At the north end of the Dead Sea, on the western side, tucked into the cliffs, are the remains of what was once a religious community which we known as the Qumran community. I had been so looking forward to seeing this stop on our journey.
The people who lived here are thought to be Essenes, who lived an austere life, were very critical of the Temple religious hierarchy, and anticipated an imminent end-time battle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. It was this community who produced the famous Dead Sea Scrolls in their scriptorum.
The scrolls were discovered in 1947 (just the year before Israel became a nation) by some shepherds herding their sheep in the area. The cave in the short video is called Cave 4 where many of the texts were found. The scrolls contain many biblical texts, but also some documents related to the life of the community, commentaries, and other writings. Cave 4 is thought to be the library of the community, as the writings in that cave were not kept in jars, as the scrolls in all the other caves were, but rather on shelves which disintegrated over the years.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed here in Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book, was a sensational archaeological discovery. I hope to visit there later in my trip. The scrolls contained copies of books or passages of the Bible that were 1,000 years older than the copies then in our possession, and they demonstrated phenomenally small differences.
It was a thrill for me to see where these important scrolls were found. They are still piecing together the fragments found. Cave 4 held some 40,000 pieces of the scrolls, many only the size of your thumb. And it was so incredibly fortuitous that these were found, for a number of the caves in which scrolls were found were washed away in recent run-off flooding. One wonders what other treasures have been lost.
Signing off – Father Wismer