by Ciprian IVAS
Qumran is one of the happiest moments in the history of archeology, a time when not only scientific research but the whole contemporary civilization and culture rooted in the spirituality of the biblical books received confirmation and arguments of its origins.
The Jewish sect of Essenes, who founded the Qumran community and developed the famous manuscripts, enjoys a relatively good knowledge among researchers due to three major ancient authors who wrote about the Essenes. It’s about Joseph Flavius who writes about them in all three books that we have received from him, “Jewish Antiquities”, “History of the Jewish War against the Romans” and Autobiography. Flavius Joseph’s credibility regarding the Essenes is even greater as we know that he was a disciple of an Essene. The second author is Philo of Alexandria. He also writes about the captivating history of the discovery of the Qumran manuscripts in three of his works, of which we have received only two, namely “Quod Omni Probus Liber Sit” and “De Vita Contemplative”. A third work, “Apologetics” is missing. It is noteworthy that in “De Vita Contemplative” Philo speaks of a sect of “therapists” in Egypt, which today historians grants Essene identity. The third author who is referring to the Essenes is Plinius the Elder in his “Historia Naturalis”. To these we add two more that can not be overlooked, Saint Hieronymus and Origen.
The history of the discovery of the settlement of Qumran manuscripts is one captivating. In 1945 a pastor called Mohammed el-Dib, during the search of a lost goat founds one of the caves with manuscripts and therefore enters it’s possession. In 1947 a group of bedouins belonging Tamireh tribe, which included that young pastor, appears at a Jacobite monastery gate, South of Jerusalem, trying to sell manuscripts. It was time the entire scientific community pushed the “alert” button. In 1949 started the systematical search. We can say that there was a contest between archaeologists and the bedouin tribe Tamireh motivated by the large amount of valuable manuscripts. Gradually are found all 11 caves known today as the former shelters of the manuscripts. Location settlement is 20 km south of the present town of Jericho in the West Bank by the river Wadi Qumran, which name was given the archaeological site.
Manuscripts of great value are written on four types of support: leather, parchment, papyrus and copper. Their datation is between 3rd century BCE and the lst century CE, including more than 600 books of which nine only were fully recovered. About 200 of them are biblical books. They represent all the canonical books of the Old Testament (except Esther) plus four books of the “anaghinoscomena” section of the Septuagint Bible version, respectively Tobit, Jesus Sirach, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah.
Books refer to no less than three traditions, first pre- Masoretic, the second being Septuagint and the third the Samaritan Pentateuc.
These books are 1300 years older than everything was known before, and of course before the first Hebrew canon.
The importance of the discovery of the Qumran cannot be measured and the value to scientific biblical research is priceless.