Dead Sea Scrolls foretold the coming of the Son of God

 Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of articles on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

By Charlene Scott-Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic

One text of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are 1,000 years older than any other extant manuscripts, specifically is a prophecy of the days to come of Jesus and His teachings.

   Text number 4Q246 reads: 

“He shall be called the Son of the Great [God], and by his name shall he be hailed as the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High.  (See BAR Magazine, March/April 1990, page 24). 

According to John J. Davis, author of “The Dead Sea Scrolls,” this is the first time that the expression “Son of God” has been found in a Palestinian text outside of the Bible.

A Catholic Dominican priest, Father Roland de Vaux, joined G.L. Harding in excavating Khribet Qumran between 1951 and 1956.

“Evidence from this small village indicates the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied there,” Davis wrote.  “The inhabitants – most likely the Jewish sect known as the Essenes – hid the scrolls in nearby caves when they learned of the approach of the Roman army.”

The hated Romans had ravaged Jerusalem and the many smaller villages in the nearby mountainous areas, but had left the rougher country near the Dead Sea and the high mountain fortress of Masada that was King Herod’s refuge as the last to be attacked and conquered.

(The oldest Hebrew text prior to the 1947 Dead Sea Scroll discoveries was the Ben Asher Text located in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.) 

When they learned of the great monetary value of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bedouins, archaeologists, scholars, and just plain thieves began to ravage the caves along the northwest shores of the Dead Sea, surely dunking themselves into the murky and sticky sea in the horrible heat, and later selling the scraps (which most of them could neither read nor decipher).

Davis reported that “Expeditions were launched into various valleys or ‘wadis,’ dry creeks or river beds with hills on either side, along the west shore of the Dead Sea,” (where their footprints and mine from visiting there many years later were washed away with the tide.)

A total of 230 caves were explored by archaeologists after the original finds. About 40 of these caves contained pottery and other objects, while 25 caves held pottery of the same type as that found in the original cave.  A dozen or more caves contained manuscript fragments.

My husband Dave and I saw several ancient pots and clay dishes from Israel at the recent scrolls exhibit in Denver.  (The pots and dishes looked almost identical to  Frankoma ware that is created  and sold in Oklahoma!)

One of the larger wadis in Israel is found at Wadi Qumran, which we visited. It is situated next to a site that formerly contained many ruins.  Once thought to be the remains of a Roman fort, this site now is known as Khirbet Qumran or “ruins of Qumran.” 

We walked around and among those ancient stones, whose rooms had been occupied as long ago as the end of the second century B.C. to A.D. 68.  Large stone remains of a long, narrow room were thought to be the dining and prayer room of the monks who had occupied the site and worshipped there, having fled from the Romans when they attacked Jerusalem. 

“A religious community lived at the site from the end of the second century B.C. to A.D. 68,” Davis wrote.  “The Romans had a garrison there between A.D. 68 and 86, and the final occupation at the site was by Jewish insurgents in the second war against Rome (A.D. 132-135).” 

Those last insurgents killed themselves and their families rather than surrender to the Romans and become their slaves for life.

One-fourth of all the scrolls and fragments found in the caves were copies of different books of the Hebrew Old Testament, and every book in the Hebrew canon is represented among the scrolls, except for the book of Esther.

Parts of books such as Deuteronomy, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets or the Psalms were found in more than ten copies.  The Book of Job was written in the normal square Hebrew characters called paleo-Hebrew script, and in Aramaic translation. 

Among the Jews at Qumran, the most popular scripture was the Book of Daniel.

Davis reported that “No fewer than eight manuscripts of the book were found in three different caves.”

“The most spectacular discovery among the Dead Sea caves was a complete scroll of the book of Isaiah in Hebrew that measured 24 feet long,” he added.  “The text of this Old Testament book (about 100 B.C.) was very much like the Ben Asher Text of A.D. 926.

“This fact gave scholars confidence that the translation of the book of Isaiah, which appears in our modern English translations and is based on the Ben Asher text, is a reliable one.”

Surprisingly, Davis revealed something that I never have read previously in my studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“As noteworthy as the Dead Sea finds were in 1947 and following, there is historical evidence that similar scrolls and manuscripts had been discovered in the region much earlier,” Davis wrote.

Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, fourth century A.D. refers to Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek found concealed in clay jars near Jericho in A.D. 217.

Eusebius lived from the third to the fourth century A.D. and referred to the discovery of the manuscripts found in the large jars.

Then in the eighth century A.D., Timothy I, who was the patriarch of the Nestorian Church, recorded the fact that “more than 200 psalms of David” were found near Jericho. 

Here are some more facts that you can file away for future use: three-fourths of the Dead Sea manuscripts include the Apocrypha (14 books in the Greek Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew Canon), the Pseudepiographa (books that were falsely ascribed to Old Testament writers), and commentaries on books of the Old Testament such as Habakkuk, which dates to 25 B.C. – and sadly for readers has had the bottoms of many of its columns eaten away!

The Dead Sea Scroll monks also wrote a rather severe piece of literature called the “Manual of Discipline,” dating back to 100 B.C.  They didn’t seem to care much for women.

The historian Josephus, whom I have quoted many times in other articles, did write about the Essenes, whom he hardly could ignore since at one time there were 4,000 of them living along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, where I went for a float among the chunks of salt.

Recently it came to light that the head of a Jewish sect had written a letter to a king or priest in 160 B.C. The letter cited 22 matters on which the sect disagreed with mainstream Judaic thought.

So, some scholars now believe the people at Qumran may have been Sadducees rather than Essenes.