The Discovery & Significance Of The Dead Sea Scrolls Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Bible, Religion, History, Death, Sea, Water, Significance, Criminal Justice

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/01/20


The Dead Sea Scrolls are a group of manuscripts discovered during the middle of the 20th Century in the caves of Qumran and surrounding territories. “Dead Sea scrolls” as the name implies, is based on the general geography in which the scrolls were discover i.e. the Dead Sea close to the West Bank. The scrolls have been concluded to be from the third Century BCE, alternatively known as the “Second Temple Period”. The purpose of this essay is to highlight the process of discovery, interpretation of the texts and its significance in terms of religious, linguistic and historical contexts. In this regard, a special focus would be diverted towards the content of the manuscripts as well as the categories that have been created by scholars to identify and manage the works of religious, social and historical significance.

Discovery of the Scrolls and Associated Analysis:

In the year 1947, a group of young Bedouin tribesmen were passing through the desert and came close to the site of Qumran. Upon entering the site, the young men discovered caves and small openings and sought to explore this apparently unchartered locality. It was here that they discovered a large variety of jars that held the scrolls. The Bedouin tribesmen set on a quest to discover as many scrolls as they possibly could and sold them at a fraction of its value to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. It was through this antiquities dealer that a professor at the Hebrew University, Eliezer Lipa Sukenik, observed the manuscripts and realized that they were of great historical significance and that it had lied dormant for possibly thousands of years. The professor then set upon a quest to collect more scrolls of the same type and sought to gather as much information on them as possible to attain a coherent understanding of their significance. The very next year, the rising Arab-Israeli tensions forced for the relocation of the remaining three scrolls to the USA from where, in 1954, they were finally bought by the son of Professor Eliezer Lipa Sukenik, bringing the total religious scrolls to seven. They were brought to the attention of the academic world and as a consequence, further excavations were made in the Qumran region which yielded around 981 texts of different varieties, becoming one of the most significant religious findings of the 20th century. For the next several decades, the manuscripts were analyzed, categorized and compiled by a team of scholars, experts and researchers and was released over the course of a decade, in the 1990’s by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Categories, Content and Significance of the Scrolls:

The scrolls discovered at Qumran and later across the region can be divided into a number of sub-categories but the one overarching category includes the “Biblical” and the “non-biblical” texts. The biblical compositions include the “Scriptures”, “Tefillin” and “Mezuzot.” The scriptures are texts that officially belong in the Hebrew Bible and contain references and material in all biblical books though it must be noted that scholars still contend whether or not the material makes any reference to the book of Esther. It has been argued by some scholars that the reason for the exclusion of Esther from these texts is because of her socially repugnant and morally repulsive act of marrying the Persian king of the time. As far as the number and frequency of the discovered texts is concerned, a correlation between different biblical works and the Dead Sea scrolls highlights how the largest number of references is made to the Psalms while the lowest number of references has been made to both Ecclesiastes and Joshua. The Tefillin and Mezuzot are, on the other hand, objects such as amulets that contain biblical references and are known to have been placed on parchments and house entrances. These also contain important textual elements and have held symbolic and ritualistic significance. More than two hundred biblical texts have been found in the Dead Sea Scroll documents and letters whilst other texts also include elements of religious works but such importance has been disputed by scholars ever since the discovery of the scrolls and are therefore categorized as Non-Biblical in nature. The Non-Biblical texts themselves have been categorized into different types which include “Apocrypha”, “Calendrical Texts”, “Exegetical Texts” , “Pesher” , “Historical Texts”, “Legal Texts, “Para biblical texts” , “Liturgical Texts” , “Sapiental” and “Sectarian Texts”. Furthermore, different types of documents and letters have also been identified within the non-biblical category as well. The Apocrypha refers to works that include elements of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church but exclude the Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Church. The Celandrical Texts are calendars based on the solar tradition and were used in the past to calculate important religious rites and festivals. Exegetical literature is a form of work that analyzes and interprets religious works with citations and supports and “Pesher” is a known form of exegetical text that informs about the Yahad Community’s Historical experiences. In a similar vein, the “Historical texts” also incorporate elements of the exegetical texts and re-interpret historical events in light of morality and theology. The “Halakha” or the Legal text present legal principles used to adjudicate issues ranging from religious rituals, family, morality, proper manner of worship and purity. The Para biblical texts are used to explore and expand the existing interpretations of primary religious works and seek to attain an in-depth understanding of important principles and events mentioned in the bible. The Liturgical texts contain poetic rhymes and sayings which were both of a personalized and communal nature. They were also religious in nature. Additionally, the Sapiental texts are similar to the liturgical texts but include quotations and instructions on the practical way of life. Finally, one of the most important non-biblical texts are referred to as the “Sectarian texts” and contain information about the weltanschauung, theology, practical affairs, legal and moral matters of the sect of “Yahad”. Recurrent theme of “End of Days” has been mentioned which signify the importance of such an event of this community. The Documents and letters discovered at the site mention and explain ideas about the military, finances, marriage contracts, legal issues and farming. They were found at a specific cave in Qumran, known as the “Cave of Letters” and scholars speculate that their purpose was to ensure that these documents remained there as a form of safe-keeping.


The important parts of the manuscript are made available at museums, especially in Israel. As mentioned earlier, the Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most significant religious excavations of the twentieth century because they contain highly important texts that make reference to the Hebrew Bible and extend its history by over a thousand years. It is a collection of the second oldest manuscripts as far as the Hebrew Bible is concerned and significantly improves the understanding of important historical and religious events and alters the manner in which important Religious texts are perceived and interpreted.

References:,. 2015. 'The Dead Sea Scrolls - Introduction'.,. 2015. 'History & Overview Of The Dead Sea Scrolls | Jewish Virtual Library'.,. 2015. 'Educational Site: Dead Sea Scrolls'.

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