The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946 and 1947 in caves on the West Bank. Further discoveries were made in the Fifties, and as recently as 2017, in which blank parchment in a jar was recovered from a 12th cave by the Hebrew University.
The texts have great historical and religious significance, containing some of the oldest-known works later included in the Bible.
Thousands of further scripts and parchments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area.
Many of the discoveries have been damaged beyond repair and recognition, likely due to natural causes throughout the ages.
This is understandable as the scrolls are considered to be thousands of years old.
The exact time period is a point of contention among scholars, though most agree that the scrolls fall somewhere between the last three centuries of BCE and the first century CE.
In all, researchers recovered 981 different manuscripts from 11 caves.
Only two biblical texts older than the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found.
These were located in Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom and later dated 600 BCE.
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The Scrolls’ discovery was overly significant for scholars of the Old Testament.
A make or break situation, the Scrolls acted as either an affirmation or repudiation of the reliability of textual transmission from original biblical texts to the oldest Masoretic texts available.
The discovery proved a certain accuracy of transmission over a period of a thousand years.
As a result, texts from the Old Testament were rendered reliable copies of the original works.
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During BBC Radio 4’s 2014 podcast, Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion, religious archaeologists and scholars discussed the significance of the Scrolls.
In particular, Professor Stavrakopoulou, revealed how the findings exposed certain social issues of the time.
The BBC’s Ernie Rea asked Prof Stavrakopoulou: “What impact did the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have? What did it tell us about the time of Jesus that we didn’t know before?”
She replied: “I think it shows us that the time of Jesus and the Jesus movement that grew up around him was just one of a number of Jewish sects or cults in which there were all sorts of anxieties about the relationship of the Jewish people and their God to the rest of the world.
“Particularly in relation to the Roman Empire.
“And so, ideas about the end times and a great apocalyptic or eschatological battle, the coming of a saviour figure or a messiah figure were actually not just common but were really diverse in their manifestations.
“Jesus and the movement around him was just one of those manifestations that happened to catch.”
More recently, in 2018, a Bible museum in the US was forced to remove fragments of what it believed were part of the Dead Sea Scrolls from a display.
The Museum of Bible, in Washington DC, sent five of its 16 fragments for analysis in Germany.
Results showed “characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin”.
At the time, the Museum’s chief curatorial officer, Jeffrey Kloha, said he had hoped the “testing would render different results”.
However, he added: “This is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artefacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency.”
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