Shalom Life | July 24, 2014

Nine Unopened Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered in Jerusalem

The tiny new scrolls, lying in a storeroom, forgotten, for the last 60 years, are from the Second Era, and haven't been read in over 2,000 years

By: Daniel Koren

Published: March 13th, 2014 in News » Israel

Nine Unopened Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered in Jerusalem

Nine, tiny (approximately the size of a grain of rice) dead sea scrolls have been discovered in Jerusalem, which have stayed unopened, and forgotten in a storeroom, for the past six decades.

Dr. Yonatan Adler, a professor at Ariel University, uncovered the scrolls while searching through storerooms in Jerusalem belonging to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Among several outstanding artifacts that are held there, Adler miraculously came upon a case holding parchments of the Torah that have not been read for over 2,000 years, according to a scan he conducted at Shaare Zedek Hospital.

The unopened dead sea scrolls were discovered in the 1950's by Israeli scholars, but, as the find coincided with several other astounding finds, have been lying forgotten all these years. The scrolls, from the Second Era, have the potential to teach us about Judaism and religious practices of Second Temple Judaism, reports the Times of Israel.

The scrolls have been lying inside phylacteries or tefillin, leather cases containing the biblical passages from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, for reportedly 2,000 years, and have never been photographed or even opened. Approximately two dozen of such scroll fragments were discovered in the 1950's during excavations of limesetone caves near the Dead Sea at Qumran, all of which have since been examined, save for the forgotten nine.

Head of the Israel Antiquities Authorities' Dead Sea Scrolls Projects, Pnina Shor, said "Either they didn’t realize that these were also scrolls, or they didn’t know how to open them," of the newly rediscovered scrolls.

Yeshiva University's Professor Lawrence Schiffman, an expert on Second Temple Judaism, explains that many of the texts from Qumran are similar to those we use today, but that many have additional passages and excerpts from the Torah, even from the Ten Commandments. He adds that noting the order in which the forgotten dead sea scrolls were placed is important, as rabbis methodologically placed such parchments to convey certain meanings.

Seven recently rediscovered unopened tefillin scrolls from Qumran. (photo credit: Shai Halevi via Israel Antiquities Authority)

Seven recently rediscovered tefillin scrolls (photo credit: Shai Halevi via Israel Antiquities Authority)

“From my point of view, the most significant thing about all of this is that they actually have tefillin from 2,100 and plus years ago,” said Schiffman.

Professor Hindy Najman, of Yale University, notes that "we have to be prepared for surprises," regarding what the parchments can hold. “On the one hand there’s tremendous continuity between what we have found among the Dead Sea Scrolls — liturgically, ritually and textually — and contemporaneous and later forms of Judaism. But there’s also tremendous possibility for variegated practices and a complex constellation of different practices, different influences, different ways of thinking about tefillin.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority has revealed that they will be delicate in handling the scrolls and uncovering what each one transcribes. We will keep you posted on any new developments.

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