The Dead Sea Scrolls
"The greatest manuscript discovery
of all times."
William F. Albright
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) at Qumran in
1949 had significant effects in corroborating evidence
for the Scriptures. The ancient texts, found hidden
in pots in cliff-top caves by a monastic religious community,
confirm the reliability of the Old Testament text. These
texts, which were copied and studied by the Essenes,
include one complete Old Testament book (Isaiah) and
thousands of fragments, representing every Old Testament
book except Esther. The
manuscripts date from the third century B.C. to the
first century A.D. and give the earliest window found
so far into the texts of the Old Testament books and
their predictive prophecies. The
Qumran texts have become an important witness for the
divine origin of the Bible, providing further evidence
against the criticism of such crucial books as Daniel
Dating the Manuscripts
Carbon-14 dating is a reliable form of scientific dating
when applied to uncontaminated material several thousand
years old. Results indicated an age of 1917 years with
a 200-year (10 percent) variant. Paleography (ancient
writing forms) and orthography (spelling) indicated
that some manuscripts were inscribed before 100 B.C.
Albright set the date of the complete Isaiah scroll
to around 100 B.C.—"there can happily not be the
slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of
Collaborative evidence for an early date came from archaeology.
Pottery accompanying the manuscripts was late Hellenistic
(c. 150– 3 B.C.) and Early Roman (c. 63 B.C. to A.D.
100). Coins found in the monastery ruins proved
by their inscriptions to have been minted between 135
B.C. and A.D. 135. The weave and pattern of the
cloth supported an early date. There is no reasonable
doubt that the Qumran manuscripts came from the century
before Christ and the first century A.D. Significance
of the Dating.
to the DSS, the earliest known manuscript of the Old
Testament was the Masoretic Text (A.D. 900) and two
others (dating about A.D. 1000) from which, for example,
the King James version of the Old Testament derived
its translation. Perhaps most would have considered
the Masoretic text as a very late text and therefore
questioned the reliability of the Old Testament wholesale.
The Dead Sea Scrolls eclipse these texts by 1,000 years
and provide little reason to question their reliability,
and further, present only confidence for the text. The
beauty of the Dead Sea Scrolls lies in the close match
they have with the Masoretic text—demonstrable evidence
of reliability and preservation of the authentic text
through the centuries. So the discovery of the DSS provides
evidence for the following:
Confirmation of the Hebrew Text
2) Support for the Masoretic Text
3) Support for the Greek translation of the
Hebrew Text (the Septuagint).
the New Testament often quotes from the Greek Old Testament,
the DSS furnish the reader with further confidence for
the Masoretic texts in this area where it can be tested.
from Norman Geisler, "Dead Sea Scrolls," Baker
Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)