I understand that the 1946 discovery of almost a thousand ancient texts in caves on the West Bank has had a significant impact, I'm just trying to figure out what specific changes the discovery has had for apologetics. What do the Scrolls tell us about biblical authentication?

As someone who wants to be competent in apologetics, what should I know about the Dead Sea Scrolls?


3 Answers 3


From what I recall, the major impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that it validated the accuracy of the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament were dated around 920 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date back to around 100 B.C.

With this gap of about a thousand years, some supposed there would be massive changes uncovered. This was not true, however, as the variances were of no significance.

There have been opponents of Christianity that made allegations that Christians had perverted the Old Testament text, introducing and rewriting prophecies to make it appear that there were Messianic prophecies which Jesus fulfilled. Prior to the discover of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christians had a difficult time proving that this did not happen, even though the reality of such an undertaking would have been rejected by Jewish people everywhere and would likely be recorded in history.

Thus, the major significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that it verifies the stability of the Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts from well before the birth of Jesus and Christianity, and on through modern times. We can be confident that the Old Testament we read today has been accurately transmitted throughout history from at least a hundred years before the birth of Jesus.

The prophecies of the Messiah that so accurately and specifically point to the time of Jesus and to the specific events in His life were not introduced after the birth of the church, but were there all along.

  • 1
    There have been opponents of Christianity that made allegations that Christians had perverted the Old Testament text, introducing and rewriting prophecies to make it appear that there were Messianic prophecies which Jesus fulfilled. And vice versa, actually. The oldest version of that accusation I'm aware of dates back to Justin Martyr, who accused Jewish leaders of tampering with the text to censor or obscure some of the clearer Messianic prophecies, the ones that most obviously fit the life of Jesus Christ.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Feb 14, 2014 at 5:32

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest Hebrew scriptures we have, predating the Masoretic texts by several centuries. They show that the Hebrew texts have altered very little since the time of the Qumran sect, although there are some exceptions.

Robert Eisenman says, in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, page 38, that 2 Maccabees has a patently similar orientation to Qumran literature, yet it has not been found there. He also notes that Josephus did not know of 2 Maccabees, concluding that it was either not known in Palestine, or not yet written.

Randall Price says, in The Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, page 147, that scroll 4QDeutj, Deuteronomy 32:8 agrees with the LXX ("sons of Israel"), but not the Masoretic Text ("sons of God"). In 4Qexoda, Exodus 1:5 records "75 descendants of Jacob" (agreeing with the LXX; cf. Acts 7: l4) against the Masoretic Text's “70 descendants.” The Paleo-Exodus Scroll (4Q22) shows expansions of the text like that in the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Price says that six copies of Jeremiah recovered from the caves have the longer form of the text in agreement with the Masoretic text, but two have the shorter form in agreement with the Septuagint. They also lack words, names, and sentences and exhibit a different sequence in some places. Before the discovery of these texts there was no evidence for the existence of a shorter Hebrew variant other than the LXX.

On page 149, Price cites Emanuel Tov:

In proto-Judges, a portion from chapter 6 [of the biblical Judges] is missing – a whole paragraph. It is in our present Hebrew Bible, and also in English translations, but it is a paragraph which had puzzled scholars for centuries because it seems to be out of place. Suddenly we found this fragment at Qumran, in which there is a text of Judges that doesn't have this paragraph. The text reads better without it. It helps us understand that at some point in the transmission of the text this paragraph was added, but the book was already circulating in another form before it was.

On page 148, Randall Price says of the Samuel A Scroll:

The Samuel A Scroll (designated 4QSama-c or 4Q51-53) is especially interesting because it contains textual variants that appear to support many of the Septuagint deviations from the Masoretic Text. This was important because it provided scholars with an example of the kind of Hebrew version that was behind the Septuagint.

This Scroll also has another exceptional feature: it contains a passage that was completely missing from the Masoretic Text bur was apparently known and used by Flavius Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities (6.69-71). This text mentions Nahash the Ammonite, whose story is given in the Bible in 1 Samuel 11 : l-6.

He says some of the Torah Scrolls expand on the biblical text, for example in the Rewritten Pentateuch (4Q364-367). Others are retellings of the biblical account, such as the Genesis Apocryphon, retelling the story of Abram and Sarai in Genesis 12:10-13 (1Q20 19:14-20) or the story of the flood (4Q252).

On page 381, Price says that the presence among the collection of a horoscope text, a physiognomy text (discerning a person's nature from his or her physical appearance and mannerisms), a chiromancy text (palmistry), and a brontologion text (prediction of the future based on where thunder is heard in the heavens) affirms their use in Judaism prior to the rabbinical period, after which time they were forbidden.

The full importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for apologetics has not yet been determined. At one stage, it was suggested that a tiny scrap of text was from Mark's Gospel, but that thesis has been dismissed as speculative. There are scrolls that might have been precursors to the beatitudes of Matthew's Gospel, but we will see in the future how secure that hypothesis is.

  • Good thorough answer!
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 21, 2015 at 0:52


The book of Daniel, itself, claims to have been written in the sixth century BC, foretelling history until Christ’s return. The church has always believed that to be true.

However, over the past 300 years, the theological faculties of universities, submitting to the anti-supernatural culture of modern intellectualism (see here), have come to agree that Daniel was written after the events it pretends to foretell. In other words, it describes past events as if it describes the future.

Specifically, they say that the book was written around the year 165 BC; during the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek king Antiochus IV. They have decided on this date because they say that the prophecies in Daniel can be aligned with historical events until 165 BC but not with later events.

This article is part of a series that discusses the evidence for WHEN Daniel was written. In particular, this article discusses the evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are scrolls of an ancient Jewish sect that have been discovered around the year 1950 in caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Many of the scrolls and fragments of scrolls were copies of books of the Old Testament, including of the Book of Daniel. Daniel was not written at Qumran. Only copies of Daniel were found at Qumran.


The first conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the Old Testament in our Bibles is reliable:

The Old Testament in our Bibles is translated from the Masoretic Text (MT) which dates to about a thousand years AFTER Christ. But the Dead Sea Scrolls are a full thousand years older.

Comparisons of the MT to the Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated the unusual accuracy of transmission over that thousand-year period. The chief differences have to do with the spelling of words.

That means that we now have proof that the Old Testament, and by implication, our Bibles, has been accurately transmitted (copied) for more than 2000 years. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the Old Testament has also been accurately copied before the time of the Qumran community as well.


Secondly, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the book of Daniel in our Bibles is accurate. Before these scrolls were discovered, scholars had little confidence in the reliability of Daniel due to the differences between the ancient Greek translations and the Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel in the MT.

But the eight Daniel manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea confirmed the accuracy of the book of Daniel in our Bibles because they conform closely to Masoretic tradition.


A third conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that Daniel was regarded as "Scripture" at Qumran. This is indicated by the large number of copies of Daniel discovered and by the way in which Daniel was used. For instance, the Florilegium (4Q174) quotes Dan 12:10 as 'written in the book of Daniel, the Prophet' (frgs. 1-3 ii 3-4a). This formula is typical of quotations from canonical Scripture at Qumran.

While critical scholars claim that Daniel was written in 165 BC by an unknown writer, the reference to “the book of Daniel, the Prophet” means that the Qumran community regarded Daniel as a real historical person and as a prophet.

The canonical status of Daniel at Qumran can be confirmed by comparing it to the Book of Jubilees, which is not in our Bibles. While both books were regarded as authoritative by the Qumran sect, they had different levels of authority:

  • Daniel was regarded as having primary authority, namely as the word of God spoken through the prophet. In fact, during the centuries before and after Christ, all of Judaism regarded Daniel as a primary authority. None of those closest to the data considered Daniel to be describing the past events as if it describes the future.
  • Jubilees, in comparison, was regarded as having secondary authority, meaning that it was an authoritative interpretation of Scripture. Jubilees was similar to a creed of one of the Christian denominations today; it was regarded as authoritative by a subgroup but not by all.


A fourth conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that Daniel must have been written BEFORE the time of Antiochus IV.

As discussed, the Qumran community regarded the book of Daniel as inspired Scripture. The important point is that it takes A VERY LONG TIME for a new document to become accepted as Scripture. It must first undergo a slow process of distribution and copying until it wins the hearts of the people. Therefore, since Qumran regarded Daniel as a primary authority, it must have existed for a long time before the Qumran community was formed.


Two of the Daniel manuscripts (4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e)), discovered at the Dead Sea, have been dated to the late 2nd BC. This was only about 50 years after critical scholars say Daniel's prophecies were composed (in 165 BC).

That does not leave enough time. It is quite improbable, if not impossible, that the book was composed during the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC, as the critical scholars claim, and gained acceptance as an inspired book within 50 years.


Furthermore, the Qumran sect has been formed at about 150 BC. Since their interaction with the outside Jewish world would have been limited, and largely polemical, their views would have remained fairly static. Therefore, since the Dead Sea Scrolls show that they regarded Daniel as a prophet and the book of Daniel as the word of God, that would also have been their view when that community was formed in 150 BC. But that was only 15 years after critical scholars say Daniel’s prophecies were composed.


In the case of Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles, after copies of these books have been found at Qumran, critical scholars were willing to push the date of composition for these books a century or more back. They say, for example:

  • "Each song had to win its way in the esteem of the people before it could be included in the sacred compilation of the Psalter. Immediate entrée for any of them is highly improbable.
  • “The discovery of a fragment of Chronicles at Qumran renders a Maccabean date virtually impossible for any part of Chronicles.”

But, even though the evidence is identical, they refuse to draw the same conclusion for Daniel because otherwise, it would mean that Daniel makes accurate 'predictions' of future events which they assume is not possible.


No book of the Bible would be accepted as “Scripture” within 50 or 15 years after it was written. But that is even more true for Daniel because, if the critical scholars are right, everybody that lived through the Maccabean revolt, such as the first member of the Qumran sect, would have known that Daniel:

  • Was written under a false name,
  • Pretends to be an old book but really describes past history as if it predicts the future, and that
  • Failed to correctly predict the success of the Maccabean revolt a year or two after it was written.

It is impossible for a known forgery to become to be regarded as the word of God within 50 years.


Therefore, Daniel’s prophecies must have been written before the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus IV. This means that the detailed prophecies in Daniel 11, pointing to Antiochus, really were written before those events. 

This does not prove that Daniel’s prophecies were written in the sixth century BC. But this does prove that Daniel is divinely inspired and contains true prophecy. That forces us to conclude that Daniel is what it itself claims to be, namely that it was written in the sixth century BC.

This is a summary of an article that can be found here.

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