Question: What are the Dead Sea scrolls, and how does their existence have anything to do with Jesus?
Over the centuries there have always been skeptics who argued that the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus were actually altered by Jesus’ followers to make the Old Testament conform to the historical facts of Jesus’ life and death. This argument was widely used because everyone admitted that the probability of one human being fulfilling all the Old Testament messianic prophecies — as the New Testament claims regarding Jesus — was statistically impossible.
Skeptics argued their belief that the biblical text was “fixed” on the grounds that our oldest existing Old Testament manuscripts (the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, or LXX) dated back only a far as 360 A.D.
While it was known that the LXX was first translated from the Hebrew into Greek between 285-247 B.C., the oldest surviving copies date back over three hundred years after Jesus. And the oldest Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament in existence dated back to only 1000 A.D. — nearly a thousand years after the life of Jesus! This gave the skeptics lots of ammunition (not evidence) for their claim of altered documents.
Everything changed, however, with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 by a shepherd boy looking for a stray goat in an area littered with caves near the Dead Sea. These caves were used as a repository of safe keeping by a community of Jews known as the Essenes. They preserved copies of their own writings, and copies of the Hebrew Old Testament, in earthenware jars. These manuscripts have been dated by archeologists as originating between 150 and 100 A.D. — more than one hundred years before Jesus’ birth.
What is most astounding — and most exciting for those who trust the authority of the Bible — is that these ancient Hebrew manuscripts predating Jesus are identical in wording to the Hebrew text we already had available to us, even after 1200 years of separation and 1000 years of Christianity. When comparing the Dead Sea scrolls to the 1000 A.D. texts there is only a discrepancy of 5%, and these differences are obvious spelling errors and minor scribal mistakes. Nothing of substance has changed over the span of 2200 years!
All the prophecies pointing to details of Jesus’ birth, his life, ministry, death and resurrection were original to the Old Testament as the Jewish people had available to them for centuries.
Ps. 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.