This article claims:

Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls has increased the faith of Bible-believers. Why? Because they prove that the hand-copied texts that have come down from the Masoretic scribes are accurate. ...

... The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the years 1947 to 1956, in eleven caves near Qumran, have answered that question. The Scrolls can be positively dated. They are 1000 years older than previously used manuscripts — and yet the text shows no deviation.

The Masoretic scribes who made the copies kept a remarkably accurate record.

A similar claim appears in this article:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century and perhaps of all time. They include 972 documents from approximately 300 B.C. to A.D. 70. Among them are over 200 scrolls of Old Testament writings, such as the famous Isaiah scroll, found in excellent condition even though it is 1,000 years older than any previous manuscript of the book. These documents have provided an abundance of evidence that has helped to confirm the text of the Old Testament is astoundingly accurate.

But it (2nd link) admits there are minimal differences, but doesn't say whether they are textual deviations or not.

The Dead Sea Scrolls can give us confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts since there were minimal differences between the manuscripts that had previously been discovered and those found in Qumran.

Is it true that there are no textual deviations between the dead sea scrolls and the old testament?

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    StackExchange has a whole site dedicated to studying the history of biblical texts: Hermeneutics.SE. You might have more luck there.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 10:02
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    Check here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/4032/…
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 10:10
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    @curiousdannii If the claim is that there are no deviations, while in fact there are deviations, it doesn't seem right to me to say that the claim is not false because there is a sub-group that shows no deviation. If the scripts with deviations are ignored, then of course there are no deviations. But that isn't the claim.
    – tim
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 12:06
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    @tim That's fair. What I meant is that the original claim would've been limited to or focused on the Isaiah scroll (like the second quote), but through lazy referencing it has been expanded far more than it should've been. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 12:09
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    While this is tagged christianity, the DSS generally well predate Jesus.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 3:34

2 Answers 2


Is it true that there are no textual deviations between the dead sea scrolls and the old testament?

No. Most people claiming that there are no differences seem to cherry-pick the texts that they compare. And there are indeed texts which contain only few significant deviations, for example Isaiah.

Although even they do contain some differences, such as replacing the word "foolish" from the Dead See Scrolls with the word "wise" in the Masoretic text in Isaiah 44:25 (see The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible).

There are also texts which contain more discrepancies, mainly found in Cave 4:

Thus the biblical manuscripts from Qumran [ie the Dead Sea Scrols], which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament except for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament (the canonical Jewish text), some biblical manuscripts found in Cave 4 exhibit dramatic differences from the Masoretic text in both language and content (for example, manuscripts of Exodus, Samuel, and Jeremiah). In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear the the Old Textament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around AD 100. Neil Asher Silberman, 2012. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, 2nd Edition

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls contain both manuscripts which agree with the Masoretic text, and texts which differ. This indicates that the MT isn't a new innovation, but also that variations were accepted. Scholars who want to find continuity or diversity can both find confirmation of their theories here. Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 20:14

It's wrong to say there is literally no difference.

The oldest relatively complete copies of the Old Testament are in Greek, so there is no direct comparison. These are the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus.

The oldest complete version in Hebrew was the Aleppo Codex. During the pogrom in 1947 the Aleppo Codex was lost and feared destroyed. The book reappeared (with pages missing) in Israel in 1958. Now the Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete Hebrew version, but the Greek versions are about 600 years older.

There is also the Samaritan Pentateuch.

In any case, there is no one particular text to compare the Dead Sea Scrolls to, and there are also multiple Dead Sea Scrolls. There are differences among the other versions mentioned above.

A good article on the topic of the OP is "Dead Sea Scrolls" yield "major" questions in Old Testament understanding

...in 1 Samuel 17:4 most English translations say Goliath stood "six cubits and a span," meaning a towering nine feet plus (about 3 meters). But a damaged Dead Sea scroll can be read as saying "four cubits and a span," a mere six and a half feet (2 meters). That’s why the official U.S. Catholic Bible gives Goliath the shorter stature.

Or consider Psalm 145, an acrostic where each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This chapter was always a head-scratcher because the verse for one letter is missing in the standard Hebrew text. But a phrase with that letter turned up in a Dead Sea scroll and is tacked onto 145:13 in most recent translations:

"God is faithful in his words and gracious in all his deeds…"

Further rewordings are expected and some of them could shift meaning. In all Bibles, Deuteronomy 8:6 speaks of "fearing" or "revering" God, but a Dead Sea scroll says "loving" instead...

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    It should be noted that in the first two of those three examples, the Dead Sea Scrolls did not add totally new information, but simply agreed with the already known wording of the Septaguint.
    – Avery
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 17:03
  • @Avery what do you think of the statement in the article "Various scrolls include 15 psalms that are not found in standard Bibles"?
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 17:19
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    I agree with the following sentence: "Was this Scripture that was later lost, or did Dead Sea scribes merely collect devotional poetry and mix it with biblical psalms?"
    – Avery
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 18:08
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    I've edited the sentence so it's neutral regarding to the facts. Please be mindful that blaming the "Arabs" for a specific Syrian event is pretty much like saying the "Europeans" were responsible for Auschwitz. It's an overly broad generalization.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 20:20
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    @Sklivvz Thanks for the edit. I think it's reasonable to acknowledge that the people responsible for the killings at Auschwitz were primarily Germanic. East Germany apologized "on behalf of the people for the humiliation, expulsion and murder of Jewish women, men and children" articles.latimes.com/1990-04-12/news/mn-1752_1_east-germany Hopefully a future Syrian or Aleppo government will also apologize on behalf of its people for the Aleppo atrocities.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 21:16

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