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Translation process is ongoing.
For current status see details
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many Dead Sea Scrolls are there? The web site http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il lists 1143 objects with writing, the great majority of which are scrolls. A few miscellaneous items, such as mezuzot and tefillin are included in the count.
2. How many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are books of the Bible? The number varies depending on how you count. This web site counts 223. It counts items written on papyrus (rather than scrolls) and Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament, but mostly leaves out paraphrases, commentaries, and apocryphal books.
3. How old are the Dead Sea Scrolls? All Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Qumran caves and at Masada were copied prior to 68 A.D., when the Qumran community was abandoned. The oldest scroll has been dated to about 250 B.C. A few other scrolls translated on this web site were found in other locations in the Judean Desert, and were copied prior to 135 A.D., during the Bar Kochba revolt.
4. How are the Dead Sea Scrolls dated? The community at Qumran, where the scrolls were found, was abandoned during the Judean-Roman war, which ran from 66-70 A.D., so no scroll can be dated after that period. Most scholars believe the best method for dating the scrolls is by an analysis of the handwriting. Although handwriting analysis may not be intuitive to a modern reader, handwriting styles did change over time, and experts feel confident about this method of dating. In addition, some Carbon-14 dating of scrolls has been done. Finally, in the caves with the scrolls, some coins have been found from the period matching the age of the scrolls.
5. Where were the Dead Sea Scrolls found? Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves near Qumran, near the shore of the Dead Sea. A few additional scrolls were found at Nahal Hever, Masada, Wadi Muraba’at and Wadi Sdeir.
6. How did the scrolls survive for so long? The caves protected the scrolls from weather. Many of them were encased in ceramic jars. Also, the low humidity environment in the area was conducive to the preservation of the scrolls.
7. When were the Dead Sea Scrolls found? The first scrolls were found in 1947. Further searches produced more findings up through 1956.
8. Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Dead Sea Scrolls were the property of a community of Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect. It is believed that some of the scrolls were copied by the Essenes and some were brought to the Essene community from elsewhere.
9. In what languages were the Dead Sea Scrolls written? Hebrew is the language of the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Dead Sea Scrolls that are not Biblical scrolls and are not part of this project. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il, the breakdown by language is Hebrew – 764 scrolls, Aramaic – 217 scrolls, Greek – 131 scrolls, Nabatean – 12 scrolls, unidentified – 25 scrolls. A few scrolls use both Hebrew and Aramaic.
10. What is the significance of the scrolls that are marked as “Paleo” or “PaleoHebrew?” The modern Hebrew script used to write the Hebrew alphabet was adapted around the time of the Babylonian exile, or 587/586 B.C. Most scrolls use the modern script. Some scrolls are in the PaleoHebrew script used before that time (though that does not mean they are that old). A few scrolls use the modern script, but write the divine name for God, Yahweh, in the PaleoHebrew script. The choice of script does not reflect any difference in the language, but rather a difference in how the letters were formed.
11. Which books of the Bible are most common among the scrolls? Psalms, Deuteronomy, Genesis and Isaiah are the most common Biblical scrolls. Interestingly, these four books are also often quoted in the New Testament.
12. Why are there no Dead Sea Scrolls of Esther, First Chronicles, or Nehemiah? There may have been one or more scrolls of these books that did not survive. Also, these books may have been used less than other Biblical books at the time. The books of Second Chronicles and Ezra are represented by just one scroll. The scroll of Ezra was probably an Ezra-Nehemiah scroll, of which only the Ezra portion was preserved. Likewise, the scroll containing Second Chronicles may have been a combined Chronicles scroll, with only the second part preserved.
13. Are any New Testament books present in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Probably not. Scroll 7Q5 is a small Greek language papyrus containing 11 letters, which some scholars have identified with Mark 6:52-53, but this identification has not been widely accepted. Most of the scrolls were copied before the life of Christ, and none of the scrolls from Qumran can be later than 68 A.D., so there would not be much time to get a New Testament manuscript into the collection.
14. What is the longest Dead Sea Scroll? Scroll 1Q Isaiaha, known as the Great Isaiah Scroll, contains the entire book of Isaiah from Isaiah 1:1 to Isaiah 66:24. This is the only scroll containing a complete book of the Bible.
15. Why did you use the World English Bible as a basis for translation? I used the World English Bible (WEB) because it is in the public domain; there is no copyright for it. Almost all modern English language Bibles are copyrighted, but the WEB is not. I needed a translation that was in the public domain, since this project involved reprinting thousands of verses, and sometimes adding to or striking out portions of those verses. In a copyrighted version, that would not be appropriate. The only other choice available at the time I began the project was the King James Version (KJV), since copyrights usually expire after 100 years, but I didn’t choose the KJV because it is difficult to read for most modern English speakers, and because I did not feel I could recreate the beauty, accuracy or style of the KJV in those scroll passages I needed to translate.
16. Why are so many words marked in green, to indicate spelling differences? Were there really that many spelling variations? Yes. Hebrew spelling was in flux during the time the Bible was written. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions consist of consonants only – no vowels. Later writings allowed several of the letters to double as vowels. This convention of vowel letters was optional during the Biblical period, so many words, including some of the most common words and names (like David and Jerusalem), have alternate spellings in the Bible. Other words (like “Elohim,” the word for God) had one spelling when the scriptures were written but a modified spelling at the time the scrolls were copied. Modern Hebrew makes more usage of vowel letters than is present in the Bible.
17. The changes in red look like they are corrections to the Bible. Is that right? No. The changes in red represent places where a Dead Sea Scroll reads differently from the traditional text used to translate the Bible. It makes no judgment on what is the “better” text. The traditional Hebrew text is the Masoretic Text (MT), and the MT was chosen by the scholarship of ancient Jewish people as the best text available. Even with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most Christian scholars continue to use the MT as the optimal version for producing translations of the Old Testament.
18. Why is the numbering for the scrolls sometimes inconsistent? Most of the scrolls consist of multiple fragments. Since their initial discovery and numbering, some fragments have been found to not belong to the scroll they were originally assigned to, while others were later assigned to an existing scroll. The reassignment process led to inconsistent numbering.
19. Where are the Dead Sea Scrolls today? The permanent home of most of the Dead Sea Scrolls is at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. Some of the scrolls periodically go on tours in museums throughout the world. A few scrolls are at the Jordan Museum in Amman, Jordan.
20. Can I see the Dead Sea Scrolls online? Yes, they are publically available at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il.
21. Are translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls available elsewhere online? As of this writing, I am not aware of a web site other than this one that translates all the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls into English, but I expect there will soon be others that do. Fred Miller has produced an online translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll here: http://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qa-tran.htm. In addition, some software programs are for sale which include translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
22. Are there books that translate the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, by Martin Abegg, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich produces a Bible translation consisting of the Biblical passages present in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It has extensive textual footnotes on variant readings of the scrolls, although it does not produce a scroll-by-scroll translation. There are multiple books published with translations of the non-Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. One good one is The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Volumes 1 and 2, by Florentino Garcia Martinez and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar, which also has Hebrew transcriptions.