The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of manuscripts found in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They include almost all books of the Old Testament and many other books of religious and historical significance. The manuscripts are dated between 150 BC and AD 70. Most scholars think the scrolls were produced by the Essenes (a small Jewish sect who had a settlement near where the scrolls were found).
The scrolls are very important in biblical studies for two main reasons.
- Before the discovery of the DSS, the oldest Old Testament manuscripts were about 1000 years old. The DSS are about 2000 years old. This enables scholars to see how much the text had changed through 1000 years of copying — remarkably little as it turns out.
- The DSS provided proof that many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus were written before he was born. Until the DSS were discovered, it was possible to argue that some Old Testament passaged may have been altered to make it appear that they were prophecies of Jesus. Now we can be sure that the Old Testament prophecies came first, and were genuine prophecies of the life and death of Jesus.
For more information about the scrolls, see the following references.