The War of the Scrolls, Part 1
Fifty years after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, evangelical scholars are using them to demonstrate the reliability of the Scriptures.
October 6, 1997
Everything about the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests mystery.
Collected by a radical Jewish sect, perhaps Essenes, who lived monastically
in the arid and almost lifeless Judaean wilderness, the scrolls include over
800 Jewish manuscripts—many biblical—dating from as early as 250
B.C. The scrolls were hidden in the caves of
Qumran, on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, so that the Roman armies
would not destroy them on their way to conquer Jerusalem. The Essenes, of
whom we know little, expected to liberate the scrolls when their community
was liberated by the Messiah. The Romans prevailed, however, and so the scrolls
stayed hidden for almost 1,900 years. But the mysteries don't end with the
scrolls' discovery 50 years ago, which many label the archaeological event
of the century. Since then, the scrolls have been a pawn of Mideast politics
and the cause of an unusual number of academic scandals.
Which makes Trinity Western University in verdant British Columbia in Canada
an unlikely port into this cryptic world. A half a globe away from the caves
of Qumran, the campus's spiraling western cedars and low-hanging utility
lines have nothing in common with the stark terrain of the Judaean desert.
And when it comes to history, the school boasts only its Seal Kap House,
where the sealable cap for milk bottles was invented.
But step through the front door of the Seal Kap House and you are transported
back to ancient Palestine. The languages of choice are Aramaic and its descendant
Syriac, Hebrew (biblical, Qumranic, and rabbinic), Greek, and Latin. The
residents are twentieth-century evangelical Christian scholars Peter Flint,
Martin Abegg, and Craig Evans, who form the core of the school's Dead Sea
Scrolls Institute, but ...