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In 1947, young Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert, entered a long - untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. That initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade and eventually produced thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves. During those same years, archaeologists searching for a habitation close to the caves that might help identify the people who deposited the scrolls, excavated the Qumran ruin, a complex of structures located on a barren terrace between the cliffs where the caves are found and the Dead Sea.
Within a fairly short time after their discovery, historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence, as well as carbon-14 dating, established that the scrolls and the Qumran ruin dated from the third century B.C. to 68 A.D. They were indeed ancient! Coming from the late Second Temple Period, a time when Jesus of Nazareth lived, they are older than any other surviving Old Testament manuscripts by almost one thousand years.
There have been about 350 rolls uncovered and this discovery has been considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the twentieth century. Since their discovery nearly half a century ago, the scrolls and the identity of the nearby settlement have been the object of great scholarly and public interest, as well as heated debate and controversy. Why were the scrolls hidden in the caves? Who placed them there? Who lived in Qumran? Were its inhabitants responsible for the scrolls and their presence in the caves?
Portions of every book of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esther, have been found. What's really interesting is the scrolls of Isaiah, because one of the two that have been found gives the entire book of this great prophet, and it dates to before Jesus was born. Thats incredible! Here is a Hebrew manuscript of Isaiah 1,000 years older than our oldest manuscript (Masoretic) and confirming the accuracy of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament.