The Final Pieces of Dead Sea Scrolls are Finally Decoded

By Published on January 24, 2018

Israeli scholars announced Tuesday that they have pieced together and decoded the final 60 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, more than 50 years after their discovery.

Two professors from the University of Haifa, Jonathan Ben-Dov and Dr. Eshbal Ratson, discovered that while scholars initially believed the 60 fragments each belonged to individual documents, they actually needed to be pieced together, according to Aleteia. Ben-Dov and Ratson spent more than a year piecing the fragments together and deciphering the code in which they were written.

The scholars discovered that the scroll fragments mentioned two holy days not listed in the Bible — the Festivals of New Oil and New Wine — and that the authors of the scrolls, widely considered to be the ancient Jewish community of the Essenes, did not follow a lunar calendar like most practicing Jews.

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Scholars say the Essenes lived during the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. and “were a fanatical group that lived a hermitic life in the desert and faced persecution by the dominant establishment of the time.” They wrote their scrolls in a community school they called Yahad for the purpose of conserving Jewish practices and beliefs to a degree that was, in their view, undefiled by the influences of Gentiles and Jews who compromised the Mosaic covenant.

The Essenes, however, followed a 364 day calendar, instead of the lunar calendar to which Judaism adheres, in order to remove all chance of human error in the interpretation of astronomical signs and the overlap of certain holy days.

(Click for full size image)

(Click for full size image)

“Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day. This avoids the need to decide, for example, what happens when a particular occasion falls on the Sabbath, as often happens in the lunar calendar,” the scholars reported, according to Aleteia.

The scholars also discovered that another scribe made corrections to the original author’s work, adding mention of certain holy days and festivals that the first scribe evidently forgot to include. Both the original work and the added corrections were written in code, not to obscure the content but rather to display the writers’ mastery of the code and thereby show their status.


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