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The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls

 

“The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

In 1947, a powerful testimony to these words revealed itself in the mountainous wastelands east of Jerusalem. A shepherd, exploring the area to the northwest of the Dead Sea stumbled across a cave containing several scrolls wrapped in skins and cloth. The cache of scrolls discovered here and in the surrounding caves turned out to contain the earliest known copies of the Old Testament, older than any other by about a thousand years.

Written on skins and pressed papyrus, the 850 scrolls found in about 15 000 fragments contained parts of every single Old Testament book with the exception of the book of Esther. What is even more amazing is that when compared with current copies of the Old Testament books they are virtually identical! The two copies of the Isaiah scroll are 95% identical with our traditional Hebrew texts. The only differences discovered were scribal errors such as differences in spelling, syntax and grammar. The record of God’s word was held in such high value that the message has remained the same even though it was copied time after time after time.

Amongst these copies of biblical books were other religious writing, biblical commentaries, hymns and other historical records. The entire find was incredible to archaeologists, as parchment and papyrus normally decay fairly quickly in the Middle Eastern climate.

In this library were discovered remnants of 19 copies of the book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy and 30 copies of the book of Psalms. These fragments have been stored in museums around the world.

Probably the most valuable and well known scroll was a complete copy of the prophecy of Isaiah, over 23 feet long! This is now carefully preserved in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, an amazing witness that although the grass withers and the flower fade; the word of our God will indeed stand forever!

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