The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of manuscripts that were found in 1946, 1947, and 1956. They were found in 11 caves called the Qumran caves in the Judaean Desert on the northern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank. The Dead Sea Scrolls have been dated by scholars to have been written in the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE. Some of the manuscripts contain parts of Old Testament books and other manuscripts are not part of the Bible.

The large majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed in Jerusalem. However, some of the manuscripts are owned by collectors and museums. The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. purchased 16 fragments of what they were led to believe were part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, extensive scientific testing made it clear that the fragments were fake. Art fraud investigator Colette Loll released results of her analysis in a 212-page report.

To answer your first question, the Dead Sea Scrolls are real but there are people who have made manuscripts that they try to make look like the real scrolls in order to deceive people and make money. Obviously, this is illegal. Satan tries to deceive us too. The Lord Jesus said about Satan in John 8:44, “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” He makes sin look enticing and attractive and he wants to destroy every Christian’s testimony, even though he cannot take us to hell. We read in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Next, I will answer your question about how the investigators know which scrolls are real and which ones are fake. The investigators, led by Colette Loll, did many scientific tests on the manuscripts, including multispectral and reflectance transformation imaging, traditional and 3D microscopy, and microchemical testing. They knew that the real Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment, but the fragments at the Museum of the Bible were written on leather. The leather was coated with a protein-based type of animal skin glue, which strengthened the material and made the surface look like the original scrolls. Modern ink was used on the forgeries and loose mineral deposits were scattered over the fragments after writing, while the ink was still wet. The investigators determined that the forgers made these efforts to intentionally deceive the Museum of the Bible into paying a large amount of money for the fake fragments.  If you are interested, the full report of the investigation is on the Museum of the Bible’s website.

Just as the Museum of the Bible was fooled, we can be tricked too. We can be fooled by wrong doctrine, the dangers of addiction, and various forms of immorality, among other things. If we want to know what is true and right, we should read God’s Word for answers. We read in Psalm 12:6, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

I would like to close with a few thoughts about archeological findings. We do not depend on archeological findings to know if the Bible is God’s Word. Even if every single one of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found to be fake, that does not change anything about the Bible truly being the Word of God. As we read in Psalm 119:89, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” God does not depend on mankind’s opinions or findings to prove that His Word is true. The wonderful thing is that we do not need to feel pressure to prove that the Bible is God’s Word because the Bible proves itself to be God’s Word. The Bible’s many fulfilled prophecies and lives that have been amazingly transformed by its message are just two of the ways that it proves itself. What a treasure we have in God’s Word!  (416.2)  (DJ)