. . . your guide to visiting the holy places  
If you have found See the Holy Land helpful and would like to support our work, please make a secure donation.
The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Qumran

Israel

Qumran

Qumran display of clay vessels in which scrolls were found (Seetheholyland.net)

Qumran is famous as the hiding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a literary treasure trove hidden since shortly after the time of Christ.

The site is north-west of the Dead Sea, about 15km south of Jericho and about 1.5km west of the road that runs along the western shore of the Dead Sea.

A Bedouin goat- or sheep-herder by the name of Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed found the first scrolls in 1947, when he threw a rock into a cave in an attempt to drive out a missing animal. The sound of breaking pottery drew him into the cave, where he found seven clay jars containing scrolls that had been wrapped in linen for nearly 2000 years.

Eventually, fragments of about 850 scrolls were found in 11 of the hard-to-reach caves that pockmark the cliffs of the Qumran area. A 12th cave, its contents looted, was found in 2017.

The ancient manuscripts were in various states of completeness. Only a handful were intact, the largest more than 8 metres long. Most were written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic and a few in Greek. Most were on parchment, with a few on papyrus. They had been preserved by the hot, dry desert climate.

The scrolls include at least fragments of every book of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. The oldest existing copies of the Old Testament, they generally confirm the accuracy of later manuscripts. Other scrolls also give a new insight into the Jewish society in which Christianity began.

 

Essenes were ‘unique and admirable’

Who hid the scrolls at Qumran? Academics have hotly debated this question. The prevalent view is that the scrolls were written or copied by a devout group of Essenes, a strict Jewish sect formed in reaction to what they saw as religious laxity in Judaism.

The Essenes at Qumran lived an austere lifestyle in their remote desert surroundings.   Study of the Jewish Law went on in shifts around the clock.

The community gained the admiration of the Roman statesman Pliny the Elder, who wrote: “They are unique and admirable beyond all other peoples in that they have no women, no sexual desire, no money, and only palm trees for company. Owing to the influx of newcomers, they are daily reborn in equal numbers.”

The Essenes believed the end of the world was imminent. They never married because they wanted to be ritually pure when the Messiah appeared.

 

No scrolls mention Christ

Qumran

Close-up of cave 4 at Qumran (Seetheholyland.net)

The Qumran community was driven from its wilderness retreat by the Romans in AD 68, leaving its library of scrolls hidden in caves for safe-keeping.

Although the Essenes existed during the time of Christ, none of the scrolls refer to him or to any other New Testament personality.

Ruins of the sect’s communal site remain, including a watchtower, a dining hall, cisterns and cemeteries.

Visitors can watch a short film on the Essenes and view a small exhibition before going to the archaeological site. From there, the caves above can be seen.

Where are the scrolls now? Most are in Jerusalem (eight at the Shrine of the Book, where pages are regularly on display, and the others at the Rockefeller Museum). Some are in Jordan and Europe.

Related site:

Shrine of the Book

 

Administered by: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Tel.: 0972-2-994-2235

Open: 8am-5pm (4pm Oct-Mar)

 

References

Bowker, John: The Complete Bible Handbook (Dorling Kindersley, 1998)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Sussman, Ayala, and Peled, Ruth: The Dead Sea Scrolls (Israel Antiquities Authority and Israel Museum Products, 1994)

 

External links

Shrine of the Book (The Israel Museum)
Dead Sea scrolls (Wikipedia)
Qumran (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Qumran (BiblePlaces)
Qumran-Dead Sea Hike (Israel by Foot)

Shrine of the Book

Jerusalem

Shrine of the Book

Inside the main exhibition hall of Shrine of the Book (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem uses quirky contemporary architecture to house and display ancient manuscripts — including the first Dead Sea Scrolls to be discovered.

The building’s white-tiled dome is shaped like the lid of the first jar in which the scrolls were found at Qumran. In contrast nearby stands a black basalt wall. The black-white imagery symbolises the theme of one of the scrolls — The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness.

The rest of the structure, two-thirds of it below ground level, recalls the caves in which the scrolls were found.

The Shrine of the Book is a wing of the Israel Museum in western Jerusalem.  Also on the museum’s campus is an extensive outdoor Second Temple Model of Jerusalem in AD 66, before its destruction by the Romans.

 

Longest scroll is 8 metres long

Shrine of the Book

Fragment of scroll found in a Qumran cave

The Shrine of the Book holds all seven of the scrolls found in what is called Cave 1 at Qumran, near the Dead Sea. They are Isaiah A, Isaiah B, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the Community Rule (or the Manual of Discipline), the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (or the War Rule) and the Genesis Apocryphon. All are in ancient Hebrew except the last, which is in Aramaic.

A facsimile of the scroll of Isaiah, arranged around a huge elevated spindle, provides a dramatic centrepiece in the exhibition hall under the dome.

Also at the Shrine of the Book is the Temple Scroll, the best-preserved of the Qumran scrolls. At more than 8 metres long, it is the longest of the Qumran manuscripts.

The Community Rule is the rule book for the group that wrote or copied the library of scrolls — believed to be a group of Essenes, a strict Jewish sect, who lived an austere lifestyle in their remote desert surroundings.

 

Cloak-and-dagger negotiations

The uncovering of the Essenes’ literary treasure trove has thrown new light on Israel during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, as well as on the origins of rabbinical Judaism and the Jewish society in which Christianity began.

The discovery, by a Bedouin goat- or sheep-herder searching for a missing animal, occurred in 1947. Israel was on the eve of its War of Independence, a factor that lent a cloak-and-dagger character to negotiations for the purchase of the scrolls.

Professor E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University clandestinely acquired three of the scrolls from a Christian Arab antiquities dealer in Bethlehem.

The remaining four scrolls from Cave 1 reached the hands of Mar Athanasius Yeshua Samuel, Metropolitan of the Syrian Jacobite Monastery of St Mark in Jerusalem. In 1949 he took them to the United States and on June 1, 1954, he placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal offering “The Four Dead Sea Scrolls” for sale.

The advertisement came to the attention of Yigael Yadin, Professor Sukenik’s son, who had just retired as chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces and had reverted to his original vocation, archaeology. With the aid of intermediaries, the four scrolls were purchased from Mar Samuel for $US250,000.

Part of the purchase price was contributed by Samuel Gottesman, a New York philanthropist. His heirs sponsored the construction of the Shrine of the Book to house the scrolls.

 

Scrolls need to ‘rest’

Shrine of the Book

Dome of Shrine of the Book, kept cool by water sprays (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

As the scrolls are too fragile to be on display permanently, a rotation system is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from display and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it “rests” from exposure.

The Shrine of the Book also displays the Aleppo Codex, the earliest known Hebrew manuscript comprising the text of the Jewish Old Testament. It dates from the early 10th century.

Strictly speaking, as the museum acknowledges, only two or four pages are actually displayed at any one time. Behind them is cardboard modelled to look like the rest of the codex (which is in fact stored in a safe place).

Related site:

Qumran

Model of Ancient Jerusalem

 

Administered by: The Israel Museum

Tel.: 972-2-6708811

Open: Sun, Mon, Wed, Thur 10am-5pm; Tues 4-9pm; Fri and holiday eves 10am-2pm; Sat and holidays 10am-5pm

 

References

Sussman, Ayala, and Peled, Ruth: The Dead Sea Scrolls (Israel Antiquities Authority and Israel Museum Products, 1994)

 

External links

Shrine of the Book (The Israel Museum)
Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Mount Zion

Jerusalem

Mount Zion

Mount Zion, crowned by the Dormition Abbey (© Deror Avi)

Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is the broad hill south of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter.

Also called Sion, its name in Old Testament times became projected into a metaphoric symbol for the whole city and the Promised Land.

Several important events in the early Christian Church are likely to have taken place on Mount Zion:

• The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, both believed to have been on the site of the Cenacle;

• The appearance of Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas, believed to have been at the site of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu;

• The “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary, believed to have occurred at the site of the Church of the Dormition.

• The Council of Jerusalem, around AD 50, in which the early Church debated the status of converted gentiles (Acts 15:1-29), perhaps also on the site of the Cenacle.

The mountain that moved

In the Old Testament period, Zion was the eastern fortress that King David captured from the Jebusites and named the City of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9).

A psalmist described Mount Zion as God’s “holy mountain, beautiful in elevation . . . the joy of all the earth” (Psalm 48).

And again, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125).

Ironically, by the time this psalm was composed, the name of Mount Zion had already moved from its original location at the Jebusite fortress — and would move again.

First, perhaps at the time Solomon built his Temple, the Temple Mount came to be called Mount Zion. Then in the first century AD, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the name was transferred to its present location across the Tyropoeon Valley.

 

Early Christians built synagogue-church

Mount Zion

Hagia Sion sign at Dormition Abbey (Glenn Johnson / Wikimedia)

In the time of Christ, Mount Zion was a wealthy neighbourhood, densely populated and enclosed within the city walls.

There was also a community of Essenes, a group who lived a strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. They are better known for their community at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

The first-century Christians met on Mount Zion, where they built a Judaeo-Christian synagogue-church that became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Over the centuries a succession of churches were built on the site and later destroyed. These included the great Byzantine basilica Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), known as the “Mother of all Churches” — which covered the entire area now occupied by the Church of the Dormition, the Cenacle and the Tomb of David.

 

David’s tomb is empty

The Old Testament (1 Kings: 2:10) records that King David was buried in the city of David, which was on the original Mount Zion.

King David's Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

King David’s Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

Because the name of Mount Zion had moved to its present location, as described above, Christian pilgrims in the 10th century developed a belief that David’s burial place was there too.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present memorial on Mount Zion called the Tomb of King David. However, three of the walls of the room where its empty cenotaph stands are apparently from the synagogue-church used by the first-century Judaeo-Christians.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims.

 

Architects beheaded for excluding Mount Zion

The respect with which Muslims held King David is illustrated by a legend relating to the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls by the Turkish conqueror Sulieman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century.

As the story goes, the sultan was furious when he discovered that the new walls did not encompass Mount Zion, leaving the Tomb of David unprotected.

He summoned the two architects responsible for the project and ordered that they be beheaded. Two graves in the inner courtyard of Jaffa Gate are said to be those of the architects.

Another place of interest on Mount Zion is the grave of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved nearly 1200 Jews in the Holocaust and has been declared a Righteous Gentile. The grave is in the Catholic cemetery near Zion Gate.

Related sites

Cenacle

Church of the Dormition

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Tomb of King David

Schindler’s grave

 

In Scripture:

The Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:1—17:26

The coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4

Jesus appears before Caiaphas: Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-14, 19:24

The first Church Council of Jerusalem: Acts 15:1-29

 

 

 

References

Anonymous: “Christian Mount Sion”, Holy Land, spring 2003
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: “Church of Apostles found on Mt Zion” (Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1990)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)
All content © 2017, See the Holy Land | Site by Ravlich Consulting & Mustard Seed
You are welcome to promote site content and images through your own
website or blog, but please refer to our Terms of Service | Login