SAN ANTONIO?Recent archaeological discoveries should encourage Christians to boldly proclaim the fulfillment of the messianic hope to Jewish people, a Baptist college provost told an international audience in San Antonio.
Speaking on the opening day of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism North America Conference meeting April 16-18 in San Antonio, Lamar Cooper reported on last year’s excavations by Criswell College students and faculty in conjunction with World of the Bible Ministries that could link the scrolls more convincingly to the Qumran community of Essenes, thought to have lived there between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D.
Cooper, also Criswell College executive vice president, explained why so much attention continues to be given to the Qumran site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were originally discovered 60 years ago.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have become one of the most important biblical archaeological finds of all time, though access to the writings did not extend beyond a few scholars until a decade ago. As researchers pored over the photocopies, Cooper explained, the contents of the scrolls?including a complete scroll of Isaiah and portions of every Old Testament book except Esther?proved to be even more remarkable than anyone suspected,
“All the romance of the Indiana Jones version of archaeology is gone in about 10 minutes,” said Cooper, describing the methodical labor by the Criswell excavation team working in temperatures that sometimes rose above 120 degrees. “Every volunteer discovers it is just plain hard work,” he said, describing one section set square in the open sun and dubbed “the pit of death.”
The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism is a task force that rose out of an emphasis on reaching Jews presented to the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism.
LCJE holds an international consultation every four years, with regional meetings like the San Antonio event held annually. Particular attention is given to developments like the excavation Cooper described, based on the desire of LCJE members to declare Jesus Christ as Messiah to the Jewish people.
As a Hebrew scholar and teacher, Cooper offered an overview of Qumran and the messianic hope, noting the relevance of the Essenes’ commitment to the Word of God.
“The scrolls they produced have confirmed the accuracy of the Word of God,” said Cooper, giving particular attention to their text of the Book of Isaiah dated to 125 B.C. “It is providential that this, the most messianic book in the Old Testament, has been preserved in its entirety and delivered to us today intact.
The care and commitment the Essenes gave to the task of copying and preserving the text indicates a high view of Scripture that is the underpinning of the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant word.”
Citing Luke 24:25-27, 44-49, Cooper emphasized, “The Essenes already knew what Jesus revealed to his disciples and followers, that the whole Old Testament was filled with words about him.”
Cooper also pointed to the highly developed moral code based on their messianic hope of a coming Teacher of Righteousness.