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Dead Sea Scrolls: Home

Introduction

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Source: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Welcome to the research guide for the Dead Sea Scrolls!

This research guide is intended to help students gain familiarity with the Dead Sea Scrolls, their nomenclature, and the secondary sources at hand.

In 1947, near the site of Qumran at the northern end of the Dead Sea, Bedouin shepherds discovered the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This event took the world by storm. Suddenly, texts which had not been read for over 2,000 years were now circulating in academic circles, sparking questions about what this would mean for Biblical interpretation as we knew it.

The Qumran Caves Scrolls consist of two types: biblical manuscripts of books found in the Hebrew Bible, and non-biblical manuscripts of other religious writings circulating during the Second-Temple period. Many non-biblical manuscripts are considered sectarian in nature, describing the religious beliefs and practices of a particular religious community.

The scrolls largely date from the third century BCE to the first century CE, before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. While they are primarily written in Hebrew, roughly 15 percent were written in Aramaic, and several were written in Greek. The scrolls' materials consist mainly of parchment, although some are papyrus, and one scroll is even engraved on copper. It is thanks to the dry climate of the West Bank that large swathes of parchment and papyri, and the texts whose insights they hold, are preserved today.

In total, 11 Qumran caves were discovered, in addition to several Bar Kokhba Revolt Refuge Caves (Wadi Murabba'at, Nahal Hever Cave 5-6, and Nahal Hever Cave 8). Come explore the Dead Sea!

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This research guide was created by Ariadne Tsoulouhas, M.A.R. Second-Temple Judaism, 2021.