The Dead Sea scrolls are a collection of about 850 written works, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, which have been discovered beginning in 1947 at eleven caves near Qumran, a fortress northwest of the Dead Sea in Palestine (in historical times part of Judea). The texts represent diverse viewpoints, ranging from the beliefs of the Essenes to those of other sects. The contributions of at least 500 individual authors are found among the scrolls and scroll fragments, which include texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. Important discoveries included the Isaiah Scroll in 1947, the Habakkuk Commentary in 1947, and the Copper Scroll in 1952, among many other works. Israel obtained 4 of the 7 Dead Sea scrolls on February 13, 1955.
In 1963 Karl Heinrich Rengstorf of the University of Münster put forth the theory that the Dead Sea scrolls originated at the library of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This theory was rejected by most scholars during the 1960s, who maintained that the scrolls were written at Qumran rather than transported from another location, but the theory was revived by Norman Golb and other scholars during the 1990s, who added that the scrolls probably also originated from several other libraries in addition to the Temple library.
The scrolls were discovered by a boy who had thrown a stone into a cave in an attempt to coerce an animal out of the cave. His stone struck one of the many pieces of pottery that had contained the scrolls for approximately two millennia.
Allegations that the Vatican suppressed the publication of the scrolls were published in the 1990s, notably by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, whose book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception contains a popularized version of the theory by Robert Eisenman that some scrolls actually describe the early Christian community, characterized as more fundamentalist and rigid than the one portrayed by the New Testament, and that the life of Jesus was deliberately mythicized by Paul, possibly a Roman agent who faked his "conversion" from Saul in order to undermine the influence of anti-Roman messianic cults in the region. Baigent and Leigh allege that several key scrolls were deliberately kept under wraps for decades to prevent alternative theories to the prevailing "consensus" that the scrolls had nothing to do with Christianity from arising.