Dead Sea Scrolls: Could There Be More?

Feb 13, 2017 By Caitlin L, Young Editor
iridescent's picture

Even today, our past is being discovered and rediscovered. History is rewritten over and over again, because there are still so many things out there that we haven’t encountered yet.  

One of the greatest findings of the 20th century is what scholars call the Dead Sea Scrolls: ancient texts found in Israel, at a point northwest of the Dead Sea.  

When the scrolls were first uncovered, archeologists thought they’d found them all. But recently, another cave that could potentially house more Dead Sea Scrolls has been discovered.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

In the ancient settlement of Qumran, a shepherd wandered away from his tribe and accidentally stumbled across a cave, and went in only to discover a few pottery jars. Upon closer inspection, these jars contained scrolls made of animal skin, papyrus, and precious metals. They were written from 150 B.C. to 70 A.D.

These scrolls are called the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the discovery caused a frantic search for more. From 1947 to 1956, a total of ten other caves were found in the Desert of Judea, all housing scrolls. In total, over 800 full documents were found, as well as many more fragments of text, all more than 2000 years old. Not all of the scrolls are written in the same language. While most of them are in Hebrew, there are portions that contained Aramaic and Greek.

Different scrolls contain different types of writing. There are biblical texts, as well as documents that explain Jewish history and how society worked back then. In addition, the scrolls contain the one of the oldest religious texts; parts of the writing include the same stories that show up in the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible.

Today, scholars still aren’t completely sure who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. For now, the most popular theory is that the Essenes, one of the four Jewish groups that lived in that area around that time, are the authors.  They may have fled the Temple of Jerusalem through underground sewers during the Roman invasion and perhaps sought refuge in the caves

Adding To the Collection?

Recently, a twelfth cave in Qumran has been discovered. So far, archeologists haven’t found any more scrolls, but Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Ahiad Ovadia, and Dr. Randall Price, who are in charge of this excavation, say the situation looks promising.  

Pottery jars, the same ones used to store the scrolls in the other caves, precious stones, and leather used to wrap the scrolls have been found. However, traces of modern pickaxe heads suggest that any scrolls the cave contained were possibly stolen around the 1950s.

In the end, archeologists only pulled out a roll of blank parchment from the cave, but these hints confirm there are definitely more scrolls that have yet to be found. If more Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered, they could deepen our understanding of that time, as well as how Jesus and Christians in the past lived, something that is still not completely clear to scholars today.  

Courtesy History.com, BBC News