When you seek to analyze something in an academic way and it happens to pertain to faith, and you are a person of faith, it might not be wise to use the word miracle, or refer to something as miraculous. But, when it comes to the Dead Sea Scrolls, I implore you to prove me wrong. This is a miracle!
The Dead Sea Scrolls are documents found at the Archeological Dig of Qumran. The Essene Community is believed to have lived and dwelled in this area. Some try to tie John the Baptist to the Essenes due to his Nazarite Vow and the location being convenient to when and where John the Baptist conducted ministry. The Essenes influence on John the Baptist or Christ for that matter is only speculative.
Hundreds of incomplete manuscripts were found in these caves which were in thousands of pieces. Many were found in one cave imparticular. Pieces of every book of the Old Testament were found except for the controversial book of Esther which never mentions the name of God. The most famous scroll is the complete scroll of what we know today as the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
So, why is this important? Before the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls our earliest copies of scripture were the Aleppo Codex. This was found in Aleppo, Syria in about the 15th Century. It was probably written in about the 10th Century in the city of Tiberias off the coast of the Sea of Galilee, and before the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls it was our oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretes of Tiberias gave us the key to understanding Biblical Hebrew with this translation, and by adding the vowels.
The original scrolls obviously do not have the Hebrew vowels added. The Dead Sea Scrolls are carbon dated between 2nd Century B.C. and the destruction of the site in 68 A.D. To have a complete copy of the book of Isaiah and parts of the rest of the Old Testament (not Esther) that is this old is incredible!
About 1/3 of the documents found were religious documents dealing with the Essene community themselves. Much of what was found was scripture copies and to the sceptic’s dismay, very close to the Hebrew copies we already had.
The Oral Tradition was intricate to the survival of both Judaism and Christianity. Much of the survival of the Old Testament was due to the retelling of stories. Their was a moral responsibility to correct someone when they told part of it wrong, making fake news less of a possibility.
During the time of Christ, a Rabbi like Jesus would walk and the cadence would change and he would begin to talk in parables or even retell Biblical stories. Everyone knew them already, but repetition was part of learning and memorization. So, it isn’t a surprise that Scripture was preserved and Isaiah was still telling the same story as what we had in the Aleppo Codex. What is surprising is how we have them today.
So, how did we find them? How did they stay preserved? Here is God working in the miraculous. So, if the Essene community would have lost the documents during an invasion or if they were being used and circulating early on, or even as late as 68 ADE, these documents would be long gone, just like all of the other ones from that time period or before.
The fact that they were hidden gave them the opportunity not to be ruined, lost, stolen or destroyed. Now there was no storage facility, no place to put these documents. They simply stored them in a cave. So, how can something survive in a cave for thousands of years? Well, the temperature is a desert climate is basically the same all the time. The Dead Sea is a Salt Sea which no life can survive on. There are very few if any bugs in the area. There isn’t much rain ever. Their is no moisture. They were in a shaded dry place with no bugs, which happens to be the lowest place on the earth. It was perfect. I wonder who picked the location. Huh?
It was also in the middle of the desert and there is a road to it today, but for years their was no reason for anyone to be out there so the roadway was limited. It is absolutely incredible! For potentially 2200 years or more these documents were primitively stored in clay jars with lids still in tact, in a cave.
The fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls survived 2000 or more years in pots doesn’t validate their value in anyway, but it does validate the value of the Hebrew scripture we already had which was much newer than that. The Aleppo Codex was probably at least 1000 years newer than what was found on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The scrolls were found in 1948 through a young boy trying to keep track of an animal who had wondered off. From where I stood, the cave only appeared to be about 20 ft. off the ground. When he climbed up into the cave, he found some documents preserved in clay jars. What an amazing discovery? It is a good thing for us that they were hidden and were not used up several years earlier. God gave us an amazing gift!