Where We Be
In this remote setting a religious sect known as the Essenes transcribed all the books of the
Old Testament except one -- and those copies now represent the oldest Bible ever found.
Qumran, Israel
The visitor center at Qumran offers useful exhibits about the Essenes who once called this place home
The caves at Qumran are internationally famous
as the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nearly 900
scrolls were discovered here containing every
book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament)
except Esther. The find is significant because
the scrolls represent the oldest Bible ever
found. They were found by chance in 1947 when
Bedouin shepherds threw a rock into a cave
while looking for a stray goat and heard what
sounded like a jar breaking. They crawled in and
found large jars standing on the floor. Inside the
jars were folded pieces of leather. In time the
Bedouins sold seven of the scrolls to a cobbler
and antiquities dealer, who in turn sold them to
two different scholars. Eventually the scholars
realized what it was they had and the find was
backtracked to the caves at Qumran. The scrolls
were written around the time of Christ by an
isolated religious sect known as the Essenes
who stored them in the caves for safe keeping.
After a short film, the center of the screen rises up and you enter the museum proper
Bedouin shepherds found jars like these in a
cave at Qumran containing the Dead Sea Scrolls
Our guide kneels to show how the scrolls might have been transcribed on a writing bench in the Scriptorium (this is an exhibit, of course)
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been called the greatest manuscript find of the twentieth century. While the actual scrolls
are stored at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, this is an accurate facsimile of one of the parchment scrolls at the museum in Qumran.
Heading into the desert heat, we visit the ruins of the actual settlement in which the Essenes once lived. In the background are the caves of Qumran.
This gives a closer view of the structures that have been excavated at Qumran, a world-renowned archaeological site
No doubt the Essenes stored their secret stash of scrolls in the caves at Qumran to keep them safe, but who were they saving
them for? And if it was the End of Times, as the sect seems to have believed, why store scrolls at all? It's a delicious mystery.
Now we're looking at the cliff faces where the caves are located. Just ahead is Cave #4 where several hundred scrolls were found.
The Essenes channeled much-needed water into their community from flash floods that surged down the ravine to the left of the caves.
Closeup of Cave #4, an artifical cave that was cut into the cliff face long ago, most likely by the Essenes themselves
We remember learning about Qumran and the Essenes back in our college days during a class
on the inter-testamental period, so it's exciting for us to be here seeing it with our own eyes
After wandering around in the extreme heat of the desert, it's time for an ice cream!
Qumran is located near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.
You can see Jerusalem to the west on the map.