Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls Are Now ‘Online’

The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Manuscripts are an important source of historical information regarding the material and spiritual life in an early Community of Believers during the Biblical times. According to many scholars, the Scrolls offer illuminating insights on the beliefs and practices of the historical Essene Community of Jewish people to which, it is said, the Hadhrat Jesus (as) belonged. The majority of the Scrolls, preserved at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, are now available online and can be accessed by all here.

Dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea, Palestine/Israel. 

The manuscripts are generally attributed to an isolated Jewish sect, referred to in the scrolls as "the Community," who settled in Qumran in the Judean desert. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, offer critical insight into Jewish society in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple Period, the time of the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

The scrolls that are now digitized and accessible through the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem include:

·       The Great Isaiah Scroll, inscribed with the Book of Isaiah and dating from ca. 125 BCE, is the only complete ancient copy of any biblical book in existence.

·   The War Scroll dates to the late first century BCE or early first century CE and describes a confrontation between the "Sons of Light" and the "Sons of Darkness", which would last forty-nine years, ending with the victory of the "Sons of Light" and the restoration of Temple practice according to their beliefs.

·       The Temple Scroll, from the early first century CE, claims to provide the details of God’s instructions for the construction and operation of the Temple in Jerusalem. Written on animal skin only one-tenth of a millimeter thick, the Temple Scroll is the thinnest parchment scroll ever found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

·      The Community Rule sheds light on the Community’s way of life, dealing with subjects such as the admission of new members, conduct at communal meals, prayer, cleansing rituals, and theological doctrines.

·       The Commentary on Habakkuk interprets the first two chapters of the biblical book of the prophet Habakkuk in a unique style that makes it a key source of knowledge of the spiritual life of the secluded Qumran community, shedding light on the community's perception of itself.