Discovering Q12…of the Dead Sea Scrolls

bib·li·cal

ˈbiblik(ə)l/

adjective

Relating to or contained in the Bible. “the biblical account of creation”

resembling the language or style of the Bible. “there is a biblical cadence in the last words he utters”

Or, there’s this definition…..

very great; on a large scale. “we need rainfall of biblical proportions to bring us back to normal”

 

Story by Sandi Argo

Photos contributed by Bruce and Rebecca Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A local (Jack County) couple returned recently from a trip to the Holy Land. A trip that went beyond “epic”…one that can only be described as Biblical. For Pastor Bruce Hall, Biblical Archaeologist, and his wife, Rebecca, the trip to the Qumran area will be one that they will never forget.

In what some are saying could be the “Find of the 21st Century” the Halls, along with a team of scientists and other archaeologists (lead by Dr. Randall Price, from Liberty University in Virginia), have discovered evidence of a 12th cave that once held the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Dr. Price was the American Dig Director and Pastor Hall served on his staff as the General Area Supervisor.

Pastor and Archaeologist Bruce Hall and wife, Rebecca, taking a photo op during a recent trip to the Holy Land. This trip would soon find itself to be one of a historical…Biblical…nature.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of some 981 different manuscripts discovered originally in 11 caves between 1946/47, 1956 and 2017 in (now) 12 caves in the immediate vicinity of the Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, of the modern West Bank. The caves are located about 1.2 miles inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea from which they, and the scrolls hidden within, get their name. Hall stated “Keep in mind that we were 1300 feet below sea level. It is the lowest place on earth”. As Hall explained “Qumran is the town…where the ruins are, Khirbet means ‘the ruins of’. Qumran is where the old city used to be, and then these caves are the scroll library.  Near the Qumran ruins there are 300 to 600 caves. If you go “down the beach” of the Dead Sea, which is toward Ein-Gedi, there are over 1600 caves estimated in the cliffs. So there are caves all over the place. “Dr. Price is the one that decided that this cave (then labeled cave # 53 now cave # Q12) was the best one that could show us something”.

 

Apparently, the Israel archaeologist had their doubts about this cave, says Hall (chuckling) “As a matter of fact they barely pulled the permit in time for us to go and excavate cave 53”. Hall added “Finding this cave has been the capstone of his (Dr. Price) career, because if nothing else is found in the 21st century, this could be the find of the 21st century.” The finding of the 11 caves was the find of the 20th century. Hall says “If we’d have found just a little bit of ancient writing on the scroll we found, they would have already declared it”. Testing is currently being done on the scroll discovered as well as a piece of papyrus (pictured left) that was found in the cave. To the human eye, writing could not be seen through the (over) 2000 years of dirt that the artifact had been buried under. The scroll has been sent to a lab that will be able to use high tech methods to detect any such writings.

 

Dr. Price had been digging in Qumran plateau area “town ruins” for over 10 years, but has been a career archeologist for 25.  DSS Cave Q12 was the first cave that Dr. Price was granted permission to excavate.  With hundreds of cave to choose from, it is almost unbelievable that the first cave Dr. Price chose was the jackpot for DSS material culture.

 

Price and Hall were also involved with the recent ice dig for Noah’s Ark on the summit of Mt. Ararat (17K) in eastern Turkey 2013. The expedition of that dig went on to become the movie “Finding Noah” (see more information at the end of this article). Price and Hall were two archaeologists featured in the film directed by Hollywood filmmaker Brent Baum. The film went on to become the most distributed documentary to the big screen in the history of the film industry.  Finding Noah debuted on October 8, 2015 as a Fathom Event on 640 screens across the USA and it was shown continuously in various select theaters until May 24, 2016.  The film won the Sun and Sand Filmmakers Festival for “Best Documentary” in 2015.  Also notable, The Dove Foundation gave high honors to Finding Noah by nominating the film for “Best Documentary” for the Crystal Dove Seal Award in 2015. Dr. Price has cave Q12 film footage and Hall anticipates another documentary of biblical proportions to make it to the big screen soon.

Members of the Q12 cave team preparing for another day on the dig site.

The cave Q12 team found themselves in a drama that has been played out for more than 2000 years (Israel against Philistines then Romans and later Islam), and especially in recent times the Palestians. The “battle” has morphed to being between Christianity and other religions, this time in history it is the Islam/Muslims. It has been theorized by non-Christians that the original 11 caves have never produced Islamic writings because the caves were explored and excavated by Christian and Jewish archaeologists. In this cave (cave Q12), a Palestinian was on the cave Q12 dig staff to observe if any Islamic evidence was brought out or discovered. “We didn’t find any proof or evidence of Islam material culture” Hall said, “But the irony is that the Palestinian was the one who actually found the first storage jar with the scroll inside.”  Christians across the world think this is not merely coincidence. “Rebecca and I came within about a foot of finding the storage jar and scroll the day before the Palestinian found it” says Hall.

Archaeologist and Pastor Bruce Hall shows where the remnant of a scroll was found. Hall and wife, Rebecca, had come within a foot of finding the scroll during the dig on the previous day.

The area has long been the scene of turmoil in this Dead Sea region within Israel.

Masada, which is a fortress down the beach at the other end of the Dead Sea, was taken over by the Romans in 72 A.D. The Jewish people that lived there were forced to move about, and sometimes move quickly when the enemy was coming. It is the theory of  some that the Jewish would take what they needed to survive, and leave the rest. That is why they find storage jars used to carry water or scrolls. As valuable as we know they are today, to the earlier cave looters, it was more important to have a jar that would carry water than a scroll they did not a use. So, the looters would typically dump the scrolls out of the storage jars and onto the floors of these caves and just take the jars.

Various caves held different biblical scrolls, with all but 1 book of the Old Testament written on them. To date, the book of Ester has not been found. Hall says “Only about 25% of the scroll corpus found are tied to the Old Testament, the rest were community rules and a lot of different books were found such as commentaries to the sacred writings”, adding “They were the writings of the day. There was the Bible, and then there were other writings too”.

Like explorers of old days, the archaeologist had to haul their tools and equipment quite a distance up the side of a hill to reach the cave 12, having the Dead Sea and the country of Jordan in the distance as a backdrop view. With not a lot of space for footing, the trek was a tricky one for the first few days of the dig. Once they brought dirt and sand out of the cave to sift through, they were able to widen the path a bit by building up a work area.

The fine sand of the desert was a constant issue meaning a breathing obstacle, but not one to deter them. Throughout the dig the team found remnants of pottery (enough to fill 4 to 5 large buckets). Even more significant is the remnants of what scientists call “textiles” which looks like burlap type cloth. These are parts of linen, leather and other products is what the Jewish community of Qumran used to bind or wrap the scrolls. One of the finds was a leather strip, about 8 inches long and half an inch wide. The leather was likely used to bind the scroll. The pottery found was considered “2nd Temple period” finds…meaning they existed during the time of Christ. The team is also the first to actually discover storage vessels (jars) for the scroll in-situ…meaning that the clay vessels of cave Q12 were discovered in the very spots they were placed over 2000 years ago.  This is quite a big deal that comes along with some braggin’ rights!

 

Hall says “Finding the 12th cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls (God’s own library) 70 years after the first 11 were found makes us feel like we hit a home run to drive in the 12th run to win God’s World Series! It is God 12, Satan 0! Now, going forward with the scroll analysis, if the scientists in the lab find detectable ancient writing on our 12th cave scroll, then we will feel like we hit a grand slam to win the World Series!” Adding “It’d be like Robert Redford in the movie, The Natural, with the lights bursting and sparkles falling around our team as we gather at the home plate to celebrate and giving all the glory to God!”  The world awaits the results of the testing but even if they show no writing, the significance is the same. Gather your families; grab some popcorn and watch as God’s Word unfolds right in front of us. What a wonderful world we live in!

 

Editor’s note: As I wrote this story, I inquired to Bruce Hall (Pastor at Cundiff Baptist) the significance of the discovery to both believers and non believers. From his reply, and along with research on my own on this subject, I didn’t feel that it could be stated justly in a paragraph tossed in with this story. I am writing a separate story on that subject, which will be included in the next issue of the North Texas New Edition.

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