Qumran Caves

For more photos of Qumran, visit: Qumran Photos

Qumran is known for the amazing story of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls by some Bedouin goat herders, amidst the struggle of the birth of the State of Israel in 1947. Nearly 900 scrolls in a variety of physical conditions, were discovered here during the years of 1947 to 1956. Being about 1000 years older than any other manuscripts previously found, they bear witness to the accuracy of the translation of the Old Testament in later texts and give us an insight into the period surrounding the time of Christ.

How amazing that these scrolls, which were hidden at Qumran at the fall of the Jewish commonwealth in 70 AD, were again found at its revival in the re-establishment of the Jewish State (on 14 May 1948). These scrolls reveal for us of the lives of the Essenes, a sect within Judaism committed to piety and communal life, who took literally the biblical injunction, Let not this book of the law cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, Joshua 1:8.

Today many of the scrolls found at Qumran may be viewed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Remnants of the scriptorium and numerous copper scrolls, are today located within the collection of the Amman Archeological Museum at the citadel, Amman (Jordan).

The Old Testament has been almost completely verified in the Dead Sea scrolls with very little variation to the Bible we can hold in our hands! Several books, including Deuteronomy and Isaiah have numerous copies. The only book not represented in the scrolls is the book of Esther.

Prior to the finding of the Dead Sea scrolls, the Aleppo Codex, [once preserved in the synagogue in Aleppo, and moved hastily following riots and the burning of the synagogue] was the oldest known complete MSS of the majority of the Old Testament. Segments out of Genesis are now missing from the tome, but the remainder is now housed at the Shrine of the Book where portions are often on display.

I would like to share a comment by HP Mansfield that really impressed me whilst visiting Qumran with him in 1987, the same year that he died, which helps us to feel the real meaning that the Bible can have to us:

“Another viewpoint which we may overlook is that you can go and buy a wide-margin Bible, a very good one for AU$120 [AU$180 now (Ed.)] It is not hard to get AU$120 and buy a Bible, so much so, we could buy Bibles so frequently and easily that we possibly lose the real power and significance of the book we have. The value of that book is lessened through the printing presses of today. But as in the days of the Essenes, going back to Deut 17, the requirement of the King of Israel when he came to the throne was to write for himself a copy of the law that he might read upon it every day, that he might himself apply those principles and that his heart may not be lifted up against others. In the days we are speaking of, when you wanted a Bible, you wrote it by hand, and they didn’t just do it in a scribble with a ball-point pen: they did it properly on parchment and they loved it, there was part of their own lives in that Bible, it meant something to them. And when they knew the Romans were coming, they preserved their holy books, putting them in the caves there because they thought so much of them at that time. If you see a hand-written Bible, you can understand that the writer has poured something of his life into it. Same if you see a well-marked Bible of today: the person treasures their Bible – I would not sell my Bible for $10 000 and I could buy a brand new one, with better binding for AU$120. It is priceless because to me, it is life itself. When you put yourself into a book, or do anything that requires work, it will mean something to you. When you get something for nothing, you treasure it for about the same value. The people are gone but the books remain and that is an important feature of what happened here: a witness to loving care of the Bible, the Word of God. They counted every letter to make sure they didn’t leave any out. We don’t do that; we get it the easy way. We do not concentrate; we have lost the power of it today. To concentrate upon a matter, to take out the Word of God and ponder it and then be motivated by it. These people, whatever they believed, they were moved by it. They made perfectly sure that there wasn’t a mistake. The drama of history is shown here, the Romans coming down here – where are they today? But Israel is here. What did Hadrian say? “Never again will a Jew enter this city”, – but they have! Whenever you see dedication, you see something worth pondering over.”

To view a map of Qumran visit: Qumran Google Map