The Dead Sea Scrolls, comprising of 972 well-preserved ancient scrolls discovered in 1947 in eleven caves along the north western shore of the Dead Sea, remain unequivocally the greatest archeological discovery of modern times. The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times exhibit on display at The Franklin Institute has brought an awe-inspiring and impressive collection to the awareness of a wider audience. The ancient artifacts including the scrolls takes us back in time, allows visitors a glimpse into a culture dated more than 2000 years old. The way of life, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Qumran culture is brought to life in the twenty-first century and presents a unique opportunity not to be missed.
The scrolls, which have been identified as the earliest Biblical texts to have been found, consist of fragmented writings which are numbered according to the caves they were found in. The manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are made of animal skins, papyrus and a single one made of copper. The contents of the scrolls are written from right to left, without punctuation marks in a carbon-based ink.
It was in 1947 when a shepherd discovered the manuscripts hidden in a cave north western shore of the Dead Sea, thirteen miles east of Jerusalem near the site of Khirbet Qumran.
The contents of the scrolls tell stories (not known before) about biblical figures like Noah, Abraham and Enoch. The scrolls form the oldest collection of Old Testament texts ever to have been found. Both the religions of Judaism and Christianity were born out of ancient Palestine and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls enrich our knowledge of these religions as well as providing the connection between the two. The importance of the scrolls lay in the wealth of information they provide scholars and researchers about how the Bible was written and the manner in which it was communicated through the ages. In addition the information gathered from the scrolls granted scholars and researchers a depiction of Judaism during the days of Jesus. What was further validated was a connection between several instructive points of the Gospel and Judaism of the period. Included in the scrolls is a collection of formerly undiscovered prayers, hymns commentaries as well as the earliest form of the Ten Commandments.
The scrolls are said to have been written between 150 BC and 70 AD and while it is still not clear who is responsible for having written the scrolls, experts suggest that the writers were closely linked to the priesthood of the period who extolled a rigid and righteous way of living. The scrolls have contributed greatly to our understanding of the religious background and cultural way of life in ancient Palestine. The finding of the scrolls is a priceless gift of educational and religious proportions to the modern world.
1. Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times. The Franklin Institute, http://www.fi.edu/scrolls/ Date of access September 18, 2012
2. Dead Sea Scrolls. West Semitic Research Project, http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/dead_sea_scrolls/ Date of access September 18, 2012