1947- the arid and lifeless cliffs of the Dead Sea region lead to an incredible discovery that has culminated in a story that reads like "Indiana Jones meets Dan Brown- works through the US Congress and has information covered by the New York Times"- what you get is a mess.
The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen as a test case of one of the problems with history- it is so intertwined with human presuppositions and sneaky human hearts, that it can be more 'Pravda' than promise, more fanciful than fact.
Now to be honest, we all do this. I have found Christian reporting on the Dead Sea Scrolls to have just as much dis-information as the skeptics that we cast aspersions to.
I am up front right away- I am not a historian, I have never been to the middle east- I cannot read ancient Hebrew manuscripts, etc. I am a Christian, I do accept the Bible as a God protected and God provided revelation. I do think that this foundational presupposition actually gives me a rule of faith and practice.
Now, the Bible says that all men are image bearers of God and in one of two camps: We are either regenerated and 're-born' to the truth of Jesus Christ and adopted as his son's and daughters by turning from our sin and rebellion and trusting in the life,death, burial and resurrection of Christ as our only hope of salvation or we are spiritually blind/dead image bearers in rebellion- trusting in ourselves and either denying God's existence or believing that we are 'not that bad' or just blindly hoping we are ok to stand under the Creator's scrutiny. There is no middle ground- we are either in the Kingdom of God or 'Earth-dwellers'.
This causes conflict... a battle of information and ideas. History is influenced by this conflict in various ways, sometimes subtle- sometimes deceptive- and we do have to grow in our ability to honestly discern and evaluate.
Let me illustrate this in the Dead Seas Scroll story.
Before the discovery of the Scrolls, skeptics who attacked the Bible pointed to the limited number of Old Testament manuscripts and questioned the accuracy of the testimony therein. Those who understood the reverence for the Scriptures that the Jews had were not bothered by this at all. The believers held firm knowing that Jewish scribes protected every jot and tittle in a worshipful dedication to the Law.
Leave it to God to allow the unique discovery at just the right time to defend the authority of His Word.
The entire story of the discovery by two Bedouin teenage boys in the region is very intriguing. The political intrigue in selling, hiding, and suppressing all the artifacts is sad but predictable. The mis-information that surrounds the Scrolls even today is frustrating.
For example, it is amazing how pervasive the myth of the Essenes and their 'gnostic' life is propagated as historical fact. Survey any popular bookstore and you will see numerous books to that story.
I want to point to Stanford University's, Patrick Hunt as one who has the most recent and most supported view of how the Scrolls got to the caves in the Judean desert. He is one of many archaeologists who see the Scrolls as hidden by Jews just before the inevitable destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. It makes a lot of sense.
Hunt also outlines all of the political decisions and back room pressures that come into play around such a controversial find. I highly recommend his chapter on the Dead Sea scrolls in his book, Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History (He is an excellent writer and fun to read).
Hunt shows no Christian connection to the Dead Sea scrolls, which is no problem to me. He dismisses almost all of the Essene myth- especially since findings around 1996. And he does an excellent job showing how materialism and presuppositional prejudices creates an atmosphere of intrigue and even conspiracy.
However, the bottom line of common accepted evidence is quite compelling for the Biblical world-view. The Jews did value the Word even over the Temple. The texts of Isaiah and other Old Testament Books were accurate in transliteration and supportive of a Jewish Cannon of God's revelation. Liberal criticism and skepticism was once again shattered by cold, hard evidence.
I am begging the reader- please consider God's honest, supernatural, and revealed will to show all of history as his story of covenant-keeping promises. The past is pointing to a future. God says 'I will be Your God and You will be My people'- cry out to Him today.
Which of the two camps are you in?