St. Charles Herald-Guide

Parish scholar tells what you ought to know about the Dead Sea Scrolls

By Ann Taylor - January 31, 2007

NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series on the "Origin of the Bible: Human Inventions or Divine Intervention? by Dr. Brant Pitre of Destrehan. Pitre is a Bible scholar of national renown. For background information or CD's of his Bible studies, visit www.brantpitre.com

The 1947 discovery of a group of manuscripts called the Dead Sea Scrolls rocked the nation and the world, and scholars and the media are still studying and debating them today, 60 years later.

In a three-part Bible study held at Holy Family Community Center in Luling, Bible scholar Dr. Brant Pitre explained what was found in this ancient library and the implications for Christians today.In 1947, three Bedouin shepherd boys were throwing rocks into a cave near the Northwest Shore of the Dead Sea when they heard something break.

Thinking they had discovered treasure, the shepherds entered the cave only to find what would later would be recognized as the greatest manuscript treasure ever found - the first seven of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The "Dead Sea Scrolls" were a thousand years older than the oldest-known Hebrew texts of the Bible. This huge discovery ignited a fire in the archaeological world and provided translators with an enormous task that has not yet been completed.

Manuscripts found in this ancient library were written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

This collection of 600-800 documents, written between 200 B.C. and 70 A.D., included all books found in the Old Testament except for Esther.

They also included Jewish apocrypha (hidden writings) and pseudo-epigrapha (false writings). No copies of New Testament writings were found.

The question a lot of people ask is, "Why did some of these manuscripts make it to the Bible while others did not?" And that question leads to another: "How do we know the Bible is inspired by God and not just the product of men?"

This question, says Pitre, is what inspired him to pursue his master's degree in theology at Notre Dame.

And the answer, says Pitre, begins with the Ark of the Covenant and the Law of Moses written in 1450 B.C.

Back in Moses' day, sacred scriptures were chiseled in stone and carried with the Ark of the Covenant because the Israelites believed these laws were truly inspired by God and they wanted their records kept safe - and to last.

"Stone tablets aren't the easiest things to carry around," says Pitre.

Yet the Israelites took great care of these early writings and made sure they were preserved for the people. The Israelites were also witnesses to many miracles that were documented in the scripture.

Just because something was written in those times didn't make it sacred, explained Pitre.

The scripture had to be in agreement with other writings regarded as sacred. And documents were researched back then just as history books are today to prove their authenticity, Pitre explained.

There was still a disagreement among the Jews through the second century A.D. about which books belonged in the Old Testament. According to Pitre, it took 1500 years to write the Bible and another 300 years to decide which books would be included.

In 30 A.D. Jesus said this about the Jewish scriptures, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

Next week - the Origin's of the New Testament and why the "Lost Gospels" of Thomas and Judas are not in it.