From the cave of Qumrân that they discovered in 1947 the Bedouins removed eleven scrolls, or portions of scrolls but only six of these are separate compositions. There are also two versions of the same composition so that we have seven manuscripts known as the seven Dead Sea Scrolls. These manuscripts are not necessarily of original composition, generally they are copies of original documents, or even of other copies. By manuscripts it is only meant that they have been written by hands. In this case it is probable that they are copies, although the non-biblical ones and some of the fragments could be original.
The longest manuscript is known as the St. Mark’s Isaiah Scroll due to the fact that it was bought by the Metropolitan Samuel and kept at St. Mark’s Monastery. It is made of leather strips stitched at the end to form a continuous scroll. It is about a foot wide and twenty-four feet long. The wear signs have been repaired and it is now in good condition. The text is in Hebrew and its fifty-four columns contain the whole of the “Book of Isaiah”. Some symbols in the margins have not been deciphered. The text differs in details from the Massoretic text translated in our Bible. It is the oldest scroll and the oldest complete manuscript known of any book of the Bible.
One of the scrolls purchased by Professor Sukenik is also a manuscript of Isaiah, but it is not complete, and the leather is very deteriorated. It is known as the “Hebrew University Isaiah Scroll”. It contains a main section with most of the chapters 38 to 66 (the end) and several smaller sections containing parts of the earlier chapters. It text is very similar to the Massoretic text used in our Bible.
A third manuscript from the Metropolitan Samuel collection is a Midrash (explanation or commentary of a sacred document) on the Book of Habakkuk. This scroll is about five feet long and six inches wide but it was originally seven inches longer as the beginning is missing. Except for occasional holes, its condition is good. The “Book of Habakkuk” was already perplexing as it appears in the Bible but the Midrash does not clarify it. It could have been written in the sixth century BC or 200 years later. In the Habakkuk scroll the text is made to apply to later events than those with which the author was concerned. It also refers to a Teacher of Righteousness at least seven times.
A fourth manuscript from the Metropolitan Samuel’s collection is called the “Manual of Discipline”, although Sukenik’s description as “The Order of the Community” seems more appropriate. This manuscript has been separated in two scrolls that, if reunited, would be six feet long and about ten inches wide. Initially it must have been one foot longer. It is in good condition. Among the fragments bought by the Palestine Museum are two columns that were probably parts of the beginning of this manuscript. Some other parts of the beginning are still missing. The beginning describes a “Covenant of steadfast Love” in which members of a community are united with God. After, we have an account of “the Two Spirits in Man”, the spirit of life and truth and its antagonist, the spirit of darkness and error. Then we have the “Rules of the Order” with the entrance requirements and the penalties for not following them. The conclusion is a long “Psalm of Thanksgiving”.
The fifth scroll, from Professor Sukenik’s collection, is known as “The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness” and it is very well preserved. It is about nine feet long and six inches wide. It describes a stylised conflict between the righteous and the wicked. Probably it is apocalyptic and eschatological like the Book of Revelations in the New Testament.
The sixth scroll in the Sukenik’s collection, is “The Thanksgiving Psalms”. It was in four bundles when bought but three were crushed together and the fourth was very difficult to open. The width of the leather is around thirteen inches. They are parts of twenty psalms similar to those of the Old Testament that are better as literature.
The seventh and last scroll comes from the Metropolitan Samuel’s collection and is called the “Lamech”, even before it was opened, because from what little could be seen, it could have been the lost “Apocalypse of Lamech”. This was not the case. This scroll is written in Aramaic and is now known as the “Aramaic Scroll”. It contains chapters of the “Book of Genesis”, expanded and enriched by material from folkloric tradition of the time.
In addition to the seven leather scrolls there are also two copper scrolls found in a different place. (29)