What Do The Dead Sea Scrolls Say?
The Dead Sea Scrolls were accidentally discovered in 1947 by Muhammad el Dib, an Arab Bedouin shepherd boy who was searching for a stray goat near an ancient community called Qumran, located about fifteen miles southwest of Jerusalem on the northwestern slopes of the Dead Sea. As Muhammad playfully threw a stone, he heard the breaking of a clay vessel. Upon investigation, he found the entrance to a cave that contained a veritable treasure known to the world as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Qumran community comprises the ruins of a settlement that was occupied during various times and a number of caves which contained the Dead Sea Scrolls. To this present time, about 300 caves have been explored and are now considered part of the region called Qumran. Over 500 different documents and over 15,000 text fragments have been excavated from this area to date. Domestic items found in the caves are probably related to the people who lived in the community.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant because they authenticate the accuracy of present day copies and translations of the Bible from the original manuscripts that were written thousands of years ago. This is extremely significant, for it indicates the degree of accuracy and stability that the biblical text has been maintained since its original writing. All of the original biblical manuscripts have long been lost. The only writings we have today are copies. For example, the earliest known copy of the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, known as the Massoretic text, dates back to 895 A.D. and is presently located in a synagogue known as the Karaites in Cairo, Egypt. It is called the Massoretic text because it was originally transcribed by the Massoretes, a group of Jewish scribes that were known to have recorded the Hebrew Scriptures between 500-900 A.D. The original manuscripts did not have divisions of chapters, verses or sentences as we see them in the present day Bible. In this regard, the Massoretes assisted in dividing the manuscript into a more readable form. For example, they inserted vowels according to the tradition of the oral reading of the time. They also inserted accent and cantillation marks so the lector would know when to pause.(1)
What has been determined from the scrolls is that the copies we have of the Bible today are incredibly accurate when compared to the manuscripts found in the Qumran caves. As one goes through any accepted translation today, such as the King James Version, the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, etc., the reader will note the scarcity of notes indicating the small number of changes that have been made. Any changes that have occurred are indicated by marginal notes and are identified as either DSS (for Dead Sea Scrolls) or Q (for Qumran). Compare this to the Book of Mormon, proclaimed by Joseph Smith to be the most correct of any book on earth. The Book of Mormon has seen over 4,000 changes since its initial 1830 publication, representing a 4% change from the original within a period of only 182 years.(2) If we take the book of Isaiah contained in the Bible and compare this to the oldest copy known of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrews University Isaiah, we find the Bible has four times less changes and yet is at a minimum 2,000 years older.
There are a total of four major caves within 1,000 yards of the Qumran settlement. They are identified as Cave numbers 1,2,3, and 4. Items taken from these caves are given a serial number which includes the number of the cave from where the item came. These were the caves where most of the scrolls, manuscripts and fragments had been found. Within Cave 1 where Muhammad