By NOELLE BARKE
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday morning to hear professors speak about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the contributions these ancient texts have made in understanding age-old religions in a lecture sponsored by BYU’s Religious Education Department and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.
The scrolls were described as the missing link between the Bible’s Old Testament and New Testament by the lecture’s keynote speaker, Florentino Garcia Martinez, professor at the Qumran-Institut in Groningen, Netherlands and author of two books which address the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The scrolls were first discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in late 1946 or early 1947 by a young shepherd, Muhammad edh-Dhib. For the next ten years following the initial discovery, archaeologists found 11 caves containing several scrolls and thousands of scroll fragments that inhabitants of the ancient community of Qumran wrote and hid in nearby caves. These scrolls contain missing passages to scriptures in the Bible as well as provide insight into the religious beliefs and practices of the scrolls’ authors, according to researchers.
The handwritten Scrolls reveal much about the religious practices of its ancient authors who shared several similarities to Lehi and his family in the Book of Mormon. Both groups left Jerusalem to escape the wickedness of their people seeking safety in remote lands. Instead of crossing the water, the people of Qumran lived in the desert near the Dead Sea. They practiced baptism by immersion, looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, believed there would be a war between good and evil forces where good would prevail, believed themselves to be a true continuation of the people of Israel, and followed the law of Moses. These qualities and more were also shared by Lehi and his descendants.
In addition to providing insight into the lifestyles of the Scrolls’ authors, the ancient manuscripts have also made new contributions to several versions of the Bible. Researchers have found as many as 36 references to the book of Psalms in the Scrolls, 29 references to Deuteronomy and several other references in Isaiah, Exodus, 1 Samuel and Genesis in the Old Testament.
“Even the smallest (Scroll) fragment may add to our knowledge,” said Donald W. Parry, BYU assistant professor of Hebrew language and literature