I was blessed by heaven last night, rather, early this morning (the day after Thanksgiving). It was a miracle, I know, because of the timing. I had watched a marvelous TV program on famous hymns and the composers and how they came to write such classics as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Amazing Grace," and "How Great Thou Art," and others. That was enough blessing to cap off a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebration and dinner at my mother's home with most of the immediate family, plus a nephew I do not see very often. But then came more! A program--very authoritatively and well done--on angels in our lives followed, and I was also blessed.
But God was just leading up to the cherry on the banana split! Here came a long program on the Essene Scrolls found in the caves of Qumran! My eyes were glued to the screen as I watched the whole drama of the Essene scroll discovery in 1947 from the beginning to about the last ten years or so (I do not have the date of the video as yet to determine this).
The program showed the pictures of the Bedouins, and the very one nicknamed "Wolf" who discovered the scrolls. Not a "little Arab boy" as I first thought and said, he was gangling, tall and thin teenager, and Bedouins are not really Arabs--they pre-date the Arabs, being a more ancient people in the Middle East than the Arabs, it is thought--and some Biblical genealogist can probably identify their progenitor, which may not be Abraham, as is the case with Arabs.
Anyway, the Bedouin lad or young man was pursuing a goat (how providential was that runaway goat!) across the cliffs, and then threw a stone in one cave and heard a strange clink of a sound, which wasn't what he expected from rock hitting rock--and Bedouins know the difference, as this one surely did.
Entering the cave to find whatever made the strange sound, he found pottery, and from one he pulled out old leather strips. He did not see the writing, obviously, or think that it mattered at any rate. He took the strips to a man in Bethlehem and tried to get the shoe-maker and antique deader, a man named Kando, to make shoes for him
. But the shoemaker knew the leather was too old for shoes, and he kept possession. The story goes on, getting more excited and convoluted, until it appears to be an Agatha Christie-type spy ring mystery with all its hairpin, hair-raising twists and turns of suspense, strange events, mysterious disappearances, even including two real, savage wars being fought in the vicinity of the scrolls and right in the building where they were stored.
All the principal participants in the Dead Sea Scroll drama are shown, right down to the soldiers fighting in the war with the Arab nations in 1947 and later again in 1967 (who first attacked when Israel declared its lawful independence in 1947, with the sanction of the United Nations--which shows you exactly what Muslim Arab nations really think about lawful world opinion when their own interests are crossed) to capture the Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem where the invaluable Dead Sea Scrolls were being held hostage by Jordanian troops.
All this and much, much more, you should see with your own eyes--if you missed this program on TBN. I have not checked TBN for the time of the airing--or if it can be viewed afterwards. But here is the contact information which I will use to obtain a video of the program:
We must take the various opinions expressed about the Essenes and Qumran community with a "grain of salt."
The evidence does not support any one of them conclusively. One expert claims that the flat tables of brick and mortar found in the Qumran ruins do not prove that manuscripts were copied or written there, and that means it wasn't a scriptorium. Then what were those tables used for? Rolling and kneading dough for croissants? A "refectory," or cafeteria complete with 2nd Century style salad bar? It was a common thing for communities in the Holy Land to have scribes. Business transactions, writs of marriage, of death, of divorce, of debt, of land and property sales, all required a scribe's services, as most people did not have skills in literacy.
So flat tables such as the archeologists found at the Qumran community dwellings and compound were nothing out of the ordinary. Why bother making them if they were not needed for eating, as Middle Easterners commonly sit down to a meal that consists of a simple big platter decked with cooked foods and from which the diners partake of the section nearest them, as they sit in a circle round the platter. No, the big flat tables were for handling not food but scrolls and books and writing implements.
Even the poorest community or little town of the era had a scribe or two, and synagogues held manuscripts, did they not?
This is still the case in the Middle East, where there are scribes in the streets who will write down your dictated letter, all for a small sum anyone can afford.
Of course, the flat tables were used by scribes--and the work of scribes is to copy, transcribe, repair, and compose entirely new manuscripts. The flat tables were perfect for their use. You have to explain away the existence of those tables to deny the fact the Qumran community inhabitants were working constantly or very often at least with scrolls.
Monastic type communities did not have time for use for frills or extraneous furniture.
Now we know the scrolls were found a half mile away from the ruins of the structures housing the tables. I have been on the site, so I have seen that this is a fact. It is inconceivable that this well-developed, extensive community knew nothing about the scrolls in the caves, or that they had no part in putting them there. They were, at the least, merely adding to their numbers, and the process of storing scrolls there had been going on for a long time. That is more than possible. In any case, they were participant in a collective effort to preserve and hide away for safe keeping vast numbers of scrolls and scroll fragments (perhaps scrolls that had deteriorated with use and time but were considered still too holy to be discarded or burnt). Holy writings were never thrown away, but they were either buried or stored in caves, as they were considered too holy to be treated like lesser things and deserved a "reverential retirement".
The Qumran-Essene connection is just too close to be explained away without giving stronger evidence than was furnished by experts in the video. No doubt other findings have been made since the video was made, but that will be dealt with later when I hear of them.
But were the Qumran community dwellers "Essenes," that exclusive, reclusive sect of ultra-orthodox Judaists? What we see is a community of desert dwellers, who had the means and use of writing tables, and used them, plus the caves to store them indefinitely beyond reach of the raiding Beduoins and the rampaging Romans and whoever else came that way to do mischief in the centuries that followed.
If the Essenes were not dwellers at Qumran, a perfect habitat and refuge for them, then where did they live? The Essenes were well-known in the centuries before Christ and afterwards too. How did the scrolls get to the caves, if this community next door to them had no part in copying and preserving and hiding the scrolls?
It is much safer and reasonable to take the simpler, common sensical explanation--that is, to return to the original connection of Qumran ruins to the Essenes to the Caves. They all fit quite nicely. But even if you subtract the Essenes, Qumran still exists! And the community that thrived there could have done the job, or at least part of it, in filling the caves with the Essene-copied scrolls!
If there is a more complicated explanation offered, it must give way, in accordance to Occam's Razor, to the simpler explanation. There had to be a connection. I believe some people are quibblers by nature, which can be helpful in discovering the exact truth, to a point--but beyond, there is danger of their throwing dust in everybody's eyes, so that we no longer can see the plain truth anymore but a complication that is further from the truth not closer.
Again, we know the plain truth, which is: the Essenes existed, the Qumran community and its writing tables existed, and the times of each of these components and highly probable contributors are right for the copying, transcription, and hiding away of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Just how they fit together, and when exactly, will be debated no doubt until the prophesied Conversion of the Jews (in the phrase of Christopher Marlowe) when Christ returns.
But let us stick to the plain, simpler facts, and we cannot go far wrong. Someone no doubt will theorize that the Scrolls are the products of superior intelligences visiting us from outer space--another Danniken spouting off sensational nonsense to the crowds who love such stuff, perhaps--but we know this for sure: the timing was perfect, because the discovery of the scrolls by that plucky (a nicer word than "sticky fingered") Bedouin nicknamed the "Wolf" came right at the beginning of the epochal restoration of the Jewish state in 1948. That event of the restoration of Israel as a state was also a great, great fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. If anyone cannot see the sentinel mark of a divine miracle of the first magnitude shining over the Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery, he or she is as good as blind and cannot see bare facts staring them in the face.--Ed.