In 1947, in desert hills near the Dead Sea, a goat wandered away from the flock to which it belonged. It stumbled into one of the many caves in the hills. The pair of Bedouin goat-herders tending the herd tossed rocks into the caves to try and find the goat when they heard a cracking sound. When they investigated, they found clay jars containing scrolls with writing on them. One of them tore one of the documents inside out of frustration and disappointment that they had not stumbled upon treasure as they had hoped. But the other told him to wait. He knew a man in Jerusalem, called an “antiquities dealer,” who had been willing to buy all sorts of useless stuff from him. He would probably be interested in this discovery, so maybe they could make some money off of it after all.
There’s plenty more to the story, some truly amazing twists and turns. But one of the striking features about the discovery to me is the very first step in the whole story. The goat. A single humble animal of little significance to most of the world. But without that proverbial domino falling, the rest of the story is voided. Interesting. Without a doubt, he’s the most important goat in the history of religious scholarship.