Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?


There has been a lot of debate over the Dead Sea scrolls ever since it was discovered more than 60 years ago in a seaside cave in place of ancient settlement known as Qumran. These scrolls are believed to be oldest known Biblical documents. The common belief regarding the authorship of the Dead Sea scrolls is that they are written by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes. Many feel that the Essenes dwelled in Qumran in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. All the scrolls are written on papyrus scrolls and parchments.

Snap of the Dead Sea Scroll

But latest research in order to decipher the writers of Dead Sea scrolls has given a new dimension to this history’s mystery. According to the new researchers the Dead Sea scrolls were written somewhere else and they were brought to Qumran by the fleeing Jews during 70 A.D. who tried to avoid the Roman siege of Jerusalem. Further the researchers feel that the scroll was not written by writers of a single sect.

Dead Sea Scrolls Written at Qumran

A Cave in Qumran

French archaeologist Roland de Vaux believes that the authors of the scrolls lived in Qumran as there are 11 caves from where the scrolls were discovered. He further stressed that there is historical evidence that Essenes resided in places close to the Dead Sea. His team of researchers also uncovered remains of some large pools that were supposed to be Jewish ritual baths. The Dead Sea scroll contains some description of the communal living which matches with the Essene culture. There are descriptions in the scroll relating to ritual bathing and communal dinning.

Scrolls written by Priests of Great Temple in Jerusalem

Great Temple of Jerusalem Destroyed by the Romans

Yuval Peleg, another notable archaeologist has contradicted the above mentioned view. According to him the artifacts found at Qumran suggest that it was an ancient pottery factory and the so called baths were actually pools used to separate clay. Researchers have also discovered and later deciphered a 2,000 year old cup that has cryptic code inscribed on both sides. The cryptic code is similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls. This makes Peleg and his team believe that the Dead Sea scrolls were written by religious leaders in Jerusalem. May be the priests used such a code language to keep the texts away from non priests. Some also believe that the Essenes were the priests of Jerusalem temple and went into self imposed exile when the kings assumed the role of high priests.  They settled down in Qumran along with their treasured texts or may have written the Dead Sea scrolls as a document for their religious practices.

All Scrolls not Written by Essenes

Pottery Found in Qumran

Some of the scholars also believe that not all the Dead Sea scrolls were written by Essenes. Most of the scrolls were brought to Qumran after the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The Romans destroyed the fabled Temple of Jerusalem and the priests fled with the religious scriptures to Qumran. An underground tunnel has been found in the recent excavations of Jerusalem that suggests that the priests could have used this route to exit the city. The tunnel ends very close to the Dead Sea and Qumran. Though some of the scrolls might have been written by the Essenes others were works of the fleeing Jewish priests. Chemical analysis of vessels found in the Qumran caves revealed that the only half of the clay used in these vessels was from the Dead Sea region.

Caves were used for Temporary Storage

Most of the scholars feel that the Dead Sea scrolls were written by the Jewish high priests and they fled away with the scrolls when there was impending danger on the Great Temple of Jerusalem. They hid the scrolls in the Qumran caves to return back later. For some reason they could not return to reclaim the scrolls and thus they remained unattended for many centuries.

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