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Who did NOT write the Dead Sea Scrolls? (1998)

Since the Discovery of the first scrolls off the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, numerous suggestions have been made in an attempt to identify their authors. The common view is that the Scrolls were written by the people who lived at the nearby site of Qumran, and they are identified as the Essenes, an ascetic Jewish party active in the Second Temple Period.

One way to determine the identity of the scroll authors is by dating their composition. Unfortunately none of the sectarian scrolls include clear Historical reference.

However, an estimated date for the Dead Dea Scrolls can be derived by radiocarbon dating. Every organic material contains carbon 14 isotopes, but after the organism is dead, carbon 14 reduces by half about every 5700 years. Counting the amount of carbon 14 could tell the time when the leather for the scrolls was made. Until recently this had never been done because 200g of material was required to give a result, and no scholar was willing to sacrifice the precious scrolls for that kind of test. But now a new system of counting carbon 14, called Accelerated Mass Spectography, or AMS, enables examination of carbon 14 in a sample of only 10 mg! That means tiny pieces from the scroll edges are now sufficient.

In 1991 a laboratory in Zurich examined 14 pieces of different scrolls by the new method and recently a laboratory in Tucson, Arizona verified the result by checking an additional 18 pieces of scrolls.

After verifying the experiment by showing that the dated letters of other historical times (such as the Bar-kokhba rebellion, 132-135 CE) did indeed come from the second century CE, a reliable conclusion can now be made for the date of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Habakkuk Commentary, for instance, was composed during the second century BCE, and definitely not later then the first century BCE. Similar results were given after examining pieces of the scroll of Isaiah, and the scroll of Hanoch.

Those results exclude any Christian connection. Apparently all the scrolls were composed at least a century before the time of Jarnes, Jesus, Paul, or even John the Baptist. On the other hand the results gave further proof for identifying them with the Essenes.

Fragment of the scroll of Isaiah, with the text clearly reading in its begning “Vision of Isaiah son of Amotz”. (C) Peter Stepansky

Graffti at the Gihon Spring

In the previous report  of Archaeological Diggings I reviewed the finds from excavations at the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem, conducted by Dr. R. Reich and E. Shukrun. What I couldn’t tell you was the most intriguing find – a graffiti on a stone slab in front of the city gate which gave access to the spring. The archaeological record of the gate showed that it was built in the Iron Age, i.e., during Biblical period Jerusalem. The graffiti on the stone slab in my view consists of three Biblical Hebrew letters that spell the word NTN – Nathan. A prophet called Nathan lived at the time of David and Solomon, and was besides Solomon when he was anointed at Gihon ( 1 Kings 38-39).

Could Nathan have written his I name in front of the gateway to the spring for some reason? The excavators don’t think so. Both Dr. Reich and Mr. Shukrun believe the cracks in the stone are meaningless. I hold the view that the cracks are not natural and that someone made them. Their style match the Hebrew letters from that period, and the coincidence is too striking to be ignored.