into the hands of scholars outside of the International Team; next, in the same month, by the discovery and publication of a complete set of photographs of the Cave 4 materials at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, that were not covered by the "secrecy rule". After some delays these photographs were published by Robert Eisenman and James Robinson (A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, two volumes, Washington, D.C., 1991). As a result, the "secrecy rule" was lifted.
Publication accelerated with the appointment of the respected Dutch-Israeli textual scholar Emanuel Tov as editor-in-chief in 1990. Publication of the Cave 4 documents soon commenced, with five volumes in print by 1995. As of 2007 two volumes remain to be completed, with the whole series, Discoveries in the Judean Desert, running to thirty nine volumes in total.
In December 2007, the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation commissioned London publisher Facsimile Editions to publish exact facsimiles of three scrolls: 1QIsa the Great Isaiah Scroll, 1QS the Order of the Community and 1QpHab the Pesher to Habakkuk. Of the first three facsimile sets, one was exhibited at the Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Seoul, South Korea, and a second set was purchased by the British Library in London.
|1 & 2 Samuel||4|
According to Computer Weekly (16th Nov 2007), a team from King's College London is to advise the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who are planning to digitize the scrolls. On 27th Aug 2008 an Israeli internet news agency YNET announced that the project is under way. The scrolls are planned to be made available to the public via Internet. The project is to include infra-red scanning of the scrolls which is said to expose additional details, not visible in the regular light.
The text of nearly all of the non-biblical scrolls has been recorded and tagged for morphology by Dr. Martin Abegg, Jr., the Ben Zion Wacholder Professor of Dead Sea Scroll Studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada. It is available on handheld devices through Olive Tree Bible Software - BibleReader, on Macs through Accordance, and on Windows through Logos Bible Software and BibleWorks.