Welcome to the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation Website

The primary function of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation is the financial support of publications of the scrolls and related projects. From 1991-2010 the Foundation supported the series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (40 volumes, Oxford University Press). The Foundation also supported the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance (3 volumes, Brill). The Foundation also serves as a clearing house and information center for many other matters relating to scrolls research and scholarship.

In this website you will find information about the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation and its projects. You will also find information about how you can be involved personally with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

What are the scrolls and where were they found? >>
Why are the scrolls important? >>
Where are they now and what is their present availability? >>
How can you take part in the publication of the scrolls? >>

What are the scrolls and where were they found?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the single most important archaeological manuscript find of the twentieth century. They represent more than 1400 original documents, some complete or nearly complete (such as the Great Isaiah Scroll), but many quite fragmentary. There are about 100,000 fragments in all. Most of the scrolls are written on dried animal skins (parchment), and some of the larger ones stretch as long as 30 feet.

Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts were written on the scrolls in columns containing all or part of every book of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) with the exception of Esther. The scrolls also include many non-biblical books, some previously known only in Greek or other languages, but now found in Hebrew and Aramaic. There are also a number of previously unknown compositions.

The majority of the scrolls were discovered in caves along the western shore of the Dead Sea from 1947 to 1956.  The most famous of these are the eleven caves near Qumran, where a community lived which some scholars identify as Essenes, a Jewish sect known to have existed elsewhere in Israel during the Second Temple period, which includes the time of Jesus.  Scrolls were also discovered at several other locations north and south of Qumran, and in the 1960s scrolls were unearthed during the excavation of Masada.  A few have been discovered in various locations near the Dead Sea during the past two decades.

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Why are the scrolls so important?

The scrolls comprise, among other things, the oldest existing copies of parts of the Bible. The Qumran scrolls date from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D., and at some other locations to about 135 A.D.  Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing manuscripts of parts of the Hebrew Bible came from about 800-1,000 A.D. The oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) Codex, dates to 1008 A.D. This means that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide us with texts of the Bible copied more than 1000 years earlier than any others now in existence!

The scrolls are also important because they have enabled scholars to gather an immense amount of information about how the Bible was written and how it was transmitted from generation to generation. In many cases, the scrolls show a remarkable similarity to the text of the Hebrew Bible currently in use. In some cases differences between the scrolls and the traditional Hebrew text help explain difficulties in the present Hebrew Bible, and most modern translations of the Bible (such as the NIV) incorporate some of the new information from the scrolls.

Another crucial feature of the scrolls is the picture they portray of the Judaism of Jesus’ day. The scrolls show that Judaism in that period was more diverse than was once thought, and the literary parallels between the Gospels and the literature of Qumran demonstrate several instructive points of contact between Jesus’ teaching and the Judaism of his day.

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Where are they now and what is their present availability?

Almost all of the scrolls are in Jerusalem. A few are in Jordan, Europe, and the USA. The few scrolls on display at the Shrine of the Book are accessible to all. Most of the others, extremely fragile and many fragmentary, are stored on the campus of the Israel Museum in a small temperature and humidity-controlled vault.  Any scholar who has a legitimate reason to view the actual scrolls may receive permission to do so, but they are rarely seen except by those who are preparing them for publication or re-photography.

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How can you take part in the publication of the scrolls?

Some of the early Dead Sea Scrolls were never published, and some were inadequately published. In addition, since 1998, at least 150 previously unknown fragments have been sold or put up for sale, and many of these still need to be published. The Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation and Brill Publishers have inaugurated a new official series to continue the former series, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD, Oxford).  The new series is entitled Dead Sea Scrolls Editions (DSSE). The foundation’s part in this publication is support of scholars preparing fragments for publication.

Preparation for publication involves the transcription, translation of and commentary upon scroll fragments.  The whole process is enormously expensive.  Assistants for the scholars engaged in the work, specialized computer equipment and programs, and research in Jerusalem can be supported only through generous donations of various sizes from a wide array of partners.

The foundation has supported the following volumes, still in preparation for publication:

  • Genesis Apocryphon, Prof. Esti Eshel, Bar Ilan University
  • Rule of the Community/Congregation, Prof. Alison Schofield, University of Denver
  • The War Scroll, Prof. Martin Abegg, Trinity Western University
  • The Cave 11 Psalms Scroll, Prof. Peter Flint, Trinity Western University
  • The Temple Scroll, Prof. Larry Schiffman, Yeshiva University
  • Words of the Luminaries, Prof. Esther Chazon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Other volumes are also in progress:

  • The Qumran Cave 1 Scrolls (DJD 1, revised), Prof. Torleif Elgvin, Lutheran Theological Seminary, with the assistance of Dr. Å. Justnes, Oslo
  • The Qumran Small Caves (DJD 3, revised), Prof. Donald Parry and Prof. Andrew Skinner, Brigham Young University
  • Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, Prof. Noam Mizrahi, University of Tel Aviv
  • Cryptic Texts, Jonathan Ben Dov, University of Haifa

If you are interested in becoming a partner with the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation by contributing funds (whether small or large amounts) to the project, please contact the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation is an independent, tax-exempt U.S. corporation with IRS 501 (c) (3) status.  The Foundation has offices in Jerusalem, Israel, and the U.S.

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