The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of 900+ manuscripts or fragments containing historical, religious, and linguistic information. Significant because they include the 2nd-oldest surviving manuscripts found later in the Hebrew Bible canon. They also include extra-biblical material giving evidence of a diversity of religious philosophy during what is called the “Second Temple Judaism,” which is another way of describing the mindset of Jewish leadership at the time of Jesus Christ in the 1st century. While most of the texts are written in Hebrew, there are some in Aramaic, and others in Greek, and one on copper.
Because of the threadbare condition of some of the scrolls, many remain unidentified. The scrolls were discovered in twelve caves at the site known as Wadi Qumran near the Dead Sea along the West Bank of the Jordan River. From 1946 to 1956 Bedouin shepherds led a team of archeologists to the site of 12 separate caves and recovered fragments like the one in the image above. [The Psalms Scroll (11Q5)]
This one image is a good metaphor for what was happening the week of Passover at the end of Jesus’ ministry. After arriving in Jerusalem to the sounds of people shouting “Hosanna!” (Come let us reason), things began to unravel for the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. Jesus demonstrated His authority by driving the money changers from the Temple (Mark 11:15-17). Mark’s gospel tell us “The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” (11:18)
As Jesus began to move about the city, coming and going into the temple compound, these Jewish leaders began aggressively challenging His authority, seeking to entrap Him, and find a validation for their murderous intentions. As the feast of Passover approached, His own disciples commented one day, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” To which Jesus replied, “Do you see these great buildings? Now one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mark 13:1-2) Jesus was in the role of prophet here, because in fact in 70 A.D. the Roman government came and tore the Second Temple down stone by stone, and it lies in ruins today. The Jewish Old Testament system of worship was unraveled within 40 years of the statement Jesus made in Mark 13.
It was necessary. It was part of the sovereign plan of God. Salvation for all mankind came from the nation of Israel, but not in the manner they thought it would come. They believed Messiah would come to destroy Rome, when in fact He came to bear the weight and full penalty for mankind’s Sin. They thought Jehovah would never allow them to lose their power or position in the world, when in fact Yahweh was about to leave them powerless in a hostile world. Things unraveled quickly; in the context of how long Israel had been blessed by God, protected by His hand, and given mercy time after time. When the nation commissioned to bring LIGHT to the nations, decided instead to kill the Light of the world using the Roman government of its murderous tool, the unraveling process was almost complete.
On the day when Jesus died, the path to God was made clear, as the curtain in the temple separating all mankind from the Holy of Holies was rent in two, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51). The words of Jesus to His disciples were fulfilled literally, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6).
The Dead Sea Scrolls are documentation of a time when God chose Israel to be LIGHT to the world. They are frayed, fragmented, and threadbare. But the truth of those documents remains. They are part of the sovereign plan of God to do what this nation could not accomplish. Light came to the world in the form of God Himself. The Old covenant was replaced by the New. The old system of sacrifice, was replaced by one complete for all the balance of human time. The old priestly system of having a mediator to offer my sacrifices, is replaced now by the One who is both Priest and Sacrifice, for the Sin of the world.
The old unraveled. The NEW will last for eternity.