Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations
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The Translation Process
Translation process is ongoing.
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Genesis - 21 Scrolls

Exodus - 18 Scrolls

Leviticus - 12 Scrolls

Numbers - 11 Scrolls

Deuteronomy - 32 Scrolls

Joshua - 2 Scrolls

Judges - 3 Scrolls

Ruth - 4 Scrolls

1 Samuel - 4 Scrolls

2 Samuel - 3 Scrolls

1 Kings - 3 Scrolls

2 Kings - 1 Scroll

2 Chronicles - 1 Scroll

Ezra - 1 Scroll

Job - 4 Scrolls

Psalms - 41 Scrolls

Proverbs - 2 Scrolls

Ecclesiastes - 2 Scrolls

Song of Solomon - 4 Scrolls

Isaiah - 22 Scrolls

Jeremiah - 6 Scrolls

Lamentations - 4 Scrolls

Ezekiel - 4 Scrolls

Daniel - 8 Scrolls

Hosea - 3 Scrolls

Joel - 3 Scrolls

Amos - 4 Scrolls

Obadiah - 2 Scrolls

Jonah - 5 Scrolls

Micah - 4 Scrolls

Nahum - 3 Scrolls

Habakkuk - 3 Scrolls

Zephaniah - 5 Scrolls

Haggai - 3 Scrolls

Zechariah - 5 Scrolls

Malachi - 2 Scrolls

The Translation Process

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Author

Translating the Dead Sea Scrolls

Transcription

The first step in translating a Dead Sea Scroll is transcription. Transcription is the process of converting the text on the scroll into typed Hebrew or Greek characters in modern fonts, so they can be readily viewed and manipulated, in a book or on a computer. High resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls are available at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/.

The example below is taken from a public domain image of scroll 1QIsaiaha. It shows an image of a three line scroll fragment. Below the fragment is a transcription of the three lines, with spacing to roughly allow for the area where the scroll is torn.

Identifying the Biblical Passage

The second step is to identify the Biblical passage that has been transcribed (if indeed it is a Biblical scroll, as about one quarter of the Dead Sea Scrolls are). This is easiest when the scroll is lengthy and/or well-preserved, but it can still usually be done even with short and fragmentary scrolls. The series of scholarly publications entitled Discoveries in the Judean Desert, published by Oxford University Press from 1955 to 2008, provides transcriptions and scroll identifications for the Dead Sea Scrolls. For this project, I relied on the online transcriptions provided at http://www.thewaytoyahuweh.com/research/dead-sea-scrolls. Without endorsing the theology of the web site, I found the quality of those transcriptions and the scholarship behind them to be high.

In the example above, the scroll contains a portion of Isaiah 5:10-12.

Supplying Missing Test

Once the Biblical passage is identified, it becomes possible to supply the text that is missing from the scroll. For example, if the text is from Deuteronomy 6 and the scroll says "Hear O Israel" and then the scroll is torn after the word Israel, we can confidently continue: "Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, The LORD is one." There are limits to this extrapolation of missing text. For this project, I only extrapolated words within a verse where some of the text was present in the scroll. I did not extrapolate entire verses of missing text. I believe this allows a translation with reasonable readability, without involving excessive speculation. The traditional text used to supply the missing words is in almost all cases the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). I have provided footnotes for the few cases when the MT is not used to supply the missing text.

In the example above, the scroll contains a portion of Isaiah 5:10-12. This example is replicated below, followed by a second replication with the missing text supplied in Green.

Translation

I chose the World English Bible to use as the basis for the translation. The World English Bible is a modern English translation which is in the public domain, as it was necessary to have a public domain version of the Bible for this project. Therefore, about 99% of what the reader will see when looking at this web site is essentially a World English Bible translation of the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. The remaining 1% or so of the translation - the places where the scrolls do not match the traditional Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text - is my own. For purposes of consistency, I attempted to retain the word choices of the World English Bible in my translation, even when those were not the choices I would normally have made. Chapter and verse numbers are also taken from the World English Bible, which is consistent with other English language Bibles, but occasionally different from the Hebrew chapter and verse divisions.

The World English Bible translation for the text above is as follows, starting in the middle of Isaiah 5:10 and ending in the middle of Isaiah 5:12:

...seed shall yield an ephah.Ē 11 Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them! 12 The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they donít respect the work of Yahweh, neither have they considered the operation of ...

Convention for Identifying Missing Text

When text is missing from a verse, I placed that text in italics. This convention was used initially in the King James Version and some other translations of the Bible when English words needed to be provided for readability. Many of the scrolls are very fragmentary, and the translation of those scrolls will show more italics than regular font text.

In the example we are working with, a few of the words are missing, so they would be placed in italics as follows:

...seed shall yield an ephah.Ē 11 Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them! 12 The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they donít respect the work of Yahweh, neither have they considered the operation of ...

Convention for Identifying Word Fragments

When a word in the scroll is partly present and partly missing, I marked the text in dark blue color. I made no distinction based on how much of the word was present: from only one letter present to only one letter missing, all partial words are marked in dark blue. Hebrew words commonly are translated into multiple English words and when this occurs, all the English words associated with the one Hebrew word are in dark blue.

In the example we are working with, a few of the words are partially missing, so they would be placed in blue as follows:

...seed shall yield an ephah.Ē 11 Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them! 12 The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they donít respect the work of Yahweh, neither have they considered the operation of ...

Convention for Identifying Alternate Spelling

When a word in a scroll is spelled differently from the word as it appears in the traditional text, I marked the text in green color. Because Hebrew spelling patterns changed during the Old Testament period and had become much different at the time the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied, some scroll translations have many words in green. If a word is partly present and also shows a different spelling (implying it would be both blue and green), the translation will use green. I also used the green color to mark word order changes that have no effect on the meaning or translation of a passage.

In the example we are working with, one word is spelled differently from the traditional text, and so is in green, as follows:

...seed shall yield an ephah.Ē 11 Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them! 12 The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they donít respect the work of Yahweh, neither have they considered the operation of ...

Convention for Identifying Changes

When the text differs from the traditional text in some manner that goes beyond spelling, the change will be marked in red color. Traditional text not present in the scroll will be red with strikethroughs (deleted text). Text in the scroll not in the traditional text will be red with underlines (new text). In a few cases, there are enough clues present to determine that the missing text does not match the traditional text. In these cases, the missing text will be both red and in italics. I have supplied footnotes in such cases to explain the rationale for this decision. The new red text represents my own attempts at a translation, but I frequently consulted The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, by Martin Abegg, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, for help with the translation. In some of the scrolls of Psalms, the order of the chapters is different from the traditional text. I marked those cases in the introduction to each scroll, but made no further note in the translation.

The example we have been working with from Isaiah 5 has no differences from the traditional text other than the one spelling variance, so it would not have any red in the translation.

Possibility for Errors

Most of the steps in this translation process allow the possibility for errors. The transcription could be in error, the reconstruction of the missing text could be in error, and the translation could be either in error or perhaps just not optimal. I would love to correct any errors so this project could provide as accurate a translation as possible, so feel free to contact me about any errors you may see.