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Joe Paprocki Answers:
What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and what do they mean for Catholics
and biblical scholarship?
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a shepherd boy in 1947 in caves
surrounding the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. These ancient scrolls
turned out to be texts, written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, that
dated from the 1st and 2nd centuries before Christ. Among these writings
are some of the oldest known copies of Biblical (Old Testament) texts,
including fragments from every book of the Old Testament. It is believed
that these texts were part of a library kept by a Jewish sect known as
the Essenes. In addition to biblical texts (about 40%), the Dead Sea
Scrolls also include copies of extra-biblical literature, writings that
were known to exist but not considered canonical, as well as previously
unknown writings that describe the beliefs and rules for living as a
faithful Jew in the Essene community. After many decades of study, the
scrolls have been published. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls means
much to Catholic biblical scholarship, especially textual criticism,
since these documents precede previously discovered texts by nearly 1000
years. Likewise, their discovery inspires Catholics to further study the
Hebrew roots of Christianity. Finally, the discovery and study of the
Dead Sea Scrolls has demonstrated just how faithfully the Word of God
has been transmitted through the ages.