PRINT May 2008


the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Great Isaiah Scroll (detail), ca. 120 BCE, ink on leather parchment.

IN 1947, BEDOUIN discovered the first of eleven caves near the Dead Sea’s western shore that contained Jewish documents written between the second century BCE and the first century CE. In total, some thirty thousand fragments from some nine hundred different scrolls were recovered. In the sixty-one years since, the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized our knowledge of ancient Judaism and enriched our understanding of the diverse cultural context out of which both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity emerged. The scrolls preserve many writings with which we were already familiar, but often in forms that vary significantly from their previously known versions. Particularly important in this regard are the more than two hundred scrolls containing sections of the Tanakh (known to Christians as the Old Testament). These biblical scrolls predate most other copies of the Tanakh by

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