Tag Archives: Old Testament

What do the Dead Sea Scrolls tell us about how the Bible was transmitted?

Here is another good post from Neil at 4Simpsons.


Many people – including some Christians – are quick to say that the Bible has been translated and changed so many times over the centuries that we don’t know what the original writings said.  For example, I saw a video clip where Deepak Chopra (alleged religious expert) claims that the King James was the 13th iteration of the Bible.

But contrary to that myth, the books of the Bible have only been translated once and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable.

For example, Paul wrote in Greek, and we have Greek manuscripts to make translations from.  That is one translation.

Deepak Chopra!!! He knows less about religion than my keyboard!


But I digress. I wanted to say something about the reliability of the Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

When we discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, it contained some manuscripts that were 1000 years earlier than our previous copies. It provides an excellent test of written transmission, because you can compare the best copy we had with a copy that is 1000 years earlier, then see if there are any differences.

See here:


You know the children’s game called “telephone”? Some kid whispers a message to the kid next to him and it moves down the line until it emerges a garbled version of the original. It turns out the Bible is not like that. Despite endless translations and editions over the centuries, the original message appears to have emerged relatively unscathed. The Dead Sea Scrolls provided Old Testament manuscripts 1,000 years older than the previous oldest manuscript in existence. What the scrolls show is that the texts used at about the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, about 70 years after the death of Jesus, are almost the same as what we read today. Expert Weston W. Fields wrote: “The differences are neither theologically nor historically important. In general the scrolls testify to the amazing accuracy and great care with which ancient scribes passed along the biblical text.”

Too bad people like Deepak Chopra are so ignorant of such evidence.