Peter Flint – Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible

Last night, the executive director, David P., of the Museum of Idaho introduced Peter Flint (originally from South Africa) of Trinity Western, an internationally known Dead Sea Scroll scholar and the third distinguished speaker connected with the Ink & Blood Exhibit in Idaho Falls. 

I have tried to capture as much as I could on this blog the essence of his presentation.

Peter began, “It is good to be with you.  You are about to enjoy one of the most memorable nights of your life.”

How can I say this will be the best night of your life?

Because we are talking about . . .

The Greatest Archaeological Find of Modern Times: 

Here are five reasons to verify that last statement.

1.  Found in the land of Israel itself (For Jews, Muslims, and Christians, we all have one holy land.)

2.  Written in the language of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)

3.  Includes Our Oldest Biblical Manuscripts


4.  New Information on Early Judaism (The Reformed, Orthodox, and other branches of modern Judaism stem from the Pharisees.  Through the Bible, we learn about the Pharisees and Sadducees.  But through the DDS, we learn about the Essenes, giving us a broad outline in beautiful picture.)


5.  New Information on Early Christianity (We now have back to 100 B.C. the very words of Jesus before Jesus.  Portions of the Gospel message before Jesus.)

[Peter said that he is going to further explain this assertion in his lecture the next evening.]

It doesn’t get any bigger than that!  This is bigger than the Superbowl!

Part One:  Introducing the Dead Sea Scrolls (not squirrels; don’t misunderstand my accent 🙂 )

This takes us on a Journey from Jerusalem, to Sea Level, to the lowest spot on the face of the earth, the Dead Sea (1300 feet below sea level).

Peter showed us power point pictures of the Map of Qumran, Cave 1 at Qumran, The Great Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1, the Antiquities Dealer “Kando”, and Metropolitan Samuel.  When the bishop received the four old scrolls given to him, he knew they ought to go to a museum.  But he also knew this could be an opportunity to make money.  So where do you go if you want to get a lot of money?  He went to the United States and sought a buyer.  He put an ad in the Wall Street Journal advertising,


The Four Dead Sea Scrolls


“Biblical manuscripts dating to at least 200 BC are for sale.  This would be an ideal gift to an educational or religious institution . . . ”

He wanted a million dollars.


A Jewish man, Eleazar L. Sukenik, believed that God had sent him to bring the scrolls back to Israel.  He managed to purchase three scrolls on the very day that Israel was declared a nation.

Peter showed us pictures of the Shrine of the Book, a museum complete with a white Qumran roof shaped like the top of a scroll jar, and also the black slab, signifying the eternal struggle between light and darkness.  He highlighted Cave 4 at Qumran, the most famous where over 600 scrolls were found.  We also saw slides of the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, the first International Research Team of 8 scholars in the 1950s, the Scrollery assorting the greatest jigsaw puzzle ever, 25,000 pieces for 900 scrolls.

Part Two:  The Caves and the People of Qumran

Qumran is a place where you have the archeology and the writings.  The pottery is the same makeup of the clay.  Peter flashed on the big screen pictures of coins and other artifacts, plates, measuring cups, basketware, sandals from Qumran (after looking at them in the exhibit in Seattle, and noticing the small size 5, Peter mentioned we are growing with genetics.)  And lingering on the picture of the ancient combs, Peter noted the lice found in them and the current DNA studies because they sucked blood.


We saw pictures of the scriptorium and ink wells, etc. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Peter explained some of them are classified as non-biblical scrolls:  Commentary on Nahum (4Q169), Commentary on Hosea (4Q166), The Community Rule (4Q256) and briefly sharing his belief of the first monastery, celibacy, no woman.  He continued with the Calendrical Scroll (4Q325) (who has the true calendar, God’s calendar, then determines the festivals), the War Scroll (between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, complete with reading about infantry, cavalry, and angels intervening.)  The Sons of Light believed that God would liberate them at the end times.  But the angels did not save them when the Romans came.  He ended with the sensational 4Q521 Messianic Apocalypse, telling us he will share more tomorrow.

Part three:  The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls

There are 220 biblical scrolls.  Such as The Great Psalms Scroll (11Q5).  In these battered fragments are preserved some of the most important readings.  Notice the Book of Enoch (4Q201), the early church loved this but it was later rejected; the Ethiopian church uses this very popular work to this day.


Which biblical books were not found?  Esther and Nehemiah (though the latter is really not included because of its connection to Ezra)

Peter talked about how some rejected Esther because (1) God is not named in there (2) She marries a foreigner, a pagan.  This is worrisome to some of the rabbis.  (3)  New evidence from the Qumran calendar texts with respect to the Feast of Purim, etc.

Which books are found in the greatest number?

Here are the Top 10, working from number ten down to number one:

Minor Prophets – 8

Daniel – 8

Leviticus – 9

Exodus – 14

Jubilees – 15

Enoch – 20

Genesis – 20

Isaiah – 24

Deuteronomy – 27

Psalms – 34


The top three favorites for modern Judaism would be 1) Leviticus, 2) Deuteronomy, and 3) Numbers.  The top three Old Testament books to be quoted in the New Testament are 1) Psalms, 2) Isaiah, and 3) Deuteronomy.  Isn’t it interesting that the New Testament’s most frequently quoted books are also the ones most represented in the Qumran caves?


Why Isaiah?  The Messiah is the subject.  Essenes were intensely Messianic.  Why Deuteronomy?  It dealt with covenant.  The New Testament is the new covenant.  The Essenes called themselves the sons of light, the people of the new covenant.  Why Psalms?  It contains the central focus of God worship.  Peter believes that the Qumran community was a lost form of Judaism more in line with the NT than modern day Judaism.

How do the Dead Sea Scrolls compare to your modern Bible?

They are 1250 years older than the MT (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia).  The oldest Hebrew text we had was the printed edition of Leningrad Codex 1 Chronicles, not even a 1,000 years old (1008 AD).

The Scrolls and the Accuracy of the Bible

This is where the rubber hits the road.  Is the Bible just a bunch of phone messages, copied and recopied, where we have lost most of the accuracy?  How do we know if the scribes didn’t alter it?  Well, now we have the DDS!  Hot evidence.  Scientific evidence.  Real evidence.

The Great Isaiah Scroll 40:1-2 compared to the MT, reveals 11 differences in two verses, but all of them are spelling.  The DDS proclaim that your Bible is accurate 99%.  This deserves a round of applause! (clapping).

But what about the other 1%?

How will the Scrolls affect my Bible?

“Let me take you to theRockefeller Museum, deep under ground, where few men have ever trod.  Here I touched the oldest copy of the psalms (150 BC).  When I touched the psalms scroll, I struggled.  It was like reaching out and touching the very hand of God.  It is a mystical experience.  John Calvin.  Martin Luther.  Joseph Smith would have loved this.”

1) KJV Psalm 22:17 – “they have pierced”

MT Psalm 22:17 – “like a lion”

In the Psalms scroll, it is actually preserved as “they have pierced.”  We didn’t make up the Messiah.  There were generations of liberal scholars who denied this.  Now, they are turning in their graves.


“Now let me take you to the Shrine of the Book, deep under ground.  The Great Isaiah Scroll that you seen in the center of the museum is not the original.  It is kept in the vaults of the museum.  Here is a picture of me with Prof. Ulrich, my tutor at Notre Dame.”


2) KJV Isaiah 53:11 – “He shall see of the travail of his soul”, faithful to the MT

But, lo and behold the text is different in the Great Isaiah Scroll.  A word bursts on you.

“Out of the suffering of his soul he will see light.”  There is resurrection.  “The commentaries will be rewritten.  The sermons will be retold.  This is dynamite.  So did smarty pants professor, Peter Flint from Canada or Qumran put this in?”

No, the Great Isaiah scroll, the Sukenik scroll, and 4Q58 (this fragment is not just the remains of a barbecue) all confirm this.  This Isaiah 53:11 reading is so powerful it is placed in modern Bibles.  It is not tampering but getting back to the originals of Scripture.

The Scrolls and my Bible

1) About 100 revisions have been proposed from Dead Sea Scroll readings. 

2) The NRV adopts 85, the NIV – 22 readings.

3) The RSV, NRSV, the NIV, and the NAB have all utilized Dead Sea Scrolls.

Questions posed after the lecture

How much work remains to be translated?

All are in English.  Yet the scrolls still are undiscovered territory, virgin territory.  The scrolls are the road less traveled.

How far apart are the caves?

A mile involved.  In Judaism, they don’t burn Bibles.  The Essene community hid them and no one reclaimed them.

What is the Septuagint in relation to the MT?

When Jesus was speaking to Pontus Pilate, it was Greek.  The early Christians spoke Greek.  The Septuagint is the Old Testament in Greek.

What is the Copper Scroll?

It was found in cave three. To make a copper scroll takes ages to produce.  It speaks of buried treasure.  It is a mystery, originating from the
Qumran community.  If you want to write a mystery novel, call it The Secrets of the Copper Scroll.


3/15/07, Personal Note – For any of you who attended this conference last night, please feel free to correct or clarify anything that I might have miscommunicated from Flint’s lecture.  Tonight, he will be speaking on the topic, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the DaVinci Code.  See you there.

One comment

  1. Another great summary of Dr. Flint’s very interesting talk. Hey I just read in Joseph Fitzmyer’s book in this series that Dr. Flint is the main editor of, Fitzmyer’s book, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins,” (Eerdman’s, 2000), where he notes the Messianic scriptures in the Old Testament have more to do with the continuation of King David’s line, rather than as a saving Messiah as such. That thought came to the Jews about the time the Romans took over things and messed it all up for the Jews. The Messianic ideas that we have these days were not the same as in the Old Testament. In fact, they may have been a minority thinking even in Jesus’ day with the Jews.

    I thought Fitzmyer (He’s one of the finst Catholic scholars on the planet) analyzed things very well actually. It jives in some ways with Dr. Flint’s ideas, yet in others there could be a discussion or rather debate perhaps.

    All in all, it’s the most fascinating topic of the scrolls, I will admit.

    We shall talk more when you return from your Pauline-journey (lolol!)


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