One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Torah Precepts scroll, provides instructions instructions as to how members of the Jewish religion should show and follow their faith, and include a Hebrew calendar, religious laws (called halakhot) and information about the Temple and its rituals.
Credit: Library of Congress
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 in a cave near the Dead Sea in present-day Israel.
A young shepherd was searching in a cave for a stray goat when he found a collection of jars containing papyrus and parchment manuscripts. He took a few of the scrolls and presented them to antiquities dealers who were astonished at what they saw. Soon the whole cave was excavated, yielding about 900 scrolls and manuscripts in all.
The scrolls, which came from an early Jewish sect called the Essenes, are significant because they were far older than any others previously discovered. Researchers have dated the scrolls between the third century B.C. and A.D. 68.
They were written mainly in Hebrew and provide a unique window into the religion and daily lives of the Essenes. It's not clear why the scrolls were stored in the caveperhaps to protect them from destruction by invading Romansbut the relatively cool, dry conditions were ideal for preserving them.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are also notable for who they do not mention: Jesus Christ. There is a reference to a "Teacher of Righteousness," but according to the book "How Did It Really Happen?" (Reader's Digest, 2001), that person may not have been Jesus.
"Some scholars postulate that Jesus' brother James was the Teacher of Righteousness described in the scrolls, an unnamed priest who was the leader of the Essenes. Others theorize that the Teacher of Righteousness was John the Baptist, and Jesus of Nazareth was his nemesis," according to the book.
There remains some debate about the meaning and significance of the Dead Sea scrolls, but most scholars agree the words and ideas they contain clearly inspired parts of the New Testament.
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