Ever since they were discovered in the caves of Qumran, the unanswered question has been: who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. There have been many theories though. It was widely believed to have been written by a messianic Jewish sect called the Essenes who moved to Qumran to escape Roman persecution. Then last year one scholar suggested that there were no Essenes; the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century historian Flavius Josephus. According to the new theory the scrolls were written by Sadducees, a sect descending from the high priest Zadok.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation).[Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections]
Yesterday National Geographic had a special (video) on this topic which brings new answers.
But new research suggests many of the Dead Sea Scrolls originated elsewhere and were written by multiple Jewish groups, some fleeing the circa-A.D. 70 Roman siege that destroyed the legendary Temple in Jerusalem.
According to an emerging theory, the Essenes may have actually been Jerusalem Temple priests who went into self-imposed exile in the second century B.C., after kings unlawfully assumed the role of high priest.
This group of rebel priests may have escaped to Qumran to worship God in their own way. While there, they may have written some of the texts that would come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Many modern archaeologists such as Cargill believe the Essenes authored some, but not all, of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?]