Monday, November 12, 2007

Historical Entry Point Of The Dead Sea Scrolls

It seems people do look after signs for various reasons. What of the signs of the times? If one were to look for the effect of divine providence through the perspective lens of recorded history, one would find evidence of an impression of the Spirit upon that history. The problem is, history by itself explains nothing and is chaotic and meaningless in its raw state. Without its Messiah, it could be said that a secularized version of history poisons everything by making it unreliable.

Much of the canon of scripture that is recognized by the modern church relied over the centuries on a Septuagint verification process. The Septuagint is a faithful translation of the predominantly OT Hebrew into Koine Greek, perfomed shortly before the incarnation of Christ. Although a great deal is lost in translations like the Septuagint because of language differences, verification of much of the canon of today involved the Septuagint reference technique as a tool of reliability sustainment, that is, until recently.

One simply uncanny occurrence happened just prior to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. The sequence of events that unfolded near the Dead Sea in 1947 quickly garnered worldwide attention. The find was beyond strange, and immediately had a dramatic impact on the contemporaneous archeology, scholarship, and technology disciplines. In a series of caves, a providential discovery of a cultural treasure trove took place that not only cross-verified the historicity of the canonical books of the bible, but brought to life new information about the distant past.

In 1947, shortly after World War II, a Bedouin son of a shepherd went chasing after one of the mountain goats he was in charge of overseeing. Mountain goats are good hill climbers, and this one had decided to make a get-away up one of the cliffs of Qumran, a regional series of wadis overlooking the Dead Sea. The Bedouin boy went up the side of the cliff to retrieve the mountain goat.

Unable to lasso the fleeing animal, the boy threw stones in order to knock down the goat from a perch. One of the stones missed and landed in a cave. The stone shattered something inside this cave and at first caused a panic because the immediate concern was that someone’s property had been accidentally destroyed. After some time, curiosity overtook the boy and he reported the incident. What was then found were a series of clay pottery jars in the caves, and interestingly enough, some ancient scrolls within the jars. A detailed search of surrounding caves commenced, and in all, 11 caves were found to have similar clay jars with similar ancient scrolls and artifacts. Archeologists furthermore excavated the nearby ancient Qumran community and began to tie together various evidences of the Essene sect that were believed to have inhabited the area.


Later designated the Dead Sea scrolls by convention, a team of scientists examined the discovered collection of artifacts. The process of examining the Dead Sea scrolls was not without international intrigue, and controversy soon surrounded the project when legal action was taken by the Israeli government for cultural preservation reasons, somewhat prohibiting full scholarship to take place.

Several compositional oddities comprise the Dead Sea scrolls find. The approximate dating of the entire set was determined by resection to be around 100BC, making the undisturbed period of time the scrolls remained in the caves to be nearly 2,000 years in duration. Parchment, leather, and even copper was used to manufacture the scrolls with, which required an arsenal of modern experts and translators to accurately extrapolate what was written on each scroll through a painstaking archeological technique. Due to the extreme age and fragility caused by the deterioration of the scrolls over a long period of time, every effort to prevent destruction of a given scroll was to be made, in some cases taking scholars years to effectively accomplish a complete content rendering.

Another oddity about the Dead Sea scrolls inventory is the attempt to match recovered literary works whose titles were referenced in the bible but presumed unrecoverable today. The title matching effort from referenced books found within the bible itself yielded little with a Dead Sea scrolls comparison. The book referred to in the Pentateuch, the “Wars of the Lord” does not conclusively correlate to the Essene military instruction manual the “War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness” scroll that was the very first Dead Sea scroll found in cave 1. Some unknown works to modern minds were recovered, like the Temple Scroll, Testament of Levi, Peshers, Enoch Giants, Calendrical Document, The Allegory of the Vine, the Suffering Servant at Qumran, the Damascus Document, several hymns, and thousands of fragments that presented a formidable challenge for scholars to work with. Either the Essenes regarded what are considered to be extant works today as part of its canon when the scrolls were stored in the caves, or else the sect had an extremely rich literary culture that held high the extant works on par with the inspired, co-locating them together in the clay jars as revered writings. The Temple Scroll apparently included an additional Torah book when scholars were able to recover the scroll in its entirety in 1967, augmenting the already mysterious quality of the Dead Sea scrolls discovery.

In fact, all of the pre-incarnation Old Testament books of the bible had been definitively uncovered at Qumran except one, and along with these many other odd written works, one particular codex is believed by some to be the earliest existing fragments of the book of Mark. Aside from some unsuccessful work done to recover the book of Nehemiah, the most odd thing of the entire Dead Sea scrolls record is the fact that book of Esther did not turn up at all. Why is that? There is wild speculation about the omission of the book of Esther from such a rich and comprehensive find as the Dead Sea scrolls. For instance, it has been postulated that the book of Esther’s omission is its possible conflict with the esoteric systematic theology of the Essene sect. Many more theories exist about an Israeli government conspiracy, or a mere happenstance that Esther was not found. Interpretive speculation about the book of Esther’s missing in action status in the Dead Sea scrolls inventory has led to such presumptuous claims as Christ authoring these scrolls Himself. The necessary inference that Christ must have then been an early Essene follows the Christological authorship logic further.

Recent scholarly work on some of the odd extant Dead Sea scroll manuscripts have made a convincing case that some of the mysterious fragments contain “Proto-Esther” writings. The Dead Sea scrolls today continue to raise important questions across many different fields of specialized disciplines that directly bear upon the artifacts. The Dead Sea scrolls are still somewhat inconclusive about the questions they raise, not because of a lack of available data to scholars, but because the exhaustive scope of the work needed to be performed on these scrolls remains to be done. To this day, unresolved facets about the Dead Sea scroll contents remain highly speculative and controversial requiring amplification and closer illumination.

1 Comments:

Blogger Rebecca said...

did you see that they are going to digitize the d.s. scrolls?

8/28/2008 01:22:00 AM  

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