The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in a cave above the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. The scrolls date to the time of Jesus and shortly before. Of the eight hundred manuscripts, fewer than a dozen were in any sense intact. The rest were mere fragments–about twenty-five thousand of them–many no bigger than a fingernail. Beginning in 1953, an international team of young scholars was assembled in Jerusalem under Jordanian auspices to sort out these thousands of fragments. Most of the seven-man team, which included no Jews, were Catholic priests.
By 1958 Israeli and American scholars had published the seven intact scrolls from the initial cache. Most of the intact scrolls were easily readable by anyone who knew Hebrew or, in one case, Aramaic. The fragmentary scrolls, however, presented a more difficult problem. These too were mostly Hebrew, though some 25 percent were in Aramaic, a closely related Semitic language that was the vernacular in Palestine at the time of Jesus.
By 1960 the contents of the collection were reasonably clear. More than two hundred Dead Sea documents were books of the Hebrew Bible. Other manuscripts were nonbiblical books, known from later medieval copies, such as Jubilees and Enoch. But hundreds of Dead Sea documents were completely unknown. Most of the documents were written on either goatskin or sheepskin. A few were on papyrus. One interesting intact scroll engraved on copper sheeting identified over sixty sites of buried treasure. The various texts were bewildering–previously unknown psalms, Bible commentaries, calendrical texts, mystical texts, apocalyptic texts, liturgical texts, purity laws, Rabbinic-like expansions of biblical stories, etc.
· Prior to the discovery of the scrolls, the oldest copy of the Hebrew text was Codex Leningrad which is dated A.D. 916.
· Jesus is not in the scrolls.
· The scrolls do provide a lot of information about Judaism at the time the Temple still stood in Jerusalem and about the roots of Rabbinic Judaism, the direct ancestor of all major Jewish denominations today, which emerged after the Romans destroyed the Temple.
· The scrolls tell us about the Bible before the authoritative canon was established in the second century A.D., at a time when different versions of the biblical books circulated within the Jewish world.
· The scrolls provide exclusive insight into religious culture at a time of matchless religious, as well as, social uproar.
· The earliest of the scrolls dates to about 250 B.C.; the latest to 68 A.D., when the conquering Romans destroyed Qumran on their way to Jerusalem, which they burned two years later, efficiently ending the First Jewish Revolt against Rome.
“The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls”. Frontline. Apr 1998. Web. 11 May 2013.
Willis, Mike. “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Text of the Old Testament”. Truth Magazine. 4 Jan 2001. Web. 11 May 2013.