The Great Isaiah Scroll (Isaiah 34)

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Illustration: The Great Isaiah Scroll

Among the greatest treasures of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran was the Great Isaiah Scroll or 1QIsa. The technical name 1QIsa means cave 1, Qumran, Isaiah, and the first or “a” copy of Isaiah found in that cave. Scholars recognized this scroll as the earliest known complete copy of Isaiah (ca. 125-150 B.C.), replacing a copy dating back to the tenth century A.D.! Well preserved for nearly 2000 years, this 7,3 m leather scroll has few holes and is essentially intact. In fact, it is the oldest complete copy discovered to date of any book of the Bible.

The traditional Hebrew text for the Old Testament is the Masoretic Text (or MT). The MT is the Hebrew Bible in use today, and except for 1Q-Isa and other fragments of Isaiah from Qumran or elsewhere, the oldest known extant copies of Isaiah are all in the MT tradition. Though separated by 1000 years, the MT of Isaiah and the 1QIsa show amazing agreement, except in minute details of spelling and minor word variations. 1QIsa demonstrates that the work og generations of Jewish scribes who produced the MT is trustworthy. We have every reason to believe that the MT is a reliable copy of the Hebrew Old Testament.

In addition, the discovery of this text suggests that as far back as the second century B.C. the text of Isaiah was viewed as having only one author. Many critical scholars maintain that Isaiah 1-39 were written by one author, while Isaiah 40-66 were composed by one or more different authors. However, Isaiah 39-40 appear in the same column in 1QIsa, suggesting that the acient copyist viewed these two chapters as having originated from a single author.

This ancient masterpiece now rests in a Jerusalem museum, the Great Shrine of the Book.


 

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