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Transcript: The Facts Behind the New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery (Interview with Craig Evans)

Full text of the interview with Craig Evans titled ‘The Facts Behind the New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery.’

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SEAN MCDOWELL: Hey everybody, thanks for joining us. You got a behind-the-scenes look with Dr. Craig Evans in his office, because we’re about to talk about the latest Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery: Are they forgeries? What do they reveal about the time of Jesus? Why was this discovery made now, and what are some of the biggest misconceptions about it?

Chatting before this interview, I learned a number of things, and misconceptions that I’d gotten from reading some of the popular press, so you’re in for a treat, and there is nobody that I know who is better equipped to talk about this than Dr. Craig Evans. He has been studying historical Jesus for decades, written books on archaeology and studied the Dead Sea Scrolls and is going to give us his time to help us make sense of this. So really appreciate you coming on.

CRAIG EVANS: Well, you are very welcome, Sean. Good to be with you.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Well, let’s jump in right away, and I am curious if you could talk a little bit about your experience and just your fascination with kind of archaeology and the Bible, and how it relates to the Dead Sea Scrolls. What got you started on this journey first?

CRAIG EVANS: Well, as a PhD student, I had the good fortune of working with studying under William Brownlee and John Trevor. John Trevor had just arrived at Clairmont where I did my PhD when I arrived at Clairmont, and here I had – these were the two guys that were in Israel 1947-48 when the Scrolls came to live, and of course their famous picture is of John Trevor with his tripod camera taking photographs with the Great Isaiah scroll. Bill Brownlee had the Great Isaiah Scroll, I mean they rolled it out on over a bed in a dorm. Bill brought it home in 1948 to teach Hebrew at Duke University where his career began.

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And, you know, trust me, Sean, you can’t do that now. They won’t let you take the Great Isaiah Scroll. You can’t check it out. But he had it and, you know, in fact, I even had the pleasure of meeting the graduate student who drove Bill around in a car so he could go to churches in North Carolina and show the scroll and talk about it. So, you know, these are guys.

SEAN MCDOWELL: That’s amazing.

CRAIG EVANS: Yeah, these are guys that are legendary. And so I’m looking at, I’m actually looking at John Trevor’s photographs. He had them framed and on the wall and looking at pictures of the caves and became very aware and acquainted with the archaeological work that had been done in the caves at the ruins in Qumran themselves. And that’s what got me interested. Then later I had a chance to go to Israel.

And so I saw myself very much as a Dead Sea Scrolls person. And my work clear back in the 80s would reflect that right up to the present time. But I became, when I started visiting Israel regularly, became more interested in archaeology, volunteered for digs, and, you know, became very much aware of the material culture, got to know Jim Strange very well, who was a professor of archaeology, and in fact had even filmed some documentaries on this very subject.

So the reason I pursued it was because it just, it gave context. You know, as the old Chinese proverb says, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, an artifact can be worth 10,000 words. To see the things, to see the land, to see the artifacts in situ, to see artifacts cleaned up, restored in the museum, to read the reports. And then, of course, related archaeology is the manuscripts that we find. And the exciting thing about it is we might not even be finished finding them in caves. And, you know, people say, well, why can’t we just look in all the caves and determine that? You don’t know how many caves we’re talking about. There are thousands.

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And I’ve been in some of the wadis that empty into the Dead Sea. And, you know, the caves are countless. They’re everywhere. Some of them are man-made, but many of them are natural. Nooks and crannies, some of the caves have caved in so the mouth is no longer visible. And so high-tech equipment can detect recesses that are in the cliff. And we realize, hey, there could be a space there. Maybe we need to dig in. But, I mean, some of this, Sean, is dangerous. You’re talking about cliffs where you’ve got to use ropes and pitons. And it’s a lot of work.

And so it’s not like just walking into a cave and looking around, and in five minutes you’ve determined that there’s nothing in it or something like that. These caves have to be excavated. There might be a meter or two of debris, bat dung, bird dung, and so on, that you need to sift through. It’s hard work. It could take weeks to clear out a cave. And then you don’t find anything. Or you do.

And so that’s why there are so many caves yet to be explored. And that’s why I’m not surprised at all when it’s announced that something’s been found. This has been happening this year. There have been some finds. It’ll happen next year and the year after.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Okay. Good. That’s fascinating. I went to Cave 1 about a decade ago. And walking up the side was a little bit hairy and somewhat dangerous. Someone on our team tripped, banged up their knee, was bloody everywhere, and realized even just that there’s an elm. And a lot of people don’t realize how risky and dangerous it is.


Now, we’re going to jump into this recent discovery. But just one more question for you. People watching, I’m sure there’s some that have the background of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some that may not. Remind us of the discovery. Just kind of some of the salient details about it and why the Dead Sea Scrolls as a whole are so significant.

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