Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls captivated the world since they were found in the desert caves in 1947. It took years for scholars to decipher them while the public waited in the darkness, wondering what the secrecy was all about. Now that the contents have become public, it seems we have more questions than answers about the scrolls. Do the Dead Sea Scrolls contain information that someone wanted to keep a secret? Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? What is written on the Dead Sea Scrolls?

In 1946, a young Bedouin herder, Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed, was wandering through some cliffs on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea in search of a lost goat. Mohammed tossed a stone into the higher opening of a cave in attempt to herd out the missing goat. Mohammed heard not the cry of a goat but the cracking of pottery.

He climbed into the entrance of the cave and discovered eight jars, the first six were empty, and the other two contained scrolls wrapped in old textile. The scrolls were sold to an antiques dealer and soon every archeologists and treasure hunter joined the “scroll rush” at Qumran.

The religious world was energized and awaited eagerly for their interpretation. Christians waited for conclusive proof of Christ, while Jews waited to see if this discovery was really the oldest biblical text known and what the scrolls would tell of their ancient religion.

It seems as if the only persons satisfied in the beginning were conspiracy theorists. Why weren’t the scrolls being published and why was the international team to decipher ancient Jewish scrolls consisting of eight men, all Christians?

The Essenes

To understand who the Essenes were; one has to understand the climate of Judaism the few centuries before Christ. After the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity they were ordered by the King of Babylon to have no kings, leaving the local priests to be the law.

An elite order of priests consisting mainly of aristocratic families emerged and made the newly built temple into a place of law and order. This group was known as the Sadducees. Over time the Sadducees became corrupt with power and seemed to align themselves with the ever changing dominant power of the land.

By the time the Romans became rulers over Judea, several Jewish sects had grown to challenge the Sadducees and one, the Essenes, preferred to leave Jerusalem and the perverted temple all together. The Bible tells how Jesus himself began to question the practices of the Sadducees and Pharisees that controlled the temple in his own time.

The Essenes left Jerusalem and moved to an area in the desert called Qumran. They felt the temple had been defiled and couldn’t serve the righteous of Jerusalem. They considered themselves the Sons of Lights and practiced a strict observance of religious doctrine where rule breaking led to expulsion from the community.

Their discipline included many rituals like sharing material possessions, eating only vegetables, and ritual cleansing. They had built aqueducts that brought water in from the mountains to fill their ritual bathing places.

Around 66 A.D., after living so long under Roman oppression the Hebrews rose up in revolt all around the Holy Land. The Romans responded swiftly, sacking city after city in Canaan. It seems as though the Essenes knew the Roman armies would make their way to their small community. One of the scrolls now called the “War Scroll,” was a guideline for the rules of war against the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.

“The Sons of Light will attack the Sons of Darkness. There shall be a battle and horrible carnage before the God of Israel, and eternal annihilation for the forces of darkness. Then there shall be a time of salvation for the People of God.”  - From the War Scroll

Oddly enough, the Dead Sea Scrolls were deciphered just two years after the Nazi’s were beaten in World War II and the Jewish people were saved from Hitler’s dark armies. The same day Israel was declared a modern nation. Could the Dead Sea Scrolls have been a prediction of what was to come for the Jewish people?

It seems the Essenes hid the scrolls in the caves of Qumran as a final step in the preparation of the apocalyptic war they thought was to come. The jars the scrolls were hidden in show signs of blistering which happens when the pottery is made quickly. The famous “Copper Scroll” was an actual inventory of treasure and scrolls that were taken from the Temple of Jerusalem and hidden throughout the desert.

Eventually the Romans did go to war with the Essenes and they destroyed the entire community. There was no one left to retrieve the scrolls and rebuild the temple. They remained in the caves until 1947. Dating of the scrolls shows some to be as old as 150 B.C. and the most recent to be 68 A.D. just two years before the Romans destroyed Qumran.

What is on the Dead Sea Scrolls?

All in all there were fragments of over 800 scrolls found in the caves of Qumran. Over 40% of the scrolls were the books of the Old Testament. The books contained several copies of most of the Old Testament Books, but the Book of Ezra was not included.

30% of the scrolls are from books of the Second Temple Period that are not canonized as part of the Hebrew Bible such as Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit, Sirach and some new Psalms that are not in the Bible. The book of Enoch is probably the most controversial of these books.

The third group of scrolls tells us more about the community of Qumran and its laws. Some of these scrolls are the Community Rule, War Scroll, Pesher on Habakkuk and the Rule of the Blessing. The most controversy of the scrolls doesn’t lie with what we know is written on them, but whether or not all of the scrolls have been made public.

Dead Sea Scrolls Conspiracy

In their 1991 book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, conspiracy theorists Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh claimed that the Vatican delayed the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls whence they discovered content in the scrolls proved Jesus Christ was a fictional character made up by the apostle Paul, whom actually faked his conversion to Christianity as he was a sleeper agent of the Romans.

If this theory sounds ridiculous, one must look to the source of claims. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are two of the three behind the fictional book Holy Blood Holy Grail that tells of the elaborate hoax by a fictional secret society The Priory of Sion. Nonetheless, the author’s two books are best sellers as the world loves a good conspiracy.

Their theory goes to say that the leader of “International Team” spent the majority of its time burying scrolls in cave four instead of publishing them. The real reasons for the delay were the deaths of the two team leaders that oversaw the projects, and most obviously the fact that the majority of the scrolls found in cave four were but thousands of fragments of scrolls that had to be slowly pieced together.

The release of the scrolls found in cave four was the final nail in the Vatican conspiracy coffin. They were coincidentally released the same year Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s book came out, and most scholars agree that the scrolls predate Christianity and nothing in the scrolls can disprove Christianity.

The pure fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t mention Jesus should debunk the theory that Jesus was himself and Essene. There are a handful of scrolls written after the life of Jesus, and it would seem that if Jesus was such a significant religious leader of the group that they would have written about him.