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Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times

Scrolls and Artifact List Scrolls
Two thousand years ago, a group of people placed their religious writings in eleven remote caves near the north shore of the Dead Sea, never returning to retrieve them. Discovery of the texts, beginning in 1947, remains one of the great archaeological events of the twentieth century. These fragile parchment scrolls, though ravaged by insects and the elements, were preserved by their surroundings’ hot, dry climate and the darkness of the caves where they were placed. Among them are the oldest existing copies of the Hebrew Bible, written when Judaism and Christianity were just taking form.

Psalms Copies of the biblical book of Psalms make up the greatest number of scrolls found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves and date back to 150 BCE and up to 68 CE. This scroll is the earliest known copy, and the most substantial, including as many as 51 psalms. The text names King David as author of the Psalms, reinforcing the ancient conviction that he was the greatest of poets.

Paleo-Leviticus This scroll comprises portions of the last six chapters of Leviticus, which deal with matters like laws of worship, damages, slaves, and Israelite festivals. Most important are the precepts commanding observance of the New Year Festival (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

God will foretell worse punishment for the enemy. Deuteronomy.” The Isaiah Commentary suggests that expectations regarding a messiah of Davidic lineage were more widespread during the Second Temple period (516 BCE–70 CE) than previously supposed. led and won by the Davidic Messiah.Minor Prophets in Greek The “minor prophets” appear as 12 individual books in the Greek Septuagint and Christian Old Testament. From 333 BCE.” Here. Deuteronomy. . but in a single volume in the Hebrew Bible and in this scroll. “Song of Moses” Deuteronomy is second only to Psalms in the number of copies found among the scrolls. It includes a refrain to observe the law and exclusive allegiance to one god. Habakkuk asks why God’s people must suffer at the hands of their enemy—the “he” in this passage is likely Babylon. called “Prince of the Congregation” and “Branch of David. The Great Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 is the longest biblical scroll discovered. The text is in Greek.” a poem Moses recites on the eve of his death. The presence of Greek texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls illustrates that many Jews of this time spoke and read Greek. These fragments contain a portion of Deuteronomy 32 known as the “Song of Moses. with 32 copies (representing nearly every chapter of the book) discovered in total. written as Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites. but the name of God is in paleo-Hebrew. then the Romans conquered Israel. recounts their history and their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. first the Greeks. and Greek became one of the languages of the region. Here. it is interpreted as foretelling the end-of-time war against the Kittim (Romans). In reply. including the famous passage describing the “shoot raised up from the stump of Jesse. Isaiah Commentary This scroll contains text from Isaiah 10:22–11:5.

and dispossessed.” is a set of rules by which the scribes conducted their lives. and general conduct. good and bad. The scroll contains principles guiding religion.” Apocryphal Lamentations This scroll is written in the style of Lamentations. Angels. “May the LORD bless you and keep you. regulations for organizing the community. harassed by those who “speak false words” (a phrase often associated with the Pharisees.” This community feels itself to be wandering. The poem requests that God avenge the righteous community against its presumably Jewish opponents. initiating a new world order. the blessing on this fragment is to be recited to the surviving community after the final battle. isolated. God will increase fertility and will prevent disease and destruction by plagues and wild animals. join the fight. and study. broken. . details of daily life. The poem on this scroll is a supplication or petition in which the speaker describes his community in a time of trouble. According to the text. prayer. may the LORD make his face to shine upon you. including rules of entry. in 586 BCE. and steps taken to deal with those who violated the rules. work. the biblical book of poems mourning destruction of the First Temple. justice. Community Rule The Community Rule.Book of War The Book of War details an apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil. including a paraphrase of Numbers 6:24–25. also known as the “Manual of Discipline. at the end of time. a rival Jewish group) or the “wicked ones of your people. an explanation of the group’s views on predestination. God tips the balance toward good. After 40 years and 7 battles. It weaves in familiar quotations from the Bible.

Levi says he launders his garments with “pure” water and cleanses himself in “living” water in order to “right his path. Jacob’s son Levi tells his sons about priests’ duties and privileges.” so named because their authors often used aliases. and has its origin in the Bible. . They are intended to impart the lessons from father to son. In this example. a popular Jewish and Christian belief previously thought to have originated in a later period.” He then lifts his eyes and fingers toward the sky. It is of particular interest because its passage about purification rituatls. an anonymous writer has adopted Ezekiel’s persona to relate one of the prophet’s most well-known visions to contemporary events. containing what appears to be a rewriting of the prophecies of the biblical prophet Ezekiel.” or deathbed speeches. unique to the Dead Sea Scrolls. It belongs to texts called “Pseudepigrapha. This text is the oldest surviving reference to bodily resurrection. In this scroll. praying that God will protect him and his children from evil and provide them with wisdom and knowledge. It consisted of “last words. Aramaic Levi The testament was a common literary form in the Second Temple period (516 BCE–70 CE) and beyond.” or “false writings.Pseudo-Ezekiel This scroll is one of five copies of a composition.

these names are in fact extremely common in the Second temple period. Marble Roman “Boxer” Weight This figurine depicts a Roman boxer and probably served as a suspended counterweight for a scale.” While it might be tempting to claim this tomb belonged to Jesus and his family. have inscriptions that included the names “Jesus. Ossuaries These six ossuaries. The New Testament reports that Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb of a prominent follower named Joseph of Arimathea. Since the early fourth century Christians have venerated the site of Jesus’ burial at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s old City. help Judah the Elder. found in a tomb in Jerusalem. Connected to the hoop are two identical gold pendants. year 741” inscribed in Greek. Marble Slab with Menorah This slab dates back to the destruction of the second temple.” “Joseph.000-year-old gold earring is made of a coiled gold hoop and has a large inlaid pearl. with “One God. This is one of the only artifacts in the exhibit visitors will be allowed to touch. and guests will be able to write their own prayers down on paper and insert them in the wall.” “Mary. The prayers will then periodically be sent back to Israel. It was found in the ruins of a building which dates to the Roman period (3rd–4th century CE). This is the only find of its kind in Israel.Artifacts Western Wall Stone It is believed that this 3-ton stone fell from the southwest corner of the Second temple’s outer wall during the Roman fighting in 70 CE. The stone will be part of a cast replicating a section of the Western Wall. Gold Earring Inlaid with pearls and precious stones This 2. each adorned with one emerald and one pearl. (540 CE) .

000 years later. never imagining that his creation would be found 2. Excavations unearthed eleven pottery fragments with names on them.Ostraca and Jar Inscriptions More than seven hundred ostraca and storage jars were discovered. (1st century BCE – 1st century CE) Stone Inscribe with Five Branch Menorah This rare engraving of a menorah was recently uncovered in Jerusalem. (late 8th century BCE) . and some in Greek and Latin. and in Assyrian textual and pictorial records. The stone was found in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel. in proximity to the Temple Mount. Hundreds of slingstones and iron arrowheads have been discovered near Lachish’s destroyed walls and provide compelling evidence of the catastrophic battle that took place there. Iron Arrowheads/Flint Sling-Stones Sennacherib’s Judean Campaign in 701 BCE and his major battle at Lachish are illuminated in the Bible. The famous Lachich reliefs uncovered at Sennacherib’s palace in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh vividly details the siege on Lachish. These inkwells could have possibly been used by priests who wrote some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (1st century CE) Pottery Inkwell Inkwells were discovered in the Upper City. Most were inscribed in Hebrew and Aramaic. Researchers speculate that a passerby who had seen the Temple menorah incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed it to the side of the road. where the priests likely lived. in archaeological discoveries.

(10th century BCE) . (9th century BCE) Pottery Figurine of a Female Drummer Pottery Rattles Pottery Four-Horned Altar Small stone and clay incense altars were common throughout the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. and drums.(8TH century BCE) Music Music played a significant role in the life of the ancient Israelites. and dance performed at religious ceremonies. practiced alongside official rituals performed in the Jerusalem Temple. Among the most common are clay rattles. depicting women with prominent breasts. imitating larger sacrificial altars with horn-shaped cornerstones. Many have horn-like corners. bone flutes.Pottery Female Figurine The most intriguing religious objects of Iron Age Judah are some two thousand terracotta figurines excavated from the remains of houses. song. There is strong evidence in the Hebrew Bible and the archaeological record that many ancient Israelites believed Asherah was consort to the god of Israel. and various musical instruments have been uncovered. a well-known fertility symbol. They are just a few inches tall. The Bible describes music. The presence of these altars in domestic settings is another example of Israelite popular religion. These figurines were likely used in rituals connected to fertility or pregnancy. The upper body of some takes the form of a dove. They are found in local shrines and in the remains of dwellings.

Ivory Pomegranate and Dove The dove and the pomegranate are two well-known ancient Near Easter fertility symbols. wine. Doves signified feminine fertility and procreation and represented the Canaanite goddess Asherah and her Greek counterpart. (9th century BCE) Domestic Vessels Water. while these pottery vessels were used during meals. and pottery pomegranates are in Israel’s Iron Age archaeological repertoire. and oil were all stored in these jars of different sizes.Limestone Four-horned Altar from Residential Building Small stone and clay incense altars were common throughout the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They are found in local shrines and in the remains of dwellings. A bowl was probably placed on top of this stand to burn incense or hold offerings. Although ivory. this is the only Israelite example of a dove atop a pomegranate. (1150-586 BCE) . The presence of these altars in domestic settings is another example of Israelite popular religion. Many have horn-like corners. Astarte. imitating larger sacrificial altars with horn-shaped cornerstones. practiced alongside official rituals performed in the Jerusalem Temple. (9th8th century BCE) Pottery Painted Stand Cult stands were used in shrines and temples. (late 9th-early 8th century BCE) Pottery Seven-Spouted Lamp Seven-spouted lamp found at biblical Dan together with other cult vessels. bronze.

” These jars may have been used to collect grains or other goods for royal taxes. we find a growing number of ancient Hebrew inscriptions attesting to a seemingly high rate of literacy among the population. (7th-6th century BCE) Pottery LMLK Jar Storage jar “Belonging to the king. In this letter. They are decorated with a center triangle bordered by scroll-like ornaments. son of Eshiyahu. and on walls. Eliashib. (9th-8th century BCE) Arad Ostraca From the eighth century BCE onward. on ostracs. (late 8th century BCE) LMLK Handles . These inscriptions were written on stone and pottery vessels.Limestone Proto-Aeolic Capitals These stone capitals are characteristic of royal and public building architecture in Israel and Judah during the First Temple period. asked that wine and flour be given to the soldiers in the fortress.

The exact religious significance of this piece remains a mystery. (10th century BCE) Pottery goblet. (7TH century BCE) . perhaps he is a prisoner. (7TH century BCE) Clay ‘Bulla’ Stamped with a Personal Seal These seals are known as “bulla. Decanter. This cult stand may replicate a temple and could have served as a pedestal for a bowl in which worshippers burned incense. or he may be carrying an animal on his shoulders.These seals are known as “bulla. City of David. (7th century BCE) Stone Stamp Seal Bearing a Figure of an Archer Amongst the most common types of inscription found in ancient Israel and Judah are seals and seal impressions. His hands are tied in front of him. Many bear the names of the seal’s owner and his father. It is distinguished by the high quality of its clay and its deep red burnish.Pottery Cult Stand Fragment This fragment of a cult stand bearing a nude male with a pointed beard was uncovered in the City of David.” They provide us with invaluable information about the iconography and personal names of the biblical period.” They provide us with invaluable information about the iconography and personal names of the biblical period. both found in Jerusalem. They were used to stamp the handles of jars containing royaladministrative merchandise and official documents written on papyrus. and Jug This rare vessel has an unusual shape. Only two such vessels are known.