Let me tell you about one of the coolest things ever (and possibly a thesis topic for me for my paper): the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you don’t know the story, let me start from the beginning. Two Bedouin boys were wandering through the desert watching their goats near the Dead Sea and, to pass the time, started throwing rocks into caves up in the high cliffs. After a few rocks, they heard what sounded like glass shattering. Curious, they climbed up to the cave and found a bunch of very tall pots, and in them were these leather-like pieces.
Taking them to the market, they tried to sell them. After floating around in the market for a bit, they fell into the hands of a scholarly Rabbi who recognized them for what they were: scrolls with writing on it. Not just any writing, but the book of Isaiah.
Following the trail back, he managed to find those two boys and have them show him the cave they found them in. Thus started the archeological exploration of Qumran, and yielding over 200 scrolls and scroll fragments.
The best and nicest ones are housed in The Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum. According to the curator of the Museum (who gave us a private tour), it should be more accurately named The “Temple” of the Book (based off the Hebrew translation. We soon found out why.
The building itself doesn’t look anything like a temple. The white onion dome on one side with water shooting at it and the solid black wall with flames at the top hardly looked anything like a temple. The curator told us that the building itself reflects the scrolls and the community they were from.
Let me backtrack for a second. The scrolls were written in Qumran, a sect that historians believe broke off from the Essenes and lived in a monastic community in the desert. Without going into too much detail (because believe me, I could write a short book on this), they shared everything together, ate together, and were really focused on ritual bathing and purity. They believed those priestly sinners in Jerusalem were making a mockery of Yehad (their name of God) and his kingdom.
They believed in a cosmic dualism, where God and his angels fought Satan and the demons on a daily basis at times. Eventually, they believed the world would end in a massive fight between the two opposing forces. While the Qumran community resembled Judaism, if was very obvious they had some different beliefs.
This cosmic dualism is presented in the structure. On one side, there is the white, curvy, onion-shaped dome with water flowing from it and a pool around it. On the other side, there is a black, rigid, wall-like structure with flames coming out of the top. As you walk through the middle of these two, you feel the tension and dualism presented.
Going down some stairs, you enter the “Temple” on the black wall side. Again, more symbolism, as entering the dark side of the complex symbolizes a spiritual journey you are supposed to take, ending up in the core of the white dome on the other side where the scrolls are kept. (More about the spiritual journey at the end. For now, know that you are supposed to go from darkness to light.)
The entire complex was designed like a formulaic temple with three main areas: the outer court, the inner court, and the holy of holies. While this building has nothing looking like an actual temple, the door was very temple-esk, and the three chamber idea was temple-esk.
The first chamber was the explanation of Qumran and how they found the scrolls. As you entered the second chamber, immediately you could tell it was supposed to be like a cave, similar to how they found the scrolls. Lined on the walls were various artifacts they found at Qumran cased in special glass cases.
Finally, you enter into the holy of holies: the place where the scrolls were kept. In the middle of the room, elevated on a large pedestal, was a large sculpture made to look like a scroll with the scroll of Isaiah wrapped around it so people could admire the entire thing. Lined all around the outside of the room were the other scrolls. Beneath the pedestal you could climb down a series of steps to get to the other important documents housed in the Shrine of the Book.
One was the Aleppo Codex, one of the most famous books in the world. (If you don’t know what it is, google it really quick, because I don’t have enough space to put it in writing on here.) It was so awesome standing just a few inches away from such a famous book that changed the world.
Anyway, the idea of spiritualness I said I would tie in from above. The curator was talking about how the Dead Sea Scrolls reach across religions, connecting Judaism to Christianity. The Dead Sea Scrolls only validated the accuracy of the Hebrew Bible and gave scholars the earliest copy of the manuscript to date.
However, Christians don’t realize the significance of the scrolls as much as they should. Let’s examine this for a minute. Could Jesus read? Yes. How do we know this? Because it says in Mark 4 that Jesus went to the Synagogue and read out a scroll. And what scroll did He read out of? Yep, you guessed it, Isaiah.
So, Christians are tied directly to this scroll, if Jesus Himself thought it important enough to read from, then we should really listen to it. Isaiah was the prophet who spoke of the coming Messiah and how He would liberate the people, freeing them from bondage.
It was really cool to see the scroll that contained the same words Jesus Himself read while in the synagogue. It really takes you back and reminds us of where we came from. Never forget where you came from; it is a part of who you are.
Following His Call,
2 Timothy 3:16