In 2017, the Israel Antiquities Authority began an excavation in several caves in the Judean desert.
Four years later, they’ve unveiled the “most important discovery in the last 60 years,” 80 new parchment fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls. The fragments bear lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, dated around the 1st century AD.
Located in a remote canyon around 25 miles south of Jerusalem, the fragments were found in what is known as the “Cave of Horror” when 40 human skeletons were found there in the 1960s. It’s believed they belonged to Jewish rebels, led by Simon Bar Kokhba, who hid in the caves after a failed revolt against Roman rule between 132 and 136 AD.
While the fragments contain just small amounts of text from the Old Testament, they still have something to offer to scholars. Oren Ableman, a Dead Sea Scroll researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said they “found a textual difference that has no parallel with any other manuscript, either in Hebrew or in Greek,” calling it “textual fluidity.”
“When we think about the biblical text, we think about something very static. It wasn’t static. There are slight differences and some of those differences are important. Every little piece of information that we can add, we can understand a little bit better how the biblical text came into its traditional Hebrew form. It was only later that the Scriptures were canonized, fixed, and then handed down with great fidelity to the present day. These discoveries show us an extremely fascinating historical moment: one in which the Bible finds its final form.”
Among the recovered fragments is Nahum 1:5–6, which says: “The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, and rocks are shattered because of Him.”
They also unearthed rare coins from the same period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child, and a large woven basket dating from around 10,500 years ago, the oldest intact in the world.