Mary Birdsong


It’s 2011 & you can now read the Dead Sea Scrolls online, or on an iPhone, or an iPad, or a Kindle.  Believed by most scholars to have been written between the years 100 BC and 100 AD, these priceless scrolls are now digitized and there for the examination of anyone.

The Bible?  There’s an app for that.  

And, as is most often the case with anything that’s really BIG news, we have a shepherd boy to thank.  The year was 1947, and the first seven of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave by a Bedouin shepherd boy, totally by accident, while searching for a sheep who had strayed from his flock. 

(I know, RIGHT?  It’s so perfect.  If Spielberg had made this story up we’d all be like, “Come on, Steve.  Really?  It’s a bit precious, don’t you think?”)   But it’s true!

the temple scroll, found in a cave in qumran by a shepherd

This stuff is like porn... no make that, the centerfold of a porn zine, for biblical scholars.

bedouin guys

Our heroes, all growed up. "Awww, shucks. 'Twern't nothin'."

And the timing was also amazing, because 1947 was just one year before Israel was officially recognized as a nation. It all took place in the deserts of Jordan, and the cave itself was near Qumran (pronounced koom-RON) on the shores of the Dead Sea.

Ironic that a Sea so Dead could breathe such life back into the Bible.

I remember hearing an urban myth a while back (Can a myth originating in the Jordan desert really be called an “urban myth? Doesn’t one need an “urb” for that? No matter…) The (not so) urban myth goes that the boy brought the scrolls home, and his mother (because the budget was so tight) remained largely unimpressed, and burned some of the scrolls to make a fire for cooking.  Now, I could be mixing this story up with the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels.  I’m not sure.  Feel free to fact-check & correct me if I’m mistaken.  

But, true or not, I love the story because it’s almost straight out of Jack & the Bean Stalk.  

Mother:  What?  Muhammed! I told you to keep an eye on that sheep!  And what do you do?  You lose the sheep and come home with a bunch of smelly old crumpled up papers?  

Muhammed: But, Ma!!!

Mother: Feh!  A nogoodnik you are! Just wait til your  أبوك gets home!

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem – The Temple Scroll.

1 Comment

  • Comment by GratefulDeadSeaScrolls — November 1, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    Love the post Mary. But I believe the ancient Samarians read the Dead Sea Scrolls on their iPhones as well. However, their neighbors, the Canaanites, were a strictly Android-based civilization and, as such, forswore Apple technology. 

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