Over in his daily “My Answer” column, Billy Graham addresses the question of a reader: Do the Dead Sea Scrolls contradict the Bible? Sadly, while Rev. Graham does get some of the history right, his ultimate analysis is lacking—and borderline disingenuous.
Graham is correct in much of his history:
Scholars have concluded that most of the scrolls date from a century or so before Christ, and they include portions of almost all of the books of the Old Testament. One of the most important scrolls contains the complete book of Isaiah (one of the longest books in the Old Testament); others contain major parts of the Psalms.
Why the scrolls were hidden away isn’t known, but their owners probably feared that they were about to be destroyed by an invading enemy.
This is all good history. The problem, however, is with his conclusion: “No, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contradict the Bible; in fact, the opposite is the case.” He is right in that the scrolls generally don’t contradict scripture; but he is wrong to suggest that they support it. All the scrolls contains are various copies and versions of a few books—additional copies that don’t speak to the veracity of the books at all, except to provide the world with slightly older copies of already known works (which in some way would support the accuracy of scripture, but not in a very significant manner). The scrolls were most certainly the possession of the Essenes, a sect of Judaism that held some striking views (which didn’t find their way into modern Judaism or Christianity).
The other benefit the scrolls provide is some insight into the historical times of Jesus; Graham correctly notes that they date from near the time of Christ. But, as they are dated before Jesus was ever born, they don’t provide any insight whatosever into the veracity of the New Testament. It’s nice to see a prominent religious figure actually turning to religius scholars, since there has long been quite a disconnect—but Rev. Graham should really do his homework a bit better. While the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t “contradict” scripture, it is quite wrong to say they actually support anything in Christianity.