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  • Writer's pictureBeth S.

Archaeological Proof - The Dead Sea Scrolls

A common argument against the reliability of the Bible is that it has been re-copied so many times over the centuries. It is assumed that it is impossible for the original text and meaning to have been preserved. It is true that some manuscripts have been tampered with, added to and changed. This is happening even today. But this does not mean that we no longer have access to accurate translations. In fact, there is hard evidence that the Bible, as originally written, has been preserved.

In 1948 at Qumran near the Dead Sea in Israel, an ancient collection of scrolls was discovered. A Bedouin shepherd found clay jars containing scrolls, and over the next ten years, further searches turned up even more. These scrolls contained whole, or nearly whole books of the Old Testament as well as texts relating to a Jewish religious group from the first and second century B.C. (likely the Essenes). About 230 of the manuscripts are copies of books of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament). There are complete or partial manuscripts from every book except Esther.

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copies of the Bible were only about 1000 years old. These scrolls are 1200 years older than that. The remarkable thing about them is how close they are to the Bible we currently have. The most famous, the Isaiah scroll is virtually complete and is identical to our current book of Isaiah with only a few spelling and minor punctuation differences (none of which change the meaning in any significant way). Other partial books in the scrolls are just as accurate.

If it is possible for an ancient text to be preserved through 2200 years of history with virtually no changes, why is it so hard to believe that the rest of the Bible (New Testament) could have also been preserved? Biblical texts were extremely precious and considered holy by both Christians and Jews. Any changes would have been immediately noticed. Scribes and monks who made copies were under very stringent rules. If one mistake was made, an entire page had to be re-written.

Critics have also claimed that Biblical texts were altered during the Christian era to add prophecies about Jesus. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls date to 150 - 200 years before the life of Christ. The prophecies about the Messiah found in the Old Testament could not have been added by later writers before he was even born.


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