It was November, 1947. The learned professor studied the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls to try and ascertain if they were as important as he dared to suspect. No one had yet identified whether or not they were genuine, or the huge significance held in those ancient and fragile fragments.
“My hands shook as I started to unwrap one of them”, Professor Eliezer Sukenik of Hebrew University wrote in his journal.1 “I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms, but the text was unknown to me. I looked and looked, and I suddenly had the feeling that I was privileged by destiny to gaze upon a Hebrew Scroll which had not been read for more than 2,000 years.”
He took them back to his home in Jerusalem to examine them further. The timing of Professor Sukenik’s eureka moment was almost as significant as the discovery itself. The world was in the throes of deciding whether or not the people of Israel could have a home in the land of their fathers: the UN were voting on the Partition Plan that exact hour, on November 29th 1947.
“While I was examining these precious documents in my study, the late news on the radio announced that the United Nations would be voting on the resolution that night—whether or not Israel would be allowed to become a nation… It was past midnight when the voting was announced. And I was engrossed in a particularly absorbing passage in one of the scrolls when my son rushed in with the shout that the vote on the Jewish State had passed. This great event in Jewish history was thus combined in my home in Jerusalem with another event, no less historic, the one political, and the other cultural.”
God’s remarkable timing to reveal his secrets
Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, suggestions had been arising that the Jewish people had fabricated the Bible, and that they had no real connection to the land. Just as the people of Israel faced great obstacles entering the Promised Land the first time round, so they faced great opposition in the twentieth century. But now a shepherd boy in the desert of Qumran blew those doubts about the Bible out of the water with his accidental discovery… just in time for the birth of Israel in 1948! God’s timing was perfect, as always.
“On the very day, the very day, that Israel’s rebirth was confirmed, a Jewish professor confirms the existence of ancient Israel. You really have to intellectually dishonest if you are going to claim that God was not behind Israel’s dramatic rebirth,” says Ron Cantor, a Messianic Jewish pastor in Israel.2
This amazing discovery shows us that the Biblical texts were passed down with extraordinary accuracy. The scrolls were 1000 years older than any text we had before the discovery, yet the book of Isaiah you have in your Bible is the same as the one found in that ancient jar in Qumran, with only a few letters changed.
What the Dead Sea Scrolls bring us today
As well as solid evidence that the Biblical text has not changed for two millennia, we now have invaluable insights into Jewish culture and lifestyle at the time of Yeshua and the birth of the church. We can also see how minor changes made to letters in the Biblical text by Medieval rabbis covered up some Messianic prophecy pointing to Yeshua! Today, Jewish people can examine the ancient texts and decide for themselves what – or who – the Biblical prophets were referring to. More than that, the scrolls show us that there was significant Messianic expectation among the Jewish community in the century right before Yeshua was born. They were expecting a Messiah whom heaven and earth would obey – one who would be the very Son of God!
(Above: Excerpts from a fascinating conversation with one of the leading New Testament scholars of our time, and an authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Dr. Craig Evans.)
And the findings continue: More recently, remains of an ancient Torah scroll were found in a burnt synagogue by the Dead Sea, and only this year, another cave in Qumran was found to contain evidence of more scrolls.
“The Dead Sea Scrolls made for a symbolic birthday gift for the state still struggling to survive out of utero. The texts are celebrated icons of Israel’s heritage”, writes Shelley Neese in her book, The Copper Scroll Project. “The Egyptians have their pyramids and the Chinese have their wall… but the Jews have their scrolls, monuments built from words rather than mortar”. These ancient scrolls symbolize the people of Israel and their great contribution to the world: the Oracles of God.
In short, the Dead Sea Scrolls were an absolutely extraordinary discovery, full of invaluable treasures for us today.
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.