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Qumran: Dead Sea Scrolls

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Qumran Cave Locations by Qumran (Medium)

Places of Interest

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls




1. Qumran is located on the northwest side of the Dead Sea on Hwy. 90 about 13 miles (21 km.) east of Jerusalem.


2. It’s in the Judean Wilderness, where it’s barren and hot.


3. It’s located 1200 feet (366 m.) below sea level.


4. Its water source comes from the Judean Mountains to the west of the community via an aqueduct.


5. There are many caves in the area.


6. At Qumran, one of the most important discoveries in the history of biblical archaeology took place in around 1947.


Historical Background  


1. It’s believed that the ancient settlement of Qumran was established by a Jewish group called the Essenes.


2. They lived here from about 200 BC to around 68 AD.


3. There were around 200 people who inhabited Qumran during its history.


4. The ruins were excavated in the 1950s by a French archaeological team.


5. The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. They were a spiritually devoted group of folks who left Jerusalem because they believed that the priesthood had become corrupted beyond repair and separated themselves to study the Bible, copy it, and seek the Lord in the desert.

6. The Jewish historian Josephus records that the Essenes existed in large numbers; thousands lived throughout Judaea. They were fewer in number than the Pharisees and Sadducees (the other two major sects at the time). The Essenes lived in various cities, but congregated in communal life dedicated to voluntary poverty, daily immersion, and asceticism; their priestly class practiced celibacy. Most scholars claim they seceded from the Zadokite priests.


It was this group of Jews who lived at Qumran. They mainly lived in the surrounding caves or tents just outside the community.

7. They were a strict Torah observant, Messianic, apocalyptic, new covenant Jewish sect. They were led by a priest they called the "Teacher of Righteousness.” They were highly educated and very familiar with writing and study.


8. The future monastery lifestyle followed similar patterns of the Essene community.


9. Josephus wrote that the men of Qumran rejected marriage and instead cared for the needy and neglected children of others. However, later discoveries have found skeletons of women, so it’s believed some men possibly were married and women were part of the community.


10. The Essenes most likely wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls from about 200 BC to 68 AD. Josephus and other secular sources mention the Essenes. However, they are not mentioned in the New Testament. 


11. It's likely the Essenes stored their copied manuscripts in caves so they were protected from the elements and safe in case of war.


12. It's also likely that when the Essenes saw the nation of Israel falling to the Romans in around 68 AD, they hid their manuscripts in caves around Qumran. These manuscripts are what we refer to as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Qumran and John the Baptist

1. Many Bible scholars link the Essene group who lived at Qumran to John the Baptist.


2. While the Bible does not say whether John the Baptist was part of the group, they do share many similarities.

  • They both were unhappy and rejected the religious leadership in Jerusalem and the temple functions.

  • They both left Jerusalem and the temple leadership and fled to the same desert area, east of Jerusalem, by the northern part of the Dead Sea area.

  • They both believed in a soon-coming Messiah.

3. However, some Bible scholars believe that John the Baptist left the Qumran community after some time because of differences.

  • The Essenes believed in ritual cleansing in Mikvehs and other water sources for cleansing regularly. 

  • John the Baptist believed in baptism as a one-time event signifying repentance for sins and preparation for the Messiah.

  • According to this view, after John the Baptist left the Qumran community, he went to the southern part of the Jordan River, just east of Jericho, to minister and baptize there. Today, this place is called "Qsar al-Yahud," also known as the Baptismal Site of Jesus.


Historical Background of the Dead Sea Scrolls


1. Around 1947, Bedouin shepherds were tending their goats and sheep near the ancient settlement of Qumran. One of the young shepherds threw a rock into a cave and heard an echo sound. He and his friends later climbed into the cave and found a collection of large clay jars, seven of which contained leather and papyrus scrolls. An antiquities dealer from Bethlehem bought the scrolls, which later wound up in the possession of numerous scholars who estimated that the manuscripts were around 2,000 years old. After news of the discovery was made public, Bedouin treasure hunters and archaeologists discovered tens of thousands of additional scroll fragments from 10 nearby caves. 


2. The scrolls were discovered in eleven caves between the years of 1947 and 1956. The manuscripts are numbered according to the caves in which they were found. 


3. There are around 972 manuscripts (15,000 fragments) that have been found to date. The longest is 26 feet (8 m.) long.


4. They include fragments from every book of the Old Testament except for the Book of Esther (Esther might have been lost or decomposed due to time or may have been damaged by the Bedouin shepherds).


5. The writings consist of biblical manuscripts and other religious writings that circulated during the Second Temple era (516 BC to 70 AD). About 230 of the manuscripts are referred to as biblical scrolls. However, many of the manuscripts were fragmented and had to be assembled.


6. Cave 4, which is right beside ancient Qumran, had around 75% of all the material from the Qumran caves.


7. The Isaiah Scroll, found relatively intact, is 1,000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah, and the other scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.


8. The major intact manuscripts from Caves 1 and 11 were published by the late fifties and are now housed in the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem.


9. To date, there are around 53 caves that have been discovered, many of them containing more scrolls.


10. Amazingly, the biblical manuscripts are virtually identical to the manuscripts we have today of the Old Testament part of the Bible. This proves God’s ability to preserve His word through the ages.


11. Interestingly, the inhabitants of Qumran were either killed or fled, as no one ever came back to retrieve the scrolls.


Places of Interest


1. Aqueduct Entrance


2. Reservoirs


3. Cisterns


4. Tower


5. Kitchen


6. Scriptorium


7. Pottery Shop


8. Kiln


9. Mikveh (Ritual Bath)


10. Assembly Hall


11. Pantry


12. Animal Pen

13. Aqueduct


14. Cave viewing area (caves 4–10)


15. Caves 1, 2, 3, and 11 are located about 1 mile (1.62 km.) north of Qumran


16. Dead Sea


Qumran and the Bible


1. The Dead Sea Scrolls would have been the same Hebrew Bible that Christ and the apostles used.


2. The Hebrew Bible was divided into 3 sections: The Law (Torah), the Writings (historical books), and the Prophets (major and minor prophets).


3. Christ gave full validity to the authority and accuracy of Scripture and used every section of it in His teachings. He repeatedly said, “So that it might be fulfilled,” “It is written,” “Have you not read?” and so forth. 


4. Christ used the Old Testament to explain His purpose on earth.
Luke 24:27: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.


5. In the New Testament, there are 850 quotes or references to the Old Testament.


6. The New Testament is built upon the Old Testament and cannot be fully understood without it.


The Uniqueness of the Bible


1. The Bible was written by 40 different authors, on 3 different continents, and written over a period of 1,600 years. Yet all the books of the Bible harmonize and keep the same themes like a puzzle pieced together in perfect harmony.


2. This harmony is a miracle in and of itself. For example, if an accident happened on a street corner and 10 witnesses were asked what they saw, there would be many different accounts or versions of the incident. However, this is not so with the Bible. It has one guiding theme despite having many authors writing over a long period of time on different continents.


The Bible Was Written and Preserved Supernaturally by God


1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


2. 2 Peter 1:19–21: And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


3. Hebrews 4:12–13: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


4. Matthew 4:4: But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"


5. Matthew 5:18: For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.


6. Luke 21:33: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.


Faith Lesson from Qumran


1. The Dead Sea Scrolls were one of the most important discoveries in the history of mankind. God supernaturally did this in order to prove the reliability of His Word. Do we believe in the Bible and that it’s God’s divine revelation to us?


2. Christ referred to every section of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and repeatedly said, “So that it might be fulfilled,” “It is written,” “Have you not read?” and so forth. If Christ claimed the Hebrew Bible of His day was accurate, do we trust in the accuracy of the Bible we have today as well?


3. The New Testament contains around 850 references from the Old Testament. This shows how the New Testament is built upon the Old Testament. Do we read the Old Testament in order to understand the New Testament better?


4. If Christ was so passionate about the truthfulness of Scripture and claimed it was the very Word of God, then we too, like Christ, can certainly trust God’s ability to preserve Scripture. Like Christ, are we passionate about the Bible, and do we read it regularly?


5. If God supernaturally preserved the accuracy of the Old Testament, do we believe He could do the same for the New Testament?

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