Lesson Nine: The Dead Sea Scrolls

Lesson Nine: The Dead Sea Scrolls

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men:
for ye neither go in yourselves,
neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

(Matthew 23:13)

Jesus spoke many fiery words to the scribes and scholars of His day for not believing and practicing the things they wrote. They “shut up the kingdom of heaven” and thus shut themselves out of it. They wrote of the Messiah and yet they did not recognize Him when He was among them. They rejected their King, His Kingdom, and crucified the Lord of Glory. They copied the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament with all of its books. They also copied other ancient writings which they considered either important or holy such as: Jewish history and philosophy, instructions in how to live a godly and righteous life, concerns of the day, and hopes for the future. They were ever writing, ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

West of the northern half of the Dead Sea lies the ruins of Qumran. A fantastic discovery was made in 1947 in the various caves throughout that region. Scrolls and fragments of scrolls were found. These ancient writings became the center of attention for both the media and students of the Bible and archaeology. Like sheep desiring water, a Bedouin shepherd had lead a thirsty world to the most acclaimed finding in the twentieth-century, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Many claims have been made about the Scrolls. Some, while drinking at this newly found fountain of knowledge, have seen the scrolls as a pool of Bethesda offering spiritual or academic healing of some kind. Others have seen them as the waters of Marah, bitter and full of corruption. Perhaps the best way to view them is to see them for what they are–scrolls written by scribes. Like the many writings of men, they offer things which are both sweet and bitter. At least five hundred different scribes were responsible for writing the Dead Sea Scrolls (see Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls? by Norman Golb. Scribner Publishers, 1995. p.154.). Most are dated before the time of Christ, while some are dated during and after Christ. One cannot but wonder if any of the writers of the scrolls heard the message of Jesus Christ and His condemnation for not practicing what they had copied. What is certain, however, is that those scribes who heard the Savior’s message had access to what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.


The scrolls have found their way into the literature of those who support the Traditional Text and the Authorized Version. Dr. Edward F. Hills devotes three pages of his book, The King James Version Defended, to the Dead Sea Scrolls. After correctly stating that the scrolls do not always agree with themselves, he writes:

Thus we see that, despite the new discoveries, our confidence in the trustworthiness of the Old Testament text must rest on some more solid foundation than the opinions of naturalistic scholars. For as the Qumran studies demonstrate, these scholars disagree with one another. What one scholar grants another takes away. Instead of depending on such inconstant allies, Bible-believing Christians should develop their own type of Old Testament textual criticism, a textual criticism which takes its stand on the teachings of the Old Testament itself and views the evidence in the light of these teachings. Such a believing textual criticism leads us to full confidence in the Masoretic (Traditional) Hebrew text which was preserved by the divinely appointed Old Testament priesthood and the scribes and scholars grouped around it. (p. 102).

Giving claim that the scrolls were produced by the Essenes, a strict Jewish sect, Dr. Donald A. Waite writes,

[The Essenes] left the Jewish beliefs their fathers had. They were an offshoot and a false, heretical cult. There are two reasons for questioning these Dead Sea Scrolls where they might differ with the Masoretic Hebrew text: (1) They might have had corrupt Hebrew texts that they began with, at least in some places; (2) They might have been careless in the transmission of these texts. These are both unknown, hence, they should never be used to replace the Masoretic Hebrew text. (Defending the King James Bible, p.30)

When asked, “Do the Dead Sea Scrolls render the King James Bible obsolete?” Dr. Samuel C. Gipp responds with,”No, they support it.” He then expands his response:

Their text actually agrees with the King James Bible. This fact makes them unattractive to scholars desiring to overthrow the perfect Bible. So, other than commenting on the irony of the way in which they were found, they are largely ignored. The translators of the King James Bible did not need the Dead Sea Scrolls since they already had the Textus Receptus which they match. (The Answer Book: A Helpful Handbook for Christians. Shelbyville, TN: Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation. 1989. p.102)

The fact that information about the scrolls is somewhat concise and limited is to be expected when examining the issue of the King James Bible. The same may be said of most studies provided by supporters of modern versions against the Traditional Text. The primary reason for this is that, for the most part, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not deal with the issue of New Testament textual criticism. The Bible believing scholars mentioned above are dealing with the issues of reconstructing the text of the New Testament as it affects the Biblical promise of preservation. However, supporters of the Traditional Text do mention the affects of the scrolls, as do the supporters of the Alexandrian Text. Since there is a general interest concerning the scrolls, and because a study of the scrolls can reveal both the method and motives of modern scholarship, it becomes appropriate to discuss these ancient manuscripts.


The story tells of a shepherd boy, Muhammad adh-Dhib (which means Muhammad the wolf), out seeking his lost goat (or sheep according to some accounts). Thinking that the animal had wondered off into one of the many nearby caves, Muhammad threw a stone into one of them hoping to hear the sound of his lost goat scurrying off. Instead, he heard the sound of a jar braking. Calling one of his friends, he entered the cave and found ancient manuscripts laying in the cave, hidden in primitive jars. Thus was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

However, this story is not written in stone. There are other versions concerning Muhammad adh-Dhib and his amazing discovery. Another account says the fifteen-year-old shepherd was simply herding some goats when he found the cave. Still other accounts say that Muhammad adh-Dhib and his friend were seeking shelter from a storm in the cave when they came across the manuscripts. There is also the story which says that the shepherd, along with a few of his friends, were smuggling goods from Jordan to Bethlehem when they happened to come upon the scrolls.

Regardless of which account of the story is true, the seven scrolls discovered in this cave are very significant findings. The scrolls found in what was later designated as Cave I were the two Isaiah Scrolls (1QIsa. a. and 1QIsa b.), The Habakkuk Commentary, The Manual of Discipline, The Thanksgiving Scroll, The War Scroll, and the Genesis Apocryphon. Later, additional manuscripts were discovered revealing the vast majority of the Old Testament Books along with additional religious and secular writings. These scrolls and fragments are considered by scholars as the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times.

Cave I is located in the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, about a mile and a half from the shore line in what was then the Wilderness of Jordan. It also stands about a mile from the Khirbet Qumran, the old ruins believed to be the dwelling place of the Essene sect by the majority of scholars. However, at the time Qumran was thought of as an old fortress.

Three of the scrolls were taken to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by Dr. Eliezer Sukenik. The other scrolls were sold to St. Mark’s, a Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, where the church’s head, called the Metropolitan, retained them. The Metropolitan, Mar Samuel, took the scrolls to the American School of Oriental Research, also in Jerusalem, for their examination. It was then that an announcement was made to the world. In London’s, The Times, an article dated April 12, 1948 read as follows:

Yale University announced yesterday the discovery in Palestine of the earliest known manuscript of the Book of Isaiah. It was found in the Syrian monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem, where it had been preserved in a scroll of parchment dating to about the first century BC. Recently it was identified by scholars of the American School of Oriental Research at Jerusalem.

There were also examined at the school three other ancient Hebrew scrolls. One was part of a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk; another seemed to be a manual of discipline of some comparatively little-known sect or monastic order, possibly the Essenes. The third scroll has not been identified. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, p.6)

Dr. Sukenik’s son, Yigael Yadin (also noted as a Qumran expert), was in the United States in 1954. Mar Samuel was visiting the United States at that same time seeking to sell his scrolls. Yadin purchased the four scrolls from Mar Samuel for $250,000 dollars, and gave them to the newly formed state of Israel. The seven scrolls were united and placed in a special museum, shaped like a lid of one of the jars in which the scrolls were kept. The museum is known as the Shrine of the Book.

It was difficult to excavate the caves in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, a difficult chapter in Middle Eastern history. By the time the knowledge of the scrolls was known, the state of Israel was being formed, and war raged in the Middle East. Despite this unsettling interval, the Bedouins continued to search the region and discovered additional scrolls. Eventually, eleven caves were excavated and thousands of fragments were discovered. Throughout the years these scrolls and scroll fragments have been published and translated. Many of the manuscripts remained unpublished until the early 1990’s.

Dating the scrolls has always been a problem. Not all scholars agree on the exact date. For the most part, the scrolls are dated from about the third century BC to around 68 AD. The method of dating rests on several factors. Findings among the scrolls or at Qumran, such as pots and coins, have helped fix the date of the scrolls. Paleography, the science of dating manuscripts by the shape of letters used in writing, also accounts for the dates of the scrolls. Carbon-14 dating was used on the cloth which held one of the Isaiah scrolls, but until recently Carbon-14 dating could not be used on the scrolls themselves because it required a large section of the scrolls to be destroyed. However, Carbon-14 dating methods have improved and now only a small fragment is needed in this process. An article in the Biblical Archaeology Review has shown that the dates fixed by paleography have been confirmed by Carbon-14 dating (see BAR, November/December, 1991. p.72). For the most part, Carbon-14 dating was exactly the same as the paleography dates given to the manuscripts. It is interesting to note, however, that the Masada manuscript of Joshua, which is of the Masoretic Text, had been dated by scholars as being written somewhere around 30 AD, according to paleographic studies. However, Carbon-14 dating on the same manuscript gave it a range of 150 to 75 BC.


Some have mistakenly assumed that the Dead Sea Scrolls only contain Biblical writings. The truth is that the scrolls reflect a library scattered throughout eleven caves. Some are still in scroll form, but most are fragmentary after about two thousand years of aging. With the exceptions of Esther and Nehemiah, every book of the Old Testament is represented in the findings at Qumran. It should be noted, however, that representation and full representation are not the same thing. Some books are represented with only fragmentary evidence in very limited number, while other books are better and more fully represented among the findings. For example, in the most current published lists of manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls there are thirty-six manuscripts which represent the book of Psalm, making it the most represented Biblical book among the scrolls. It is followed by Deuteronomy with twenty-nine manuscripts and Isaiah with twenty-one. First and Second Chronicles are represented by only one manuscript, as is Ezra. Most of the others have under ten manuscripts which represent their writings. The exceptions are those previously listed; as well as Genesis (with fifteen manuscripts), Exodus (with seventeen), and Leviticus (with thirteen). There are about eight hundred manuscripts among the scrolls. Of these, slightly over two hundred represent Biblical books, which means only about one-forth of the Qumran library contained copies of the scriptures.

It should also be pointed out that not all of these Biblical books represent the same textual history. The Biblical books found at Qumran are divided into three textual categories. 1) Manuscripts which represent the Masoretic-Traditional Text. 2) Manuscripts which represent the text of the Septuagint. 3) Manuscripts which represent the Samaritan text. However, according to Dr. Emanuel Tov (who became co-editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1991) there are two additional groups. 4) Texts which demonstrate a unique style of writing, spelling, and grammar found only at Qumran. 5) Nonaligned texts which do not show any allegiance to the four other groups. About 25% of the Biblical manuscripts found at Qumran fall into the nonaligned category. (See, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, by James C. VanderKam. Eerdmans, 1994. pp.133-134).

The Proto-Masoretic Text:

These manuscripts are called *Proto-Masoretic* because they agree with the Masoretic Text, yet date before the Masoretic Text became the official Hebrew Bible, as recognized by scholarship. It should be noted that the Dead Sea Scrolls were a great find in establishing the importance of the Masoretic Text as the authoritative text. Up until the finds at Qumran (as well as findings at Wadi Murabbaat) the oldest Masoretic Texts dated to the middle ages. With Qumran, we now have manuscripts almost a thousand years older which are Masoretic. Most of the scrolls which came from Cave IV are of this textual type and represent Biblical books such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets, as well as some fragments of the Law and Historical books. Geisler and Nix state that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have

. . .dismiss(ed) any remaining doubts about the fidelity of the Masoretic text by providing scholars with hundreds of manuscripts including almost every book of the Old Testament, which antedate the extant Masoretic manuscripts by a thousand years. The results of scholarly comparison reveal that the Masoretic text and the various text types of the Dead Sea manuscripts are substantially indentical. (A General Introduction to the Bible, p.266).

The most noted is perhaps the Isaiah Scrolls. Two scrolls containing the book of Isaiah were found in Cave I. The first is sometimes called the St. Mark’s Manuscript (1QIsa a.) because it was initially owned by St. Mark’s Monastery. The second is sometimes called the Hebrew University manuscript of Isaiah (1QIsa b.) because it is owned by that University. Both represent the Masoretic Hebrew Text, and are considered a major victory for both the Masoretic Text and the King James Bible. Dr. James C. VanderKam has recently pointed out that,

Once scholars had had opportunity to study the great Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 (1QIs a, copied in approximately 100 BC) and to compare it with the Masoretic Text, they were impressed with the results. Despite the fact that the Isaiah scroll was about a thousand years older than the Masoretic version of Isaiah, the two were nearly identical except for small details that rarely affected the meaning of the text (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, p. 126)

One of these minor variants referred to by VanderKam, and noted in his book, is found in Isaiah 6:3. The Masoretic Text and the King James Bible read, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” However, the St. Mark’s Isaiah text reads, “Holy, holy is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” thus omitting the word “holy.” Nevertheless, with the exception of some places such as the one given, the Isaiah scroll is a major victory for the Masoretic Text, as stated by Dr. Mansoor,

The text is by and large the same as that of the traditional Book of Isaiah. Most of the deviations from the Masoretic text are in details of spelling and grammar, but in some instances there are very definite variant readings. . . Some of the differences between the St. Mark’s Isaiah scroll and the Masoretic text are merely mistakes in writing–omission or addition of one or more words, the confusion of words and letters, the substitution of one word for another, the transposition of words or of letters within a word, and various errors of other kinds. (The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 74-75)

And, as close as this scroll is to the Masoretic tradition, the Hebrew University’s Isaiah scroll is still closer. Again, Mansoor writes, “Unlike the St. Mark’s scroll, the Hebrew University scroll agrees closely with the Masoretic text.” (Ibid., p. 79). Dr. Ernst Wurthwein adds to this by writing,

. . . the agreement of the second Isaiah scroll (i.e. 1QIsa b.) with (the Masoretic text) is striking . . . it has been taken by some as evidence for the existence of the type of text we identify as Masoretic long before the Masoretic period. Although the text of this scroll presents very few problems in itself, it poses for us the basic and still unsolved problem of the age of the Masoretic text. (The Text of the Old Testament, p.144).

About 40% of the Biblical texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are Masoretic. Further, the group of manuscripts listed by Dr. Tov as unique to Qumran also, “resemble the later Masoretic Text.” (VanderKam, p.143) These texts account for 25% of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thus, as one can see, among the Biblical books of Dead Sea Scrolls, 65% reflect the Traditional Text of the Old Testament.

Adding additional support to the Masoretic readings among the Dead Sea Scrolls we must also consider the findings at Wadi Murabbaat and Masada. In 1951 caves at Wadi Murabbaat, which is south of Qumran near the Dead Sea, were discovered which contained Biblical manuscripts. The difference here is that these Biblical texts reflect the Masoretic Text and exclude other textual types. Dr. Menahem Mansoor wrote, “The biblical manuscripts found at Wadi Murabbaat are important in that, unlike the Qumran manuscripts, they uniformly exhibit a text coinciding with the Masoretic text.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Eerdmans, 1964. p.28). These manuscripts, however, are slightly younger and are believed to have been written between 132-135 AD. Concerning their content, Mansoor informs us that

Biblical fragments dating from the first and second centuries AD were found. The fragments from the Murabbaat caves provide a text identical with that of the Masoretes in the texts of the Pentateuch, Isaiah, Minor Prophets, and Psalm, whereas this is not true of the biblical texts found at Qumran. (Ibid., p. 31).

Between 1963 and 1965 additional manuscripts were discovered while excavating Masada, the famous rock fortress where Jewish nationalists withheld the advances of the Roman army in 73 or 74 AD. Fourteen scrolls containing Biblical texts were found which, “agree extensively with the traditional (i.e. Masoretic) Biblical texts–only in the text of Ezekiel are there a few insignificant variants.” (Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, Eerdmans; 1979. p.31). Masada is even further south of Qumran than Wadi Murabbaat along the western coast of the Dead Sea. These manuscripts must date before the fall of the fortress, which places them before 74 AD. Yet, they reflect the Masoretic Traditional Text of the Hebrew Old Testament.

The Proto-Septuagint Text:

Only 5% of the Dead Sea Scrolls are Proto-Septuagint. These are texts written in Hebrew which reflect a reading more like the Greek Septuagint than they do the Traditional Text. For example, both the Greek Septuagint and the text of Jeremiah found at Qumran (4QJer b.) agree in omitting a healthy portion of the text. For example, in the passage from Jeremiah 10:3-11, verses 6, 7, 8, and 10 are omitted in both the Septuagint and 4QJer b. Also, as we discussed in our last lesson, the Septuagint and Qumran text (4QExod a.) agree in stating the number of the descendants of Jacob as seventy-five instead of the seventy listed in the Masoretic Text. Thus, some have assumed that Stephen was citing either the Septuagint or the Proto-Septuagint text of Qumran in giving the number as seventy-five (Acts 7:14 and Exodus 1:5). However, as we have already discussed, this can be explained by the way the family was numbered and not the text Stephen was citing.

The same is true of the passages in Deuteronomy 32:43 and Hebrews 1:6 with the phrase, “let all the angels of God worship him.” Again, both the Septuagint and the Qumran text (4QDeut q.) have the phrase, while the Traditional Text does not. Like the previous example, this has been discussed in our last lesson. It is interesting to note the comment made by Ralph Klein in his book, Textual Criticism of the Old Testament: The Septuagint after Qumran. In discussing the differences found in the Qumran manuscripts, and their relation to both the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text of Exodus 1:1-6, he asks, “Which reading is original, the MT or the Hebrew used by the LXX translators and at Qumran? No final answer is possible.” (p. 15). The statement is true only if we concede that the original text can only be ascertained through the process of textual criticism and not maintained by the Author of Holy Writ through Biblical preservation. It is because of this truth, Biblical preservation, that we can see additional resolutions to textual problems which seem to allude the majority of modern scholarship.

The Proto-Samaritan Text:

As with the Proto-Septuagint Textual Type of the Dead Sea Scrolls, only 5% of the manuscripts found make up what is called the Proto-Samaritan Textual Type. The Samaritan Pentateuch, as indicated by the name, consisted only of the five books of Moses. The Hebrew text is often the same as the Masoretic Text with differences in spelling rather than textual variants. However, there are nineteen hundred variants which agree with the text of the Septuagint over that of the Masoretic. This text also has some additions to it. Like the Masoretic Text, the copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch we have date to the Middle Ages. The findings at Qumran show that this textual type existed before 68 AD. The Proto-Samaritan text found at Qumran did not have the special additions found in the Samaritian Pentateuch.

The information concerning the various textual types found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with other findings in that area, should reveal something to the Bible-believing Christian. First, as in any library, the library at Qumran shows a diverse variation of material. Is this not to be expected? If a student were to visit my personal library, they would discover a wide variety of textual types and general information. Second, considering the wide use of the Masoretic Text in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and its exclusive use in other manuscript findings near the Dead Sea, the Traditional Hebrew Text must be unquestionably considered as authoritative. In it, we see both the handiwork and blessing of God. Third, as in the study of New Testament textual criticism, it should not surprise the Believer to see the subtle hand of the Enemy corrupting and questioning the very words of God (Genesis 3:1). Thus we are to expect additional textual types, as we have seen in the study of New Testament textual criticism, with the endorsement of scholarship over Biblical preservation.


As has been stated, only about one-fourth of the scrolls are Biblical books. In addition to various books of the Old Testament, there are also manuscripts which contain Jewish Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal texts as well as other texts. These manuscripts make up the greater bulk of the writings among the Dead Sea Scrolls, accounting for about three-fourth of all the manuscripts found at Qumran.

Apocryphal Books:

As with the Septuagint, there are within the scrolls historical and non-historical books which make up the Jewish Apocrypha. These are books which are not recognized as canonical by Jews and Protestants. Instead they are considered historical or inspirational, but not inspired. However, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church consider the Apocrypha canonical.

Only four Apocryphal books are represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The book of Tabit is represented in both Aramaic and Hebrew manuscripts. Five copies of the book have been found in Cave IV (4Q196-200) and all but one of these is written in Aramaic. The book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira) is also represented at Qumran. Fragments of this book were found in Cave II and Cave XI. Cave VII yielded a chapter from the book of Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah. All the manuscripts found in Cave VII which can be read are written in Greek. Psalm 151, which is found in the Septuagint, was included in the Psalm Scroll from Cave XI.

Pseudepigraphal Books:

Pseudepigraphal books are religious books which are not considered canonical by Protestants, Catholics, or Jews. Of these, only three which were previously known were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are the books of Enoch, Jubilees, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. In addition, new Pseudepigrapha books were discovered in the caves at Qumran. Dr. Robert Eisenman and Dr. Michael Wise have made several of these available in their book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered.

One example would be the Joshua Apocryphon (4Q522). Although the first half of the book consists of names and places, the second half does tell of the Rock of Zion and the Davidic Kingdom in prophecy. The fragment consists of two columns and is translated as follows:

column 1

column 2

. . . and en Qeber and . . .Valley, and Bet Zippor, with . . .all the Valley of Mozza . . .and HeikhalYezed and Yapur and . . . and Mini and En Kober . . .Garim and Hedita and Oshel . . . which . . .and Ashkalon . . .[G]alil, and the two . . .and the Sharon . . .Judah, and Beer Sheba, and Baalot . . .and Qeilah and Adullam and . . .Gezer and Thamni and Gamzon and . . . Hiqqar and Qittar and Ephronim and Shakkoth . . .Bet Horon, the lower and the upper, and . . .and the Upper and the Lower Gilat.

. . .to establish there the . . .the times, for a son is about to be born to Jesse, son of Perez, son of Ju[dah] . . .the rock of Zion, and he will disposes from there all the Amorites . . .to build the House of the Lord, the God of Israel. Gold and silver . . . cedars and cypress will he bring from Lebanon to build it, and the sons of Satan . . .he will do priestly service there and a man . . .your . . . from the . . . And the Lord will establish David securely . . . [He]aven will dwell with him forever. But now, the Amorites are there, and the Canaanites . . .dwell where the Hittites, none of whom have I sought . . .from you. And the Shilonite, and the . . .I have given him as a servant . . .And now, let us establish . . .far from . . .Eleazar . . .forever, from the House . . .army . . . (Ibid., pp.91-92)

Perhaps the most noted among the new Pseudepigrapha books is the Genesis Apocryphon. This was one of the seven original scrolls discovered in 1947 in Cave I. It consists of several stories, written in Aramaic, which are based on characters found in the book of Genesis. Included are expansions on the lives of Lamech, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Each story is told in the first person giving their personal account of events in their lives. For example, it says of Noah that he was such a wondrous child that Lamech, Noah’s father, thought his wife, Noah’s mother, had an affair with one of the fallen angels of Genesis chapter six. Lamech seeks the advice of his father, Methuselah, who seeks the counsel of his father, Enoch. The following is this story as translated from the scrolls by Dr. Geza Vermes.

. . . Behold, I thought then within my heart that conception was (due) to the Watchers and the Holy Ones . . .and to the Giants . . .and my heart was troubled within me because of this child. Then I, Lamech, approached Bathenosh [my] wife in haste and said to her, ‘ . . . by the Most High, the Great Lord, the King of all the worlds and Ruler of the Sons of Heaven, until you tell me all things truthfully, if . . . Tell me [this truthfully] and not falsely . . . by the King of all the worlds until you tell me truthfully and not falsely.’

Then Bathenosh my wife spoke to me with much heat [and] . . . and said, ‘O my brother, O my lord, remember my pleasure . . . they lying together and my soul within its body. [And I tell you] all things truthfully.’

. . . Then she mastered her anger and spoke to me saying ‘O my lord, O my [brother, remember] my pleasure! I swear to you by the Holy Great One, the King of [the heavens] . . . that this seed is yours and that [this] conception is from you. This fruit was planted by you . . . and by no stranger or Watcher or Son of Heaven . . . [Why] is your countenance thus changed and dismayed, and why is your spirit thus distressed . . .I speak to you truthfully.’

Then I, Lamech, ran to Methuselah my father, and [I told] him all these things. [And I asked him to go to Enoch] his father for he would surely learn all things from him. For he was beloved, and he shared the lot [of the angels], who taught him all things. And when Methuselah heard [my words . . . he went to] Enoch his father to learn all things truthfully from him . . .his will.

He went at once to Parwain and he found him there . . .[and] he said to Enoch his father, ‘O my father, O my lord, to whom I . . .And I say to you, lest you be angry with me because I come here . . . (The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 1962. pp.216-216)

Other Texts:

There are other texts which should be considered. One of the original seven scrolls is the Habakkuk Commentary. Other Old Testament commentaries were discovered as well. These are called peshers, a Hebrew word meaning “interpretations.” The verse is given, followed by the interpretation or commentary. The line is introduced, for the most part, with the phrase, “This refers to . . .” or “The meaning of this is . . .” The following is an example of such, as translated by Dr. Theodor H. Gaster. The pesher is based on Habakkuk 1:12-13:

‘Him hast thou appointed, O Lord, to wreak the judgment: and him has thou established, O Rock, to proffer the charge–him who has kept his vision pure, that it could not look upon perverseness.’ This refers to the fact that God will not exterminate His people by the hand of the heathen, but will place the execution of judgment on all the heathen in the hands of His elect. Moreover, it is through charges proffered by the latter that the wicked among His own people will stand condemned–that is, the people who kept His commandments only when they were in trouble. This is what the Scriptures means by the words, ‘him who has kept his vision pure that it could not look upon evil.’ The reference is to the fact that [God’s elect] did not go a-whoring after (the lusts of) their eyes during the Era of Wickedness. (The Dead Sea Scriptures in English Translation, p.251)

The Manual of Discipline was so named by Dr. Millar Burrows, who has written what has become the standard work on the Scrolls. His book is simply titled, The Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Burrows was one of the first to translate The Manual of Discipline. He named it such because it reminded him of a Methodist Discipline Manual. This manuscript is sometimes called The Community Rule. Dr. Geza Vermes comments on this manuscript in saying,

There are, to my knowledge, no writings in ancient Jewish sources parallel to the Community Rule, but a similar type of literature flourished among Christians between the second and fourth centuries, the so-called ‘Church Orders’ represented by the Didache, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Constitution, etc. (The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 71)

The following comes from the Manual of Discipline as translated by Dr. Burrows. The passage is but a small section discussing the two spirits within man.

He created man to have dominion over the world and made for him two spirits, that he might walk by them until the appointed time of his visitation; they are the spirits of truth and of error. In the abode of light are the origins of truth, and from the source of darkness are the origins of error. In the hand of the prince of lights is dominion over all sons of righteousness; in the ways of light they walk. And in the hand of the angel of darkness is all dominion over the sons of error; and in the ways of darkness they walk. And by the angel of darkness is the straying of all the sons of righteousness, and all their sins and their iniquities and their guilt, and the transgressions of their works in his dominion, according to the mysteries of God, until his time, and all their afflictions and the appointed times of their distress in the dominion of his enmity. And all the spirits of his lot try to make the sons of light stumble; but the God of Israel and his angel of truth have helped all the sons of light. For he created the spirits of light and of darkness, and upon them he founded every work and upon their ways every service. One of the spirits God loves for all the ages of eternity, and with all its deeds he is pleased forever; as for the other, he abhors its company, and all its ways he hates forever. (The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 374)

It should be noted that the Manual of Discipline disregards the Old Testament teaching of one Messiah with two comings. Instead, its teaches there will be two Messiahs. The Dead Sea Scriptures In English Translation, p.58)

Among the scrolls are praises and hymns to God, such as the Thanksgiving Scroll. This also was one of the original seven scrolls found in 1947. The following is an example of the reading found in this scroll.

Thou art long-suffering in Thy judgements and righteous in all Thy deeds. By Thy wisdom [all things exist from] eternity, and before creating them Thou knewest their works for ever and ever. [Nothing] is done [without Thee] and nothing is known unless Thou desire it. (The Dead Sea Scrolls, p.150)

The War Scroll was originally entitled, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness. The scroll contains both military and religious information. Dr. Mansoor writes,

The scroll is important for several reasons. It provides the first comprehensive data on military regulations for the Jewish armies during the late period of the Second Temple. The material also includes military and technical terms hitherto unknown. Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University, one of the foremost authorities on the War Scroll, says that it contains, “the oldest record of Hebrew military craft that we have extant, clearer and more precise than anything on the subject by the best classical historians.”(The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 57).

The writers of the scroll saw the physical world as an example of the spiritual. They believed that all humanity was divided into one of two groups, the Sons of Light or the Sons of Darkness. They saw themselves as the Sons of Light. They believed that if they, the Sons of Light, kept the commandments and laws of God as God gave them, they would be victorious over their enemies. They believed in a future battle, which some have mistakenly assumed was Armageddon, in which men and angels would fight. The war would last for a total of forty years, with the Sabbatical years as years of rest from war. Thus, every seven years there would be a year of peace. The following is the opening to the War Scroll.

At the beginning of the undertaking of the sons of light, they shall start against the lot of the sons of darkness, the army of Belial, against the troop of Edom and Moab and the sons of Ammon, against the people of Philistia, and against the troops of the Kittem of Assyria, and with them as helpers the violators of the covenant. The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, the exiles of the desert, shall fight against them and their forces with all their troops, when the exiles of the sons of light return from the desert of the peoples to encamp in the desert of Jerusalem. And after the battle they shall go up from there against the king of the Kittim in Egypt; and in his time he shall go forth with great wrath to fight against the kings of the north; and his wrath shall destroy and cut off the horn of their strength. That will be a time of salvation for the people of God, and a period of dominion for all the men of his lot, but eternal destruction for all the lot of Belial. And there shall be a great tumult against the sons of Japheth; and Assyria shall fall with none to help him. And the dominion of the Kittim shall come to an end, so that wickedness shall be laid low without any remnant; and there shall be no survivor of the sons of darkness. (The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Millar Burrows, p.390)

There are, of course, many other scrolls among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some will be discussed later. However, this will provide the student with information about the original seven scrolls found in Cave I.


The vast majority of scholars answer this question by stating that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes. Like the Biblical groups of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Essenes were both religious and political. Some have seen the Essenes as a strict splinter group of the Pharisees.

Historian Will Durant tells us that,

The most extreme of the Jewish sects was that of the Essenes. They derived their piety from the Chasidim, their name probably from the Chaldaic *aschai* (bather), their doctrine and practice from the stream of ascetic theory and regimen circulating through the world of the last century before Christ; possibly they were influenced by Brahmanic, Buddhist, Paress, Pythagorean, and Cynic ideas that came to the crossroads of trade at Jerusalem. Numbering some 4000 in Palestine, they organized themselves into a distinct order, observed both the written and the oral Law with passionate exactitude, and lived together as almost monastic celibates tilling the soil in the oasis of Engadi amid the desert west of the Dead Sea. (The Story of Civilization: Part III, p. 537)

The Jewish philosopher Philo wrote that a group of Essenes lived west of the Dead Sea in the wilderness. Some have used this information to assume that the ruins found at Qumran must have been the dwelling place of the Essenes because it fits the general location. Likewise, since John the Baptist dwelt in this same wilderness, some have concluded the John was part of the Essenes sect or influenced by the strict teachings of the Essenes. However, such conclusions about John the Baptist overstep the Biblical and historical facts.

Josephus provides us some additional information about the Essenes. In his Antiquities Of The Jews, he informs us that the Essenes lived in groups, having all things in common. They, “neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former gives the handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves, they minister one to another.” (Book XVIII: 1:5) They believed in the immortality of the soul and that rewards awaited those who lived the righteous life.

Certainly many of the writings among the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect the views and teachings of the Essenes. And the ruins found a mile away from Cave I at Qumran most certainly could have been an Essenes community. Nevertheless, there are those who have come to different conclusions as to who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and about the community at Qumran.

One differing view is that of Dr. Norman Golb as shown in his book, Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls? Dr. Golb is a recognized Qumran scholar who believes that the scrolls are the remains of the Jewish library located in Jerusalem. He believes that these scrolls were hidden in the wilderness to protect the Jerusalem library from the Romans when they destroyed the Second Temple and the city in 70 AD. He claims that the city of Qumran was not the dwelling place of the Essenes, but was a fortress against the Romans. He makes a comparison between the structures at Qumran and the military rock fortress at Masada. He points out that Josephus states that the Essenes were not limited to, “a single settlement, but rather that they were found in every city of the Jews of Palestine, the settlements within the cities formed cohesive, closed communities.” (Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls? p.5)

Dr. Golb also points to evidence within the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves. One of the scrolls found, which is unique from all other scrolls, is The Copper Scroll. As the name implies, it was not written on leather, but on flatten copper plates which were riveted together to form a scroll. The scroll speaks of treasure from the Temple which was hidden so that the Romans would not pillage it. Part of the Temple treasure includes its library. In accordance with this, Golb points to the Apocrypha book of 2 Maccabees as evidence that the Jews historically hid their books when enemies approached.

The same things also were reported in the writings and commentaries of Neemias; and how he founding a library gathered together the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts. In like manner also Judas gathered together all those things that were lost by reason of the war we had, and they remain with us. Wherefore if ye have need thereof, send some to fetch them unto you. (2 Maccabees 2:13-15)

Golb also points out that handwriting experts have detected that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by over five hundred various scribes. He states,

I began to see that the growing number of scripts was starting to pose still another problem for the sectarian hypothesis (i.e. that the Essenes had lived together and were responsible for writing the scrolls): How many scribes, after all, could have lived together at Khirbet Qumran at any one time, or even over three or four generations? . . .Had the scrolls been written by fewer than two hundred scribes–a number that one might perhaps live with in defending the notion of a sectarian scriptorium at Qumran–or by a much greater number of copyists as I had begun to suspect? The matter was obviously of crucial importance. . .I did not know that two more decades would elapse before facsimiles of all the Cave 4 manuscripts would be published in the wake of an acute controversy, and that they would confirm that at least five hundred scribes had copied the scrolls. (Ibid., pp.151,153, 154).

Dr. Golb points out that his view is strongly rejected by the majority of modern scholars, and that his hypothesis has caused him to be rejected by his Colleagues as well. He is, nontheless, not alone in his view. Back in the 1950’s, Professor K. H. Rengstorf of the University of Munster in Germany had suggested that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the remains of the Jerusalem library. Although Professor Rengstrof had arrived at his conclusion years before Golb and did so with different reasons, their views still have a common centrality; the scrolls must have come from Jerusalem and not the sectarian writings of the Essenes. According to Rengstrof and Golb, the Essenes would not have had such a variety of views within their writings, being as sectarian as they were. However the library at Jerusalem would. Golb cites Rengstrof in this manner,

This would account for the mixture of leather and papyrus manuscripts; the presence of Greek and Aramaic biblical texts; . . .For if the Temple of Jerusalem had a large and important library–and this cannot be doubted–it will have contained the whole Jewish literature that existed, so far as it was obtainable, including, of course, heterodox writings. (Ibid., pp. 160-161).

I admit that I find Dr. Golb’s Jerusalem Library Theory very compelling. Dr. Golb does a wonderful job in presenting his position. His views are logical and well documented. And like Dr. Golb who has been disparaged for his view, those of us who believe in the preservation of the word of God as found in the Authorized Version have often been on the outside and found ourselves the objects of ridicule from the scholastic world. In this, I can most certainly sympathize with Dr. Golb. Despite his argumentation, I find Dr. Golb’s position intriguing because it is a point of view which stands in the face of self-assuring scholarship. However, the real truth is that we do not know who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and we may never know who did.


The Dead Sea Scrolls have been plagued with a variety of theological, textual, and personal, controversies. Such controversies have kept the Scrolls in the forefront among archaeological discoveries and tabloid news.

Extreme Interpretations:

One example of an extreme interpretation concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls can be found in the teachings of Dr. Barbara Thiering of Sidney, Australia. In her book, Redating the Teacher of Righteousness, Dr. Thiering has developed a view regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls and their meaning which not only has attracted some limited support among liberal scholars, but is an excellent example of Biblical heresy. In short, Thiering’s view is that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the Essenes and speak of both Jesus and John the Baptist. Further, she claims that there are hidden teachings found in the scrolls which, when applied to the New Testament, provide a completely differing interpretation than what they plainly state. The Manual of Discipline speaks of the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest. Thiering believes that this scroll was written during the time of Christ and refers to John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In her view, John was an Essene and is the Teacher of Righteousness. This teacher proclaimed the coming doom for the wicked generation if they did not repent and turn again to the God of Israel and a strict interpretation of the Law. His preaching was harsh and judgmental. The one called the Wicked Priest proclaimed a much easier view which differed with the staunch legalistic views of the Teacher of Righteousness. For Thiering, this Wicked Priest was Jesus Christ.

Thiering also believes that the Scrolls provide a means by which we can reinterpret the writings of the New Testament. Among the Scrolls we find Biblical commentaries, such as the one on Habakkuk. These commentaries are called peshers, or interpretations on Biblical writings. Dr. Thiering carries this to an extreme by using what she calls the pesher interpretation of the New Testament. She rereads events in the New Testament in light of the teachings of the Essenes at Qumran. Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Pesher-Method, “. . . help to demystify the colorful stories and ancient rituals which still form on integral part of Christian worship (with us) still today.” (The Riddle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries Of The Bible Unravelled, VHS, The Discovery Channel, Discovery Program Enterprises, 1990.) With this now in place, Thiering (and other scholars) dismiss the miracles of Jesus, his virgin birth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection.

Using her Pesher-Method the raising of Lazarus is reinterpreted this way. In the Essene community, when one was ostracized they were considered as dead. Some, according to Thiering, even went as far as wrapping themselves in burial cloths and laying in their own tombs, symbolically accepting their expulsion from the Qumran community. With this now in place, Thiering interprets the raising of Lazarus as an Essene who was so rejected. However, Jesus comes along and liberates his friend Lazarus by letting him know that he is not dead in the sight of God. Thus, with such scholastic heresy in place, Biblical miracles can be denied. Moreover, like most heresy, it fails to explain the facts of the passage in question. For one, there is no Biblical evidence that Lazarus was in any way part of the community of Qumran. Jesus was first informed that Lazarus was sick, and that his sickness was unto death (John 11:3,14-15). The disciples plainly understood the sickness of Lazarus to mean physical sickness because when Jesus informed them that Lazarus was sleeping (meaning dead) they said, “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well” (vs. 12). They knew that sleep is good for those who are sick. However, Jesus referred to Lazarus being dead and so stated. Also, we must note that the sisters of Lazarus believed this death to be real and not symbolic of Qumranic rejection. When Jesus saw Mary, she said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (vs.32). And when Christ gave the command to remove the stone, Martha said, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (vs. 39). Dr. Thiering’s theory does not display the rejection of fallen souls from the Qumran community, but only her rejection of Biblical truths.

Other examples of her method of interpreting the scrolls to redefine the New Testament, are her attacks on the virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. Claiming the scrolls teach that a holy man was considered divine, and that a woman was considered a virgin during her time of engagement, Thiering teaches that Joseph had intercourse with Mary during their engagement. Thus, her Pesher- Method teaches that Joseph is the Holy Spirit who had sex with Mary who would still be considered a virgin. At the crucifixion, she claims, that Christ was given poison and simply passed out. Later, while in the tomb, he was revived by the spices in the burial cloth and left the tomb. Thiering is not alone in her heresy here. This has long been called the “Swoon-Theory” and has been expressed by others such as Hugh Schonfield in his book, The Passover Plot, Donovan Joyce in The Jesus Scrolls, and Elaine Pagels in The Gnostic Gospels. In fact, Thiering makes use of one of the Gnostic gospels, The Gospel of Philip, which teaches that Christ did not die on the cross.

In an interview for the Discovery Channel, Dr. Thiering reveals her prejudice concerning the Gospels and her views on the Dead Sea Scrolls:

I hadn’t been at it long when I realized that there was something really very big here. Other people were realizing it at that time. It really did promise to throw new light on the origin of Christianity and that was something that always fascinated me. (The Riddle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries Of The Bible Unravelled.)

Therefore, Thiering reveals that she had approached her studies of the scrolls with an interpretation which she formed early in her studies based on a point of liberal theology which had always fascinated her–namely the disproving of revealed scripture and fundamental doctrines contained therein. Moreover, Thiering is a prime example of the Biblical heretics who are, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). And yet, she is considered by some Qumran scholars as a leading contemporary scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Ibid.).

Other scholars associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls, or who are recognized for their scholastic abilities in regard to the study of textual criticism, have equally liberalistic views towards scripture. Speaking in support of Thiering, Dr. George Brooke of the Manchester University in England and recognized scholar in regard to the Dead Sea Scrolls, said of the virgin birth:

I think I myself side with those scholars and other Christians who would wish to assert that Jesus had a natural father. And that what is significant in the birth stories in Matthew and Luke is that the early Church believed very strongly that there was more to this birth than it just being a natural birth. And I would hold to the position that the more to this birth is very significant. Not that the human paternity of Jesus is denied, but that the divinity in all of us is encouraged. (Ibid.)

Commenting on the virgin birth and miracles in general, Dr. Matthew Black (St. Andrews University in Scotland) stated,

We are now in the realm, not of history as we understand history, we are in the realm of belief. Of pious legend, pious myths. That I think is universally recognized by scholars in this connection. And pious myths which have formed a very important part of our Christian tradition for centuries. Of which we must have every respect.(Ibid.)

The statement made by Dr. Black is extremely insightful. Not only because of our study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but because of our study of modern scholarship and textual criticism as a whole. Dr. Black refers to basic doctrines such as the virgin birth as “pious legend, pious myths.” It is this same Dr. Matthew Black (along with Kurt Aland, Bruce Metzger, Allen Wikgren, and Carlo Martini) who produced the Greek New Testament text published by the United Bible Societies. The UBS Greek text is considered the standard critical Greek text and underlines a good percentage of modern translational work, as well as carries a great deal of influence in the study of modern textual criticism.

Differing Translations:

Another controversy, which may be found in almost all works of this nature, deals with differences in translation. Not everyone translates the findings at Qumran the same way. Perhaps the most noted example comes from 4Q285. Dr. Robert Eisenman (California State University) and Dr. Michael Wise (University of Chicago) translate this fragment showing the coming Messiah as one who is wounded. The passage reads as follows in their translation:

(1). . .Isaiah the Prophet, [‘The thickets of the forest] will be fell[ed with an ace] (2) [and Lebanon shall f]all [by a mighty one.] A staff shall rise from the root of Jesse, [and a Planting from his roots will bear fruit.’] (3) . . .the Branch of David. They will enter into Judgement with. . .(4) and they will put to death the Leader of the Community, the Bran[ch of David]. . .(5) and with woundings, and the (high) priest will command. . .(6) [the sl]ai[n of the] Kitti[m]. . . (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Barnes & Noble Books, New York; 1992. p.29)

Both Eisenman and Wise note an alternate reading, one which shows not a wounded Messiah, but a Messiah who does the wounding. This translation is preferred by Dr. Geza Vermes (Oxford University) in his translation of the same passage:

(1) ] Isaiah the prophet: [The thickets of the forest] will be cut [down (2) with an axe and Bebanon by a majestic one will f]all. And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [ ] (3) the Branch of David and they will enter into judgement with [ ] (4) and the Prince of the Congregation, the Bran[ch of David] will kill him [by stroke]s and by wounds. And a Priest [of renown (?)] will command [ (6) the s] lai[n] of the Kitti[m]. (Downloaded from The War Rule of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit, on 4/27/96. [http:/sunsite.unc.edu/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/Library/warrule.htm])

Another example of differing translations of the scrolls can be found in the study of the Teacher of Righteousness. We have already seen the extreme view, as set forth by Dr. Barbara Thiering. However the standard view among Qumran scholars is that this Teacher of Righteousness was Jonathan Maccabees, the second Maccabean brother (a theory invented by Dr. Geza Vermes). Or, perhaps, he was some other Jewish priest who was in line to become the High Priest. However, failing to become the High Priest the one who became High Priest became the Wicked Priest. Thus it is a point of politics and not theology. Dr. Theodor H. Gaster offers a different translation. In referring to the community living among the Essenes, Dr. Gaster states,

The community’s main purpose was to exemplify and promulgate the true interpretation. It based that interpretation on a kind of ‘apostolic succession,’ begun by the prophets and continued by a series of inspired leaders each of whom was known as ‘the correct expositor’ or ‘right- teacher’ (not ‘Teacher of Righteousness,’ as many scholars have rendered it)–that is, the orthodox expounder of the Word. (The Dead Sea Scriptures In English Translation. New York: Doubleday, 1956. p. 5)

He further explains that, “It may be observed that the Hebrew word for ‘teacher’ derives from the same verbal root as the word ‘Torah.’ The ‘right-teacher’ is therefore, in this context, ‘the man who expounds the Torah aright.'” (Ibid., p. 29.)

Hence, these two translations of the same Hebrew word can be reflected in deferring translations of the Scrolls. This can been seen in Dr. Gaster’s translation of the Commentary on Habakkuk and Dr. Vermes’ translation of the same passage in the Scrolls. The passage from Habakkuk 1:5 reads, “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.” The two translations are as follows:

This refers to the traitors who have aligned themselves with the man of lies. For they did not believe what he who expounded the Law aright told them on the authority of God. It refers also to those who betrayed the new covenant, for they have not kept faith with the Covenant of God, but have profaned His holy name. (Gaster, p. 249)

[Interpreted, this concerns] those who were unfaithful together with the Liar, in that they [did] not [listen to the word received by] the Teacher of Righteousness from the mouth of God. And it concerns the unfaithful of the New [Covenant] in that they have not believed in the Covenant of God [and have profaned] His holy Name. (The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p.236)

Releasing Unpublished Scrolls:

By the late 1980’s it was widely known that there were still a healthy portion of manuscripts among the scrolls which had not been published and hence remained untranslated. The concern was that those who were in charge of the publication of the scrolls (John Strugnell, Frank M. Cross, J. T. Milik, and Amir Drori) had been slow about releasing the unpublished manuscripts. In 1992, Dr. Emanual Tov published a list of scroll fragments which had not before been published (see Biblical Archaeologist, June, 1992. pp. 94-104). This followed the continued beseeching to release the unpublished scrolls by Hershel Shanks (editor of the Biblical Archaelolgy Review). The September 21 issue of Time magazine (pp. 56-57) also covered the concern among scholars in regard to the unpublished scrolls, thus setting into motion a vocal concern for the publication of unpublished manuscripts so that the remaining scrolls would be forthcoming. In 1992 Dr. Robert Eisenman and Dr. Michael Wise translated and published several of the fragments from Cave IV (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered).

Believing there had been a major conspiracy by the Vatican, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh published a book entitled, The Dead Sea Scroll Deception (New York: Summit Books, 1991). The book asserts that the Vatican, or at the very least some Catholic scholars, suppressed the unpublished manuscripts because their teachings undermine the teachings of major Christian doctrine. For the authors, the evidence for this rests in the delay of publishing the remaining scrolls, and that the small group of editors who controlled the unpublished manuscripts keep careful guard over their prized posession. At the time of Baigent’s and Leigh’s book, these editors were for the most part Roman Catholic. The book claims that Roland de Vaux, a Catholic priest who assembled the editorial team which reviewed the findings in Cave IV, masterminded the conspiracy. De Vaux is said to have joined forces with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who also headed the Doctrine of the Faith for the Catholic Church. At one time in history, the Doctrine of the Faith was known as the office of the Holy Inquisition.

To add to this conspiracy theory came the charges of John Allegro, who was one of the original team members assigned to examine the texts of Cave IV in 1953. The majority of Allegro’s team either were Roman Catholic (J. T. Milik, Jean Starcky, and Patrick Skehan), or became Roman Catholic (John Strugnell) with the exception of Frank Cross (Presbyterian), Claus-Hunno Hunzinger (Lutheran), and Allegro himself (agnostic). This left Allegro the only member who was not part of organized Christendom. Allegro claimed there was evidence within the fragments of Cave IV which was damaging to Christianity and thus covered-up by the Catholic Church.

However, charges that the scrolls contain damning evidence against historic Christianity stand without merit, totally lacking any supporting documentation. So far no verification from the fragments, which have now been published, indicate such an outlandish claim. Hershel Shanks justly labeled this conspiracy theory as, “hogwash” (Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December issue, 1991. p.68). Dr. James C. VanderKam refers to the claims of Baigent and Leigh as, “a disgraceful display of yellow journalism.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, p.198). As for the delay in publishing the remaining scrolls, when one considers the turmoil in the Middle East, the lack of funds to have the fragments published, the lack of manpower to undertake the project, and the delicate conditions of the fragments themselves, we can begin to understand why it has taken so long. Regardless of the reasons which delayed the publication of the remaining scrolls, VanderKam has corrected stated, “Now that all the scrolls are available for consultation, no one has been able to find anything damaging to Christianity or anything that the Vatican would be interested in suppressing.” (Ibid.)

With the release of the unpublished texts new charges were raised. Not from those seeking to find a conspiracy theory, but from the editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their charge was that of simple thievery. Dr. John Strugnell, who was the chief editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication team, claimed that Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, and president of the Biblical Archaeology Society, pilfered the unpublished texts and published them. Thus Strugnell asks, “What else would you call it but stealing?” (Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December, 1991. p.62).

However, Shanks defends himself by stating,

The men who were entrusted with these documents were not given title to them, although they act as if they own them. In fact, several of them have died and bequeathed their ‘publication rights’ to faithful colleagues. . . It is they who are the lawbreakers. It is they who are stealing from all of us, not we from them. (Ibid.)

These unpublished texts were “liberated” due to modern technology. In 1988 a concordance was published of all the texts of the scrolls found in Cave IV by the editors of the scrolls. Using a computer, Professors Ben-Zion Wacholder and Martin Abegg, of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati Ohio, recreated the text of the unpublished scrolls. This happened on September 4, 1991. Later that same month in California the director of the San Marino Huntington Library, William Moffett, provided a complete set of photographs of all the scrolls from Cave IV. These photographs had been furnished by Elizabeth Bechtel years before and had simply been laying around the Huntington Library for anyone to review.

John Strugnell:

Among the ups and downs which seem to have besieged the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one low point concerns Dr. John Strugnell (Harvard University). Dr. Strugnell was editor-in-chief for the Dead Sea Scrolls, and one of the original editing team members appointed in 1953. In an interview with Avi Katzman, of the Hebrew newspaper Ha-Aretz, Strugnell revealed his anti-Semitic views along with several other points of character which may be questioned by someone in such a high position. The article appeared in the Ha-Aretz on November 9, 1990 and was reprinted in the Biblical Archaeology Review, in the January/February, 1991 issue.

In the course of the interview, Dr. Strugnell stated,

Judaism is originally racist . . .it’s a folk religion; it’s not a higher religion. An anti-Judaist, that’s what I am. . .Unless someone talks to me about the subject I don’t, when I’m working on a Qumran text, think how stupid and wrong the Jews were. . .It’s (i.e. Judaism) a horrible religion. It’s a Christian heresy, and we deal with our heretics in different ways. . .I dislike Israel as an occupier of part of Jordan. And it’s quite obvious that this was part of Jordan. . .But the occupation of Jerusalem–and maybe of the whole State–is founded on a lie, or at least on a premise that cannot be sustained. (Biblical Archaeology Review, pp. 64-65)

Strugnell additionally referred to Professor Geza Vermes, who helped translate the scrolls, as “incompetent” (Ibid., p. 66). Dr. Strugnell’s personal life was also reviewed in the article, not by Avi Katzman, but by Strugnell himself.

I read [Hebrew], but speaking it requires people to speak to. In my work, people speak much better English. One way to learn a language is to have a lover who speaks it. I never had an Israeli girlfriend, though I had an Israeli mistress once, a long time ago. But we weren’t really interested in language. (Ibid., 70, 72).

In a later edition of the Review it stated that Strugnell was not only “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant,” but was also, “An alcoholic. A manic-depressive. An anti- Semite. Rapidly anti-Israel.” (March/April issue, 1991. p. 53)

Shortly after his interview, Dr. Strugnell was removed as editor-in chief and was replaced by a trio of editors (Emanuel Tov, Eugene Ulrich, and Emile Puech). However, Dr. Strugnell was not removed from the editorial team and remained with it despite his comments and personal revelations.

As a Bible-believer, it is rather interesting to see some of these trouble spots among scholars and scholarship. Many of the views and beliefs of modern scholars are hailed and tolerated. All too often those of us who believe the Biblical teaching of preservation are ridiculed and scoffed. It is not heresy to believe in Biblical preservation, and to have a Bible which you believe is that preserved word from God. However, it is heresy to deny the miracles of scripture, the virgin birth, the death and resurrection of Christ. Still we have Qumran scholars whose heresies are endured because they are scholars. If any who believe the King James Bible lived life as some of the Qumran scholars did or do, the entire KJV movement would be condemned because of the few. It seems rather strange to me that tactics and methods used by modern scholars are tolerated, while the tactic and methods of KJV supporters are vilified. We should have more toleration for our brethren in Christ than we do for those outside who falsely malign the name of our Savior. And yet, the Church continues to support the endeavors of such scholars.


Unlike our other studies, there is very little in the Dead Sea Scrolls which can be used against the Authorized Version. In fact, because the evidence from Qumran overwhelming supports the Masoretic Hebrew Text, which underlined the Old Testament of the King James Bible, one could say that the findings at Qumran strongly favor the King James Version.

However, there are those who seek to correct the Authorized Text based on some of the findings at Qumran. As the Greek Septuagint has been used to correct the Hebrew Old Testament, so some of the findings at Qumran are likewise used to correct or question the Masoretic Text. The following are a few places where the Masoretic Text (represented by the King James Bible), and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls (represented by the New Revised Standard Version) differ. For purposes of illustration, only the books of Deuteronomy and 1 Samuel are considered. Many of the scrolls which have differences come from Cave IV, such as Q4Deut q, and Q4Sam. b. These two manuscripts are significant. Q4Deut q contains the passage from Deuteronomy 32:43 with the phrase “worship him all ye gods,” which is thought to have been used in Hebrews 1:6. Q4 Samuel b is considered one of the two oldest manuscripts from Cave IV dating somewhere around the third century BC.

(I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying (Deuteronomy 5:5, KJV)

(At that time I was standing between the LORD and you to declare to you the words of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said: (Deuteronomy 5:5, NRSV)

To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deuteronomy 10:13 KJV)

and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. (Deuteronomy 10:13 NRSV)

And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:1 KJV)

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:1 NRSV)

When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8 KJV)

When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; (Deuteronomy 32:8 NRSV)

But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. (Deuteronomy 32:15 KJV)

Jacob ate his fill Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. (Deuteronomy 32:15 NRSV)

And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. (Deuteronomy 32:19 KJV)

The LORD saw it, and was jealous he spurned his sons and daughters. (Deuteronomy 32:19 NRSV)

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deuteronomy 32:43 KJV)

Praise, O heavens, his people, worship him, all you god! For he will avenge the blood of his children, and take vengeance on his adversaries; he will repay those who hate him, and cleanse the land for his people. (Deuteronomy 32:43 NRSV)

And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; (Deuteronomy 33:8 KJV)

And of Levi he said: Give to Levi you Thummim and your Urim to your loyal on, whom you tested at Massah, with whom you contended at the waters of Meribah; (Deuteronomy 33:8 NRSV)

And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young. (1 Samuel 1:24 KJV)

When she had weaned hem, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh; and the child was young. (1 Samuel 1:24 NRSV)

Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there. (1 Samuel 1:28 KJV)

Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD. She left him there for the LORD. (1 Samuel 1:28 NRSV)

And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home. (1 Samuel 2:20 KJV)

Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the LORD repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the LORD”; and then they would return to their home. (1 Samuel 2:20 NRSV)

And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? (1 Samuel 2:27 KJV)

A man of God came to Eli and said to him, ‘Thus the LORD has said, I revealed myself to the family of your ancestor in Egypt when they were slaves to the house of Pharaoh. (1 Samuel 2:27 NRSV)

And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. (1 Samuel 2:33 KJV)

The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; all the members of your household shall die by the sword. (1 Samuel 2:33 NRSV)

They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. (1 Samuel 5:8-10 KJV)

So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ The inhabitants of Gath replied, ‘Let the art of God be moved on to us.’ So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But after they had brought it to Gath, the hand of the LORD was against the city, causing a very great panic; he struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. So they sent the ark of the God of Israel to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, ‘Why have they brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people?’ (1 Samuel 5:8-10 NRSV)

And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. (1 Samuel 6:3 KJV)

They said, ‘If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and will be ransomed; will not his hand then turn from you? (1 Samuel 6:3 NRSV)

But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace. (1 Samuel 10:27 KJV)

But some worthless fellows said, ‘How can this man save us?’ They despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace. Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, hand not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh- gilead. (1 Samuel 10:27 NRSV)

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh- gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee. (1 Samuel 11:1 KJV)

About a month later, Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, ‘Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.’ (1 Samuel 11:1 NRSV)

Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. (1 Samuel 15:32 KJV)

Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ And Agag came to him haltingly. Agag said, ‘Surely this is the bitterness of death.’ (1 Samuel 15:32 NRSV)

Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down. (1 Samuel 23:11 KJV)

And now, will Saul come down as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, I beseech you, tell your servant. (1 Samuel 23:11 NRSV)

And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. (1 Samuel 23:14 KJV)

David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the LORD did not give him into his hand. (1 Samuel 23:14 NRSV)

And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. (1 Samuel 23:16 KJV)

Saul’s son Jonathan set out and came to David at Horesh; there he strengthened his hand through the LORD. (1 Samuel 23:16 NRSV)

There are, of course, places where the New Revised Standard Version agrees with the King James Version in selecting the Masoretic Text over both the Qumran text and the Septuagint. For example, in 1 Samuel 17:4 both the NRSV and KJV follow the Masorectic Text in rendering Goliath’s height as six cubits. The Qumran text and the Septuagint state that Goliath’s height was four cubits. A cubit is equal to about a foot and a half (some measure it at 1 foot, 7 inches). Taking 1.6 times 6 we have 9.6, or nine and a half feet, truly a giant. The NIV recognizes this and reads, “He was over nine feet tall.” However, if we take 1.6 and multiply it by 4 we have 6.4, or a little over six feet tall. This would undoubtedly take away Goliath’s giant status and place him just slightly over the height of the average man today.

It is also interesting to note that of our twenty-one examples, the New International Version agrees with the King James and the Masoretic Text all but one time. In 1 Samuel 1:24 the NIV takes the reading of the Qumran text and footnotes it as support for its rendering here. Why the Masoretic Text is rejected in this place in favor of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint, while these documents are not incorporated into the text of the NIV in the other examples, is a mystery. It is also interesting that the NIV did not make use of Q4Sam b., while the NRSV did. This manuscript (Q4Sam b.) is considered one of the oldest manuscripts extant. Yet the translators of the NIV did not use it. This seems to be in conflict with their approach to New Testament textual criticism, where older is looked upon as better.

Despite this, the NIV (as with most other modern translations) is correct in remaining faithful to the Masoretic Text. For one, we have already seen that the findings at Qumran overwhelming support the Masoretic Text to an astounding degree. Additionally, findings at Wadi Murabbaat and Masada exclusively support the Masoretic Text. Thus proving that the established text accepted by those placed in charge of the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-2) was the Traditional Hebrew Text. The fact that we have such exact copies one thousand years older than the ones used to produce the Authorized Version reveal to us the providential hand of the Almighty God in preserving His words. Secondly, it seems rather foolish to accept the findings in Cave IV as final and authoritative without knowing for certain who placed them there and why, no matter how old they are dated. There must have been a reason why the Masoretic Text not only won out so faithfully over the centuries, but also why the findings among the scrolls which differ are so few in number. Perhaps, as with all who believe in the purity of God’s word, variant manuscripts were not considered as important as the Traditional Text was.

Regardless of these reasons, we again have a case study of scholarship usurping authority over the preservation of scripture by God. Those of us who believe the King James Bible are often fallaciously asked if we had to wait until 1611 AD to have the preserved words of God. Those who have studied these lessons so far know the fallacy in such argumentation. We have shown time and again that God has kept what He promised to keep and has done so ever since He gave it. The words of the Lord were preserved before 1611 and after 1611 (Psalm 12:6-7). However, modern scholarship would not have us believe in such Biblical preservation, but instead would have us look to them as the finders and presenters of God’s holy word. Such is the case with the Dead Sea Scrolls when left to the hands of modern scholarship. Dr. James C. VanderKam writes,

The books of Samuel are represented on four copies from Qumran, . . . These copies have received extensive study because they clarify some of the complicated history that the text of 1-2 Samuel has experienced in the different traditions. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, pp. 129-130)

In reference to the extended passage in 1 Samuel 10:27, VanderKam states,

It appears that a scribe skipped from the end of the first to the end of the second, and in this way he omitted the paragraph that came between them. One can account for the situation in other ways, but the explanation presented here seems most likely. The extra material furnishes a suitable context for understanding what Nahash proposed to do to the residents of Jabesh in Gilead. (Ibid., p. 132).

By so stating, VanderKam has provided for us the belief of modern scholars in the final authority of modern scholarship. Not only are some of the difficult places in 1 Samuel now made clear by the findings at Qumran, but what has been missing from the text for at least two-thousand years has now been restored, at least according to the thinking of modern textual critics. To which the question begs to be asked, “Did we have to wait unil 1947 to have the preserved words of God?” Or, since the NRSV is the first to included the so-called missing passage, we must have had to wait until it was published in 1989. In either case, the Qumran scholar would have us believe that for two thousand years a section of God’s word was missing. Therefore, for at least two thousand years, God’s people were without it. This, obviously, stands in direct conflict with Biblical preservation.

The problems found within the text of the Old Testament are not to be answered by textual criticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or modern scholarship. The problems are resolved by careful study of the scriptures themselves, as they have been presented and preserved by God. It is by comparing scripture with scripture that we find the answers to textual problems. And it is by trusting in the conservation of the scriptures by their Author that we have our final authority.

Yours in Christ Jesus,
Thomas Holland
Psalm 118:8