Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

There are eleven caves at Qumran, which is a dry plateau. Some Qumran caves were formed naturally while others were dug out by the Essenes, a 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 the Qumran caves near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea to chase out a goat that had wandered in, heard something shatter, and entered to discover the clay jars containing the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ensuing archaeological expeditions discovered ~1,000 ancient texts, about 40% of which were manuscripts of the Old Testament, including every book except Esther. As expected, no New Testament books were found 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, as it yielded the highest number of those ancient texts, including Old Testament scrolls.)

Until the Qumran caves discovery, some Jewish theologians, who deny Jesus is the Messiah, had been claiming that chapter 53 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, which prophesies how and why Jesus will die, must have been written by Jesus' disciples and somehow spliced into Isaiah in or after the first century AD.

TThe highlight of the Qumran caves discovery was an 8 yard long, perfectly preserved manuscript of the 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 Isaiah 53's prophecy about Jesus.

Why did the Essenes live in Qumran?

Judaism had four sects: Essenes, Zealots, Sadducees and Pharisees.

Pharisees sought to earn everlasting life by obeying a plethora of man-made rules. Sadducees believed our existence ends at death. Zealots wanted to end the Roman rule by armed rebellion. Essenes, on the other hand, understood that sin separates us from God but believed that asceticism, hence living in caves, and washing with water, hence the many ritual bath pools (below) at Qumran, takes away sin.

Qumran Ritual BathWere they right?

The Bible says the penalty for sin isn't bath but death: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

Only in Jesus?

See Why Was Jesus Crucified?

Travel Tip
The Isaiah Scroll, including chapter 53, prominently displayed among the other Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem's Israel Museum is a facsimile copy of the original, which the museum has locked away. The vast majority of the exhibits in Israel Museum are originals and can be photographed with or without flash. The one exhibit that is banned from being photographed, even without flash, is the facsimile copy of the Isaiah Scroll, and two security guards sit next to the Isaiah Scroll to enforce the ban.