Are The Dead Sea Scrolls Really Ancient Texts?

Question from a Site Viewer

This question is about the Dead Sea Scrolls. How do we know when they were placed in the caves? How do they know they were part of the bible? How can I be convinced that they weren’t placed there 80 years ago and made to look ancient? How do I know that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not a copy of the Bible and that someone from this generation copied it from a Bible and placed it in the caves?

Tim’s Answer

You ask how the scholars know when the dead sea scrolls were placed in the caves. The answer to this question is that language changes over time. By looking at the style of writing, the spelling of words, when the area was occupied, and many other sources of evidence, the scholars determined that the scrolls dated to the second temple period which ended in 70 A.D. This dating was confirmed with radiocarbon dating. The scrolls were tested by two independent laboratories. The radiocarbon dating confirmed the conclusion that these scrolls were created before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and several of them centuries earlier. If you want to read more about the dating, please see this article which describes the work done at one of the laboratories that tested the scrolls.

The scrolls could not have been placed there 80 years ago because the radiocarbon dating assures us of this. In addition, because of an earlier forgery, scholars were initially very skeptical of the first few finds. When archaeologists were able to get into the caves and discover for themselves, all skepticism was answered. The scrolls were truly ancient, existing in caves of the desert where they were not disturbed for generations. There is no question among scholars as to the age of these documents. The evidence is overwhelming. I realize you were not there. So you must rely on the words of others, as I do. But the Dead Sea Scrolls have been widely available to the scholastic community. The lack of dissent as to the age is due to the compelling evidence of the age. The radiocarbon dating only serves to confirm what the archaeologists concluded based on handwriting styles, the types of materials used, and the formatting of the documents.

You ask how the scholars know that the Dead Sea Scrolls were part of the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain many documents. I have an English version of the Dead Sea Scrolls that contains 155 separate documents representing multiple fragments found in the caves. Most of these are not Scripture. There are calendars, charters, commentaries, horoscopes, religious instructions, portions of the Apocrypha and Pseudopigrapha, and many other writings. But there also were found copies of the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament), including an almost complete copy of the book of Isaiah. When the scholars translated the various texts, they discovered that some of the texts were books found in our Old Testament. The texts are almost word for word what we have today, a text transmitted to us through the generations. This discovery confirmed for us that the text of the Old Testament we have today and that has been used by the church for nearly 2,000 years has undergone virtually no change from what existed before the time of Jesus.

Thanks for your questions. May the Lord Jesus bless you.

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