Historical Context

The Dead Sea Scrolls and why they matter

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The scrolls were written during a time of significant turmoil and strife between the Greek-influenced elite and the more traditional Jewish populations of Judea. From the time of Alexander the Great’s death to the fall of Masada at the hands of the Romans, a series of historic events would influence the authors of the scrolls and the population as a whole. This is the historical context for the creation of the scrolls and the foundations of both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

332 B.C.E.
Alexander the Great defeats Persia and conquers Judea beginning widespread Hellenization of the area.

323 B.C.E.
Alexander the Great dies creating a power struggle between the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt.

250 B.C.E.
Date of the oldest Dead Sea Scrolls

197 B.C.E.
Judea becomes a province of the Seleucid Empire

175 B.C.E.
Jerusalem becomes a polis

175-167 B.C.E.
Forced Hellenization and persecution of the Jews including the banning of circumcision and religious observances such as the Sabbath, and forced paganism and consumption of foods forbidden by Jewish law.

166 B.C.E.
Rise of the Maccabees

150 B.C.E.
Nash Papyrus, oldest known Biblical manuscript fragment before discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

140 B.C.E.
Foundation of the Maccabbean, or Hasmonean, dynasty

140-67 B.C.E.
Period of unrest between Hasmoneans and Pharisees. Jews in opposition flee to Judean desert and settle at Qumran

63 B.C.E.
Judea conquered by Rome

37 B.C.E.
Herod the Great appointed ruler by Rome, end of Hasmoneaen dynasty

ca. 4 B.C.E.
Birth of Jesus of Nazareth

26-36 C.E.
Pontius Pilate prefect of Judea

ca. 30 C.E.
Crucifixion of Jesus

66 C.E.
First Jewish Revolt against Rome

68-73 C.E.
Gospel of Mark composed

68 C.E.
Date of the last Dead Sea Scrolls

70 C.E.
Fall of Jerusalem to Roman army

70-100 C.E.
Gospel of Matthew composed

73 C.E.
Fall of Masada, last Jewish stronghold against Rome

85 C.E.
Gospel of Luke composed

90 C.E.
Gospel of John composed

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  • Isaac says

    Wouldn’t you say that the Gospel of Luke was composed sometime in the 60s AD?

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