The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was initially made in 1947, represents one of the most important archeological discoveries made in the twentieth century. In the caves of the cliffs overhanging the northwestern end of the Dead Sea, in an area now known as Khirbet Qumran, a number of large clay jars containing more than six hundred ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts were discovered by some travelling Bedouins. These manuscripts were attributed to the members of a previously unknown Jewish brotherhood, and were written approximately between the years of 100BCE and 68CE. While these scrolls provide scientists and historians with a window into a previously undiscovered community, the Dead Sea Scrolls are of particular interest to biblical scholars in that they shed light on the intertestamental period, and the religious atmosphere prior to, during and, immediately following the lifetime of Jesus. It is most likely that these manuscripts can be connected with the Jewish sect known as the Essenes; this particular group withdrew from the Jewish community in Jerusalem, and went to live by the Dead Sea, forming a monastic community. The most striking feature of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the parallels these manuscripts share with the early Christian religion, and more specifically, the likelihood that Jesus and John the Baptist crossed paths with the Qumran Essene sect. Both the forms of organization and the religious rituals observed by the Qumran Essenes bear a striking resemblance to their early Christian counterparts. While absolute, historical statements are difficult to make, because of the overlap and contradictions between religious and historical documentation in bot... ... middle of paper ... ..., has given biblical scholars a great deal of insight into a mysterious period in Christian history -- its conception. The manuscripts of the Qumran monks give us a greater understanding of the historical context at the origin of Christianity. The many parallels that can be drawn between these two groups help to explain what religious environment brought forth this new messianic movement. Though these numerous similarities might invite a direct relationship to be drawn between the two, it seems more likely that while the Essene religion certainly influenced early Christians, the two always remained distinctly different religions. However, they shared fundamental beliefs and practiced similar forms of organization and of ritual. We may, therefore, conclude that the Essene sect at Qumran was an influential force in the crystallization of the Christian religion.
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