Here are a short introduction to the subject extracted from three different places:
In 1947, the first cave containing manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found by Bedouin shepherds, north of an ancient ruin known as Khirbet Qumran near the Dead Sea. Originally known as the ‘Ain Feshkha Cave’, the manuscripts and other artefacts in Qumran Cave 1 (1Q) illuminated both the history of the Biblical text and the variety of thought in early Judaism, and caused an international sensation. The nearby site of Qumran itself was excavated over five seasons from 1951, under the directorship of Father Roland de Vaux, of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem. De Vaux concluded that this remote and unusual site was occupied by a little-known ‘sect’ of Judaism mentioned by Josephus, Philo, Pliny and Dio Chrysostom: the Essenes. It was suggested that they hid the Dead Sea Scrolls ahead of the Roman army’s arrival in 68 CE.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea. They are approximately two thousand years old, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, with a smaller number in Aramaic or Greek. Most of them were written on parchment, with the exception of a few written on papyrus. The vast majority of the scrolls survived as fragments – only a handful were found intact. Nevertheless, scholars have managed to reconstruct from these fragments approximately 850 different manuscripts of various lengths.
The manuscripts fall into three major categories: biblical, apocryphal, and sectarian.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea from which it derives its name, in the British Mandate for Palestine, in what is now named the West Bank.
The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include the oldest known surviving copies of Biblical and extra-biblical documents and preserve evidence of great diversity in late Second Temple Judaism. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus. These manuscripts generally date between 150 BCE and 70 CE. The scrolls are traditionally identified with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, though some recent interpretations have challenged this association and argue that the scrolls were penned by priests in Jerusalem, Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are traditionally divided into three groups: “Biblical” manuscripts (copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible), which comprise roughly 40% of the identified scrolls; “Apocryphal” or “Pseudepigraphical” manuscripts (known documents from the Second Temple Period like Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit, Sirach, non-canonical psalms, etc., that were not ultimately canonized in the Hebrew Bible), which comprise roughly 30% of the identified scrolls; and “Sectarian” manuscripts (previously unknown documents that speak to the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism) like the Community Rule, War Scroll, Pesher on Habakkuk (Hebrew pesher פשר = “Commentary”), and the Rule of the Blessing, which comprise roughly 30% of the identified scrolls.
That the discovery is of great importance for those Christians concerned with material proof of the existence of Jesus as the founder of their religion we can be sure by seeing on what a small detail from the following scroll some of the Christian scholars base their effort to link the two worlds (that of people who lived on the Qumran site between 200 BCE and 70 CE and the primary Church)
This six-line fragment, commonly referred to as the “Pierced Messiah” text, is written in a Herodian script of the first half of the first century C.E. and refers to a Messiah from the Branch of David, to a judgement, and to a killing.
Hebrew is comprised primarily of consonants; vowels must be supplied by the reader. The appropriate vowels depend on the context. Thus, the text (line 4) may be translated as “and the Prince of the Congregation, the Branch of David, will kill him,” or alternately read as “and they killed the Prince.” Because of the second reading, the text was dubbed the “Pierced Messiah.” The transcription and translation presented here support the “killing Messiah” interpretation, alluding to a triumphant Messiah (Isaiah 11:4).