The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 is arguably the most important and greatest archaeological find of the century. Housed in the Israel Museum, the scrolls are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible found to date and describe the life, times and beliefs of the Dead Sea Sect. These ancient manuscripts were discovered over a period of nine years (from 1947 to 1956) in eleven caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea near Khirbet Qumran. The scrolls dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, were written on parchment and papyrus and found mostly in fragments.
The Isaiah Scroll is one of the original seven scrolls found and is the largest and best preserved of all of the biblical scrolls. And, it is the only one that was discovered in its entirety – 54 columns containing all 66 chapters. The scroll dates from around 100 BCE and as such is 1,000 years older than the oldest Hebrew biblical manuscript, The Aleppo Codex.
The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum houses a facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll in a specially designed hall resembling the tops of the clay jars that the scrolls were discovered in. This impressive exhibit allows the visitors to see the 2.60-meter long scroll that contains the famous phrase “they shall beat their swords into plowshares…” (Isaiah 2.4). To add to the spectacular vision of the lengthy scroll, a small original fragment is also on display.
To help bring home Isaiah’s message, iron tools common to the 8th century BCE, or the time of Isaiah’s life, are shown alongside the scroll. The discovery of the Scrolls changed the study of the history of the ancient Jewish people as nothing prior to or since has. During the period of excavation, fragments of approximately 950 different scrolls were found. Excavations continue to this date, but no additional scrolls have been found in 1956.
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