Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Tabgha, Israel When Were The Gospels Written?
Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Qumran caves are located near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, south of Jericho and north of En Gedi. If you take the day trip to Masada from Jerusalem, you will pass Qumran caves just before reaching the Dead Sea en route to Masada.

There are eleven caves at Qumran, which is a dry plateau. Some of the caves were formed naturally while other caves were dug out by the Essenes, an ascetic Jewish sect that lived in Qumran in the second and first centuries BC.

In 1947, a Bedouin goat herder hurled a rock into one of these Qumran caves to chase out a goat that had wandered in and heard something shatter. Thus were discovered the clay jars containing the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The ensuing archaeological expeditions to the Qumran caves discovered ~1,000 ancient texts, about 40% of which were manuscripts of the Old Testament. Every book of the Old Testament was found except the Book of Esther. No New Testament books were found, as expected, since the Dead Sea Scroll predate the New Testament era.

In the center of the photo above is the entrance to cave #4, the most famous of the eleven Qumran caves. It yielded the most number of those ancient texts, including Old Testament scrolls, and is the cave most visible from afar.

Until the Qumran caves discovery, some Jewish theologians who deny Jesus is the promised Messiah had been arguing that chapter 53 of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which prophesies how and why Jesus will suffer and die (see Why Was Jesus Crucified?), must have been written by Jesus' disciples and somehow spliced into the Book of Isaiah.

The highlight of the Qumran caves discovery was an 8 yard long, perfectly preserved manuscript of the entire Book of Isaiah. In it was the entirety of what we know today as chapter 53. This "Isaiah Scroll," which predates the birth of Jesus, ended speculation about the authenticity of the prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53:

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

Travel Tip
You can see the Isaiah Scroll, including chapter 53 above, prominently featured among the other Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem near the Supreme Court. Finding the Qumran caves is much more tricky, as there is no bus service to it and not even a sign indicating it off the freeway. If renting a car, be sure to take a good map and get precise directions before setting out.

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