The Dead Sea Scrolls: The details and impact of one of the most
important archaeological discoveries of our time.
In the spring of 1947, a Bedouin shepherd, while tending his flock near a cliff on the western shore of the Dead Sea in an area known as Qumran, some eight miles south of the city of Jericho, noticed a cave that he had not seen before. He threw a rock into it and, to his surprise, heard the sound of something breaking. A few days later, he returned with a friend and discovered what was perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the twentieth century. Hidden in clay jars and wrapped in linen, were ancient Hebrew scrolls written in a script very similar to the one in use today. Seven scrolls were eventually recovered from that cave. Today these scrolls are housed in the Shrine of the Book of the Israeli Museum. Eventually, over the next decade, ten more caves were discovered containing eleven complete or semi-complete scrolls and thousands of fragments belonging originally to approximately eight hundred and fifty separate manuscripts.
Of the entire collection, some 225 are Biblical (part of Tanach), the rest are either part of the Apocrypha, that body of literature, composed during the period of the Second Temple and considered by the Catholic Church to be canonical (part of their Bible), the Pseudepigrapha (previously known non-Biblical religious compositions often attributed to ancient authors) and religious works that were previously unknown. The non-Biblical writings reveal the literature and life of a special sect of Jews very similar to that of the ancient sect of Essenes who flourished between the period of the Maccabee kings and the destruction of the Temple. In this lecture, based upon classical sources, these recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as on Talmudic traditions not taken into account by secular scholars, Rabbi Irons presents a detailed picture of the life and beliefs of the sect that created this literature as well as the fate and identity of its founder, the “Teacher of Righteousness”.
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