The Masada Fragments, the Qumran Scrolls, and the New Testament

The Masada Fragments, the Qumran Scrolls, and the New Testament
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The Masada Fragments, the Qumran Scrolls, and the New Testament

Author David R. Seely

In the years 1947–56, eleven caves in the vicinity of the ruins at Qumran produced over eight hundred documents. Yigael Yadin, who would eventually excavate Masada, was closely connected with the discovery of the Qumran Scrolls.

Following the dramatic finds at Qumran, Israeli scholars organized in 1960 a systematic search in the caves to the south of Qumran, looking for any further manuscripts. The team led by Yadin excavated the caves in Nahal Hever, where they discovered the Cave of Letters, which contained letters written by Simon Bar-Kokhba, fragments of a Psalms scroll, and an entire archive of legal documents of a woman named Babata. We can imagine Yadin's anticipation as he prepared in 1962 to excavate the site of Masada. Yadin wrote:

Before starting the excavations at Masada, we dreamed of the possibility of finding scrolls there. I say "dreamed" because the hope that we would could not be very bright. Hitherto, all the scrolls which had been found in the vicinity of the Dead Sea had been discovered only in caves, where they had been hidden intentionally, and where the only damage they suffered—comparatively slight—had been damage by nature, such as mild dampness, or by the nibbling of small animals. Now, as we approached Masada, we asked ourselves: "Had the Zealots hidden their writings before committing suicide? And if they had, would any of them still be preserved? And would we find them?"