How The Dead Sea Scrolls Help Us Learn About The Preservation Of God’s Word

It is written:

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24  because “ALL FLESH IS AS GRASS, AND ALL THE GLORY OF MAN AS THE FLOWER OF THE GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND ITS FLOWER FALLS AWAY, 25  BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1:22-25)

One of the promises of God is that He would preserve His Word forever. One of the questions that people ask is, “Can we be sure that God preserved His Word?”

A great blessing that has been discovered is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls were made by a group of Jewish scribes known as the Essenes. Several of these scrolls were of the Old Testament Scriptures, and some date back several hundred years before the time of Christ. Before their discovery, the oldest surviving copies of the Old Testament were from the ninth century A.D., long after the originals had been lost.

When these copies of the Old Testament from the ninth century A.D were compared with the Old Testament scrolls found at the Dead Sea, were they completely different? Had the original message been corrupted through hundreds of years and dozens of scribes through the ages?

Or were they virtually identical?

“Before 1947, the oldest complete Hebrew manuscript in our possession dated to AD 900. But with the discovery of more than 800 manuscripts in caves on the west side of the Dead Sea, we came into possession of Old Testament manuscripts dated by paleographers to around 125 BC. These scrolls were therefore a thousand years older than any previously known manuscripts. But here’s the exciting part: Once the Dead Sea Scrolls were compared with later manuscript copies, the then-current Hebrew Bible proved to be identical, word for word, in more than 95 percent of the text. The other 5 percent consisted mainly of spelling variations. For example, of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, only 17 letters were in question. Of those, 10 letters were a matter of spelling, and 4 were stylistic changes; the remaining 3 letters comprised the word light, which was added in verse 11. In other words, the greatest manuscript discovery of all time revealed that a thousand years of copying the Old Testament had produced only very minor variations, none of which altered the clear meaning of the text or brought the manuscript’s fundamental integrity into question.” (Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell, The Bible Handbook of Difficult Verses: A Complete Guide to Answering the Tough Questions (The McDowell Apologetics Library), 216-227 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)

Another scholar has written:

“When photographs of the Great Isaiah Scroll were published, Hebrew scholars compared the text of this ancient scroll to the Masoretic Text (MT). The Masoretes (seventh to eleventh centuries AD) were scribes who copied the Hebrew manuscripts and supplied marks indicating how the words should be pronounced. As a result of their work a standard version of the Hebrew Bible was produced. Since then the MT has been used in Jewish synagogues around the world; it has also served as the basis for most translations of the OT since the time of the King James Version. It was always said that the Masoretes had taken great care to preserve their manuscripts from error, but here finally was proof. Examination revealed that the Hebrew text of Isaiah represented in the Great Isaiah Scroll was essentially the same as Isaiah of the MT. There were some spelling differences, a few scribal errors, and variant readings; but on the whole it was the same Hebrew text! The Great Isaiah Scroll is evidence of the care with which ancient and medieval scribes copied and transmitted Scripture.” (Craig A. Evans, Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls, 3672-3677 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Holman Reference)

The Bible has been preserved, just like God promised.

The question today is: how are you treating this treasure trove in your life?

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