For more than 50 years the Dead Sea Scrolls have aroused public curiosity. This discovery of ancient biblical texts and other writings at sites near the Dead Sea is no less intriguing for Latter-day Saints, whose scriptures speak of ancient records yet to come forth. A new book from FARMS, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Questions and Responses for Latter-day Saints, provides long-awaited answers to questions about the scrolls that Latter-day Saints commonly ask.
The authors, Brigham Young University professors of Hebrew Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks, have fielded many questions about the scrolls while teaching graduate classes at BYU, delivering scholarly papers at professional symposia, and speaking at firesides and on other occasions. This new book addresses those questions and also covers related topics in order to provide helpful background information on the scrolls.
For example, what is the state of preservation of the scrolls? "Although eleven nearly complete manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered," Parry and Ricks write, "fragments of several hundred other scrolls are in various stages of deterioration, some the size of a postage stamp or smaller." One cave contained thousands of scroll fragments underneath three feet of debris.
Several questions concern the contents of specific scrolls, such as the Temple Scroll (which describes a temple at the end of times) and the Copper Scroll (which records on a thin metal plate deposits of an enormous treasure in and around Jerusalem). The authors note that the Great Isaiah Scroll, which contains all 66 chapters of Isaiah, predates the earliest extant texts of Isaiah by a thousand years. In many instances the scroll text agrees with Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon that differ from corresponding passages in the Bible.
Parry, a member of the international team of scholars working on the scrolls, serves on the FARMS board of trustees, as does Ricks, who is a past president of the Foundation. In their preface to the book, they explain that they have purposely avoided the sensationalism that has marred many earlier publications and presentations on the scrolls. "The Dead Sea Scrolls," they aver, "are sensational enough without such embellishments; they stand on their own as being the greatest manuscript discovery of the twentieth century."
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Questions and Responses for Latter-day Saints can be ordered through the FARMS Web site by clicking here.