[This article appeared in the August 2020 issue of The Theosophical Movement. For more articles published in this excellent magazine follow this link: http://www.ultindia.org/previous_issues.html]
The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of about 1,000 ancient manuscripts. Which include various versions of books of the Hebrew Bible and various other religious, legal and philosophical documents. Most of these scrolls were found between 1947 and the 1960s, which were mainly found in eleven caves near Qumran, located in Judean desert. Molecular biologist Oded Rechavi of Tel Aviv University and his colleagues observe that since the scrolls made of sheepskin and cow skin retain DNA from those animals, analysis of that DNA could help to figure out which of the more than 25,000 scrolls came from the same animals, and therefore from the same documents. Thus, for instance, the researchers assumed that scroll fragments from closely related sheep were more likely to come from the same document than those from distantly related sheep or from cows.
This can help the researchers to piece together the scrolls’ history. Dead Sea Scrolls are estimated to have been written between the third century B.C. and the first century A.D., which is known as the late Second Temple period. The DNA evidence suggests that the ideas in the scrolls from the Qumran caves extend beyond Qumran community and are not restricted to a small Jewish sect that broke from mainstream Judaism, as previously surmised.
The investigators believe that the four Qumran fragments from the Hebrew Bible’s book of Jeremiah, probably came from two different versions of that book and that two sheepskin fragments likely belonged to one book, and two cow skin fragments belonged to another. According to Tel Aviv University Biblical scholar Noam Mizrahi, the cow skin scrolls must have been produced elsewhere, as cows could not have been raised in dry Judean desert. Moreover, it was noticed that the style of writing on the cow skin fragments differed from that on other pieces from the book of Jeremiah. Likewise, in a Qumran fragment of the biblical book of Isaiah, distinctive sheep DNA suggests that it might be from some site outside Qumran, writes Bruce Bower. (Science News, July 4, 2020)
The article, “The Dead Sea Scrolls,” (The Theosophical Movement, June 1956), points out that the historical period from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D. was brought under discussion by the findings of thousands of ancient manuscripts in caves on the shores of the Dead Sea. In his book, The Scrolls from the Dead Sea, published in 1955, Mr. Edmund Wilson, an able writer and critic, has carefully recorded the train of events between their discovery in 1947 and their recognition as priceless Biblical treasures, with his appraisal of the conflicting opinions of the experts. He says that these documents have threatened a variety of rooted assumptions.
The article points out that these assumptions are those concerned with the origin of Christianity and the claims to uniqueness and superiority advanced by both Christianity and Judaism. These documents supply “a whole missing chapter for the history of the growth of religious ideas between Judaism and Christianity” which tends to revolutionize our approach to the beginnings of Christianity. Mr. Wilson explains that a library had been hidden in the caves on the shores of the Dead Sea, “a library which seems to have included almost all the books of the Bible, a number of apocryphal works and the literature of an early religious sect,” namely, the Essenes (the Holy Ones). The article points out that no doubt the Christians’ hostility toward knowledge and education (which was eventually kept entirely under the priests) and the swelling of their ranks largely from the dregs of society explain why the historians of the early centuries fail to mention them. How could anyone accept the notion that the Jews were the only nation to whom Truth had been revealed, and that the Jewish Bible was the only scripture of true revelation? Or, that Jesus was the first and only Saviour? The great beings cannot fail to recognize that the teachings attributed to him but repeated the ancient ethical precepts, and that the legends surrounding his life were the usual mystical allegories, identical with those associated with his predecessors. The Dead Sea scrolls confirm this. The teachings contained in the Sermon on the Mount as well as many other passages in the Gospels (especially that of John), can be traced to these pre-Christian scrolls. The discovery of these scrolls will probably open men’s eyes to the fact that the superiority or inferiority of any religion is determined by the degree to which it reflects the One Truth that is at the root and base of all.