Except for a tour bus now and then, the hot and arid hills above the west shore of the Dead Sea are lifeless and quiet.
That hasn't always been the case.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Khirbet Qumran hills were home to a community believed by most modern scholars to have been the Essenes, a Jewish sect from the middle second century B.C.
In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd entered one of the Qumran caves and discovered the first of what has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The tattered and stained scraps of parchment were stored in clay jars. The most recent of the scrolls were discovered in 1956.
Apparently the Essenes hid them in the caves and never returned. The writing on some of the scrolls seems to predate even the Essenes.
Dating from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D., the Dead Sea Scrolls "are about 1,000 years older than the previously known manuscripts of the Old Testament," said James A. Brashler, professor of Bible and dean of the education faculty at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARTICLE: The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a survey article on the Dead Sea Scrolls: "Ancient words of early Judaism - Scholars discuss the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls, authors" It's basically accurate, although it's a little too confident of the Essenes-as-a-monastic-community-on-the-shore-of-the-Dead-Sea interpretation of the evidence and it plays down the differences between the the Qumran biblical texts and the Masoretic Text a little more than I would. But still, a good piece. Excerpt: