In spring 1947 an Arab found ancient parchment MSS in a cave near the NW shore of the Dead Sea. One of the scrolls, a Heb. copy of Is., measures 24 ft. by 10 in. It was probably written ca. 100 BC; it is perhaps the oldest copy of any book of the Bible. Most of the other scrolls were sacred writings of an ascetic Jewish community of ca. 200 people (gen. regarded as Essenes*) who lived there at Khirbet Qumran ca. 100 BC to AD 68.
The scrolls have shown that the Bible was transmitted with a high degree of accuracy. The Qumran Is seems to be ca. 1,000 yrs. older than the next oldest known copy of this book. But there are very few differences bet. the two. This lends added assurance that our common OT Heb. text is indeed essentially the same as that which Christ used.
The scrolls have shown a similarity bet. the faith and life of the Qumran community and that of the early NT ch. It was pointed out that the Teacher of Righteousness resembled Christ. The Fr. scholar A. Dupont-Sommer claimed that this Teacher was portrayed as a divine being who had become man, who was put to death by his enemies, and whose resurrection from the dead was anticipated. Some Am. writers created a stir by publicizing the unwarranted conclusion that the doctrines of the incarnation, the vicarious suffering, and the resurrection of Jesus were not new and unique, but were borrowed from the teachings of the Qumran community.
Organization in the Qumran community has been compared to that in the early Christian Ch. An inner Qumran group including 12 laymen calls to mind the 12 disciples. Both communities pooled their property for the benefit of all mems. Writings of both groups refer to anger with a brother without a cause, personal admonition in case of a grievance, and refraining from pub. charges unless they could be proved by witnesses. Both groups observed ritual washings and a sacred meal involving bread and wine; but the Qumran rites seem more closely connected with the OT cultus than with the NT sacraments.
Some early views on the scrolls and their origin were subjective. The contention that the scrolls made a new evaluation of the Christian religion necessary is now considered both premature and greatly exaggerated. The literature of the Qumran community will no doubt have a prominent place among the apocryphal writings that were produced bet. the OT and NT Its theol. seems to be more closely related to Moses and the prophets than to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The value of the scrolls both for OT textual studies and for NT faith and life will undoubtedly increase as the unpub. contents of the caves are made available. AvRS
F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1956); M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York, 1955); F. M. Cross, Jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, New York, 1958); H. E. Del Medico, The Riddle of the Scrolls, tr. H. Garner (New York, 1959); The Dead Sea Scriptures, tr. T. H. Gaster, rev. and enl. ed. (Garden City, New York, 1964); Y. Yadin, The Message of the Scrolls (New York, 1957).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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