Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scrolls

Caches of ancient, mostly Hebrew, manuscripts found at several sites on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea (1947–56). The writings date from between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD and total 800–900 manuscripts in 15,000 fragments. Many scholars believe that those deposited in 11 caves near the ruins of Qumran belonged to a sectarian community whom most scholars believe were Essenes, though other scholars suggest Sadducees or Zealots. The community rejected the rest of the Jewish people and saw the world as sharply divided between good and evil. They cultivated a communal life of ritual purity, called the “Union,” led by a messianic “Teacher of Righteousness.” The Dead Sea Scrolls as a whole represent a wider spectrum of Jewish belief and may have been the contents of libraries from Jerusalem hidden during the war of AD 66–73. They also cast new light on the emergence of Christianity and the relationship of early Christian and Jewish religious traditions. See also Damascus Document.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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