Google and Israel announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to give researchers and the public the first comprehensive and searchable database of the scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls is a 2,000-year-old collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents. They are said to shed some light on Judaism during biblical times and the origins of Christianity.
Officials say that the collection will feature sections that have been made more legible thanks to high-tech infrared technology.
"We are putting together the past and the future in order to enable all of us to share it," said Pnina Shor, an official with Israel’s Antiquities Authority
The scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s in caves in the Judean Desert. After the initial discovery, tens of thousands of fragments were found in 11 caves nearby. There are over 900 manuscripts.
The refined images were shot with a high-tech infrared camera NASA uses for space imaging. It helped uncover sections of the scrolls that have faded over the centuries and became indecipherable.
Much mystery continues to surround the scrolls. No one knows who copied these ancient texts or how they got there. The scrolls include parts of the Hebrew Bible as well as treatises on communal living and apocalyptic war.
Over the years, the texts have sparked heated debates among researchers over their origins.
Some believe the Essenes, a monastic sect seen by some as a link to early Christianity, hid the scrolls during the Jewish revolt of the first century A.D. Others believe they were written in Jerusalem and stashed in caves at Qumran by Jewish refugees fleeing the Roman conquest of the city, also in the first century.
Here are some interesting facts about the scrolls:
1. In all, scholars have identified the remains of about 825 to 870 separate scrolls.
2. The Scrolls can be divided into two categories—biblical and non-biblical. Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered except for the book of Esther.
3. There are now identified among the scrolls, 19 copies of the Book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy and 30 copies of the Psalms .
4. Prophecies by Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel not found in the Bible are written in the Scrolls.
5. The Isaiah Scroll, found relatively intact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah. In fact, the scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found.