Home Question Box What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? By Joe Paprocki November 13, 2009 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.