1. How many DSS are there? 870 manuscripts, from 15,000 scraps.

2. When were they discovered? Initial discovery of seven scrolls in 1947. Last one (cave 11) in 1956.

3. Who found them initially? A bedouin shepherd, Mohammed edh-Dhib.

4. How many caves contained scrolls: Eleven.

5. When were the scrolls written? About 200 BC - 100 AD.

6. Who wrote them? There are several theories. A priestly sect known as the Essenes -- the mainstream view. Alternative view: Scrolls may not have been written at Qumran, but rather brought there from Jerusalem for safe-keeping in around 66AD.

7. What other sources tell us anything about the Essenes? Josephus, Philo, and Pliny.

8. What books of the Bible are represented? All OT books except Esther.

9. Are any NT documents represented? No.

10. What non-Biblical documents were there? Damascus Document; War Scroll; Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association (Community Rule); Temple Scroll; Laws of purification, etc; Apocryphal books: Psalms, Enoch, Tobit, Jubilees; commentaries (peshers); liturgies; calendars; a list of buried treasure; stories of angels and giants; Messiah and Antichrist texts.

11. What materials are the scrolls made of? Papyrus (100); animal hides (goats, ibex, gazelle); copper (one scroll)

12. What languages are the scrolls written in? Hebrew, Aramaic (1/6), Greek.

13. What scripts are used? Paleo-Hebrew (particularly Gen-Deut,Job) Three cryptic (secret) scripts used.

14. Where were the scrolls initially pieced together and translated? Rockefeller museum, Jerusalem. 'The Scrollery'

15. When were the translations published? First volume: Discoveries in the Judean Desert (DJD) 1955; Slow publication rate for next 35 years. Computer generated text from a concordance 1991. Photographs published in 1991.

16. Where are they kept today? Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

17. How are the scrolls numbered? nQxxx. Where n = cave number and xxx = MS number. 4Q242 is the 242nd scroll from cave 4 at Qumran.

18. How did they piece together all the pieces? Sort by Scribes writing style and writing material. Today, DNA matching fragments from the same animal. Pieces grouped on plates and photographed under infra-red light. Scholars looked for matching features and damage patterns. Scholars make a scale drawing with gaps drawn to scale. Important to determine the column width. Sometimes, recognizable Biblical quotations can help. Scholar prepares a transcription using standard Hebrew or Aramaic lettering. Indexed to origin (Frag 1 Col 1) used for guesses. Scholar makes a translation of the transcription. Today: advanced scientific imaging and computer techniques.

19. What is a pesher? Interpretive allegorical commentary. From the word meaning 'interpretation of dream' (eg. Daniel 2:4ff, Dan 4, Dan 5) Eccles 8:1

20. What was the DSS author's view of the OT? Bible was a puzzle to be solved, or an enigma to be unraveled. The Qumran scribes sought to penetrate the secrets of the Scripture not so much through reflection but by openness to the revelation of God!!

21. What were the first seven scrolls found? Isaiah x 2 IQIsaa and IQIsab; Commentary on Habakkuk IQpHab; War scroll IQM; Genesis Apocryphon IQapGen; Community Rule IQS; Thanksgiving Hymns IQH

22. How are the scrolls dated? Carbon 14 dating. Writing analysis (paleography). Some claims to accuracies of 25 years.

23. Who are the main characters in the commentaries? Teacher of Righteousness; leader, receives revelation; The Man of the Lie; traitor, rival to the teacher. Wicked Priest; enemy of the teacher Kittim; marauding foreign power (probably the Romans)

24. Who was the Teacher of Righteousness, Man of the Lie, and the Wicked priest? Theories only. Teacher of Righteousness = Leader of Qumran sect? (A Sadducee?) Man of the Lie = A Pharisee? Wicked Priest = Nemesis of the teacher. Priest and a 'ruler of Israel'. Perhaps a Hasmonean priest-king 1st-2nd C BCE. Fell into the hands of his enemies and was tortured.

25. What about the charges of sectarian bias? More to do with theories of origin of the scrolls than with the translation. Terminology: e.g. Monk, scriptorium shows Catholic influence. No Jews on the original translation team!!!!!

26. Have any of the DSS documents been found in other places? A medieval copy of the Damascus Document was found in Cairo in the 1890s the so-called Cairo Geniza manuscripts. Some Psalms.

27. What impact has the discovery of the DSS had on the Bible? Verification of accurate transmission (Isaiah scroll 1000 years earlier). Improvement in some OT translations. NRSV adds extra paragraph at tend of 1 Sam 10 as a result of a DSS text. Scholarly opinions that Jews couldn't have written the gospels due to a lack of a literary culture exploded. More authority now given to the LXX (Septuagint) as a source.

28. What are the earliest OT documents available? The Aleppo Codex (10th C) now in Hebrew University library, Jerusalem. Leningrad Codex (dated 1005 AD) state library of St. Petersburg. Oldest complete copy of the Masoretic Text (MT) and basis for Biblia Hebraica standard Hebrew text of the OT used in translation today.

29. What was all the fuss about? Very slow rate of publication. Vermes: 'Academic scandal par excellence of the 20th Century', 'Closed shop' rule of publication.

30. Where to from here? Read the DSS for yourself! Several books available: The Mystery and the Meaning of the DSS Hershel Shanks; MTP XI OT/NT Bridge The Inter-Testamental period.

Further Reading:

  • Edward Cook : Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Zondervan, 1994.
  • Hershel Shanks: The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Random House 1998.
  • Wise et al: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Hodder & Stoughton, 1997
  • Geza Vermes: The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin 4thEd. 1995