If they tell us anything, they make it clear that the critics were wrong—dead wrong.
“Now what are you talking about?”
The Dead Sea Scrolls.
“I’ve heard about them. They found them in some pots or something floating in the Dead Sea—right?”
Well, not exactly.
No. They were up in the hills overlooking the Dead Sea in caves. And they were enclosed in earthen vessels—pottery, for sure—but dry as could be in that dry community. The only reason that they are called “Dead Sea” Scrolls is that they were in the vicinity of the Dead Sea.
“Oh. Well, I was almost right, anyway.”
The manuscripts were written on parchment for the most part. One was engraved on copper. I saw the parts of them that they had when I was studying at Johns Hopkins in the 50s. Professor W.F. Albright, who taught at Hopkins, brought them there for a brief exhibition, and some of us students were able to get up close to them. There were more scrolls that they found later on in other caves. They are now housed in Israel in a special building. The manuscripts include parts of almost the entire Old Testament, plus a variety of other writings. And what they show is that the Hebrew text that we have been using for generations is almost entirely the same. That’s amazing, since the common text is basically from the Middle Ages.
“That’s exciting, of course, for scholars. But what has it got to do with me?”
Well, for one thing, if some uninformed person tells you that the prophecies of Christ in Isaiah or Daniel couldn’t have been written until
after the fact—after His birth and resurrection—you can assure him that we have texts of both Old Testament books that were written well before His birth!
“Yeah. I like that.”
There was a community nearby that archeologists believe was the source of the scrolls which they hid when the Romans invaded the land in the war of 67-70AD.
“Who lived there?”
Some people who were looking for a Messiah, prepared to fight when he came, and so on. There were other manuscripts of theirs. One was the War Scroll; and other the Manual of Discipline, and so on. Nobody has been able to identify the group with certainty, but most think that they were a group called the Essenes. But that’s still up in the air.
“What if a passage differs with the present text? How can I find out?”
If it’s one of any possible significance (most differences aren’t), you’ll find it in the footnotes of the new Holman Christian Standard Bible. And, incidentally, the same is true of the LXX. Those different readings will be there too.
“What is the LXX?”
The Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Often the New Testament writers who used the LXX, quoted from it, so it’s good to know a bit about it. In fact, there are more quotes in the New Testament from the LXX than from the Hebrew.
“Hmmm. . . Some day I’ll ask you why the Septuagint has such a funny name and why the Roman numerals are used as an abbreviation for it, but I don’t have any more time.”
OK. Bye now.