Apologetics: Dead Sea Scrolls
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JERUSALEM (AP) — Fifty years after a Bedouin shepherd unearthed a cache of ancient manuscripts in a desert cave, the Dead Sea Scrolls are still buried in disputes, both political and scholarly.
At the opening of an international conference on the scrolls Sunday, a key issue was ownership.
The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority said Israel would keep the 2,000-year-old documents because they were legally inherited and an inseparable part of Jewish tradition. His Palestinian counterpart, however, insisted Israel’s capture of the scrolls in the 1967 Mideast War amounted to “theft.”
From 1947-56, scrolls were found in 11 caves dotting the hills above Qumran on the Dead Sea — 800 documents in all, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The scrolls contain Old Testament texts, psalms, commentaries and other works, some of them written in code.
Israel bought some of the parchments soon after they were unearthed. These scrolls are kept at the Israel Museum in west Jerusalem.
Others were acquired in 1967 when Israel captured east Jerusalem, where the Rockefeller Museum that houses many of the scrolls is located.
At a news conference kicking off the weeklong gathering of 300 scroll scholars, Israeli antiquities chief Amir Drori flatly rejected Palestinian claims to ownership.
“The bottom line is that ... no one is going to take them away from us — and let that be clear,” said Drori, a retired army general whose agency oversees archaeological digs and the care of artifacts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized Israeli claims to the scrolls in his remarks to the scholars, adding that the parchments marked “the greatest archeological discovery of all time...(which) reminds the world of the depth and quality of Jewish roots in this country.”
Hamdan Taha, head of the Palestinian Archaeology Department, said the scrolls should be given to the Palestinians.
“The scrolls have been moved from east Jerusalem, from the Palestinian archaeological museum, which is viewed as a theft,” he said, referring to the Rockefeller Museum.
Ownership should be determined by where the scrolls were found — in this case, the West Bank where Palestinians hope to establish a state, Taha said.
The issue of the scrolls has been left to final status talks aimed at reaching an overall political settlement, but Taha said that contacts with Israeli academics and even some officials suggested more flexibility than Drori’s statements indicated.
Taha urged international scholars not to cooperate with Israel in studying the scrolls. He referred to a 60-member team of experts, which is trying to piece together thousands of scroll fragments and publish a complete text — perhaps by 2001 or 2002.
At a ceremony for the conference Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the Israeli claim to the scrolls and said they marked “the greatest archeological discovery of all time...(which) reminds the world of the depth and quality of Jewish roots in this country.”
Beyond political quarrels over the scrolls, academic debates abound.
Conventional wisdom holds that the scrolls were written at Qumran by a secretive sect of Essenes, a breakaway Jewish sect that stashed them in the caves for safe keeping.
Dissenters like Norman Golb, professor of Jewish history at the University of Chicago, argue that the scrolls came from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. They were spirited away by priests to remote Qumran for protection when the Romans, who destroyed the temple in 70, were preparing to lay siege to Jerusalem, he contended.
Golb said at least 500 different scribes wrote the scrolls that survived, and many more parchments may have perished.
“This doesn’t fit with a small site in the Judean wilderness inhabited by peace-loving Essenes, which anyway is negated by the military nature of the location,” he said.
Stephen Pfann of Cupertino, Calif., a member of the official scroll team, disputed the idea that the scrolls came from the ancient Temple, noting that the Temple priests were at odds with the Essenes.
Pfann said the idea that Qumran was a military camp was contradicted by the large number of Jewish ritual immersion pools and by the lack of military weaponry found in the ruins.
In 1947, young Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert, entered a long-untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. That initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade and eventually produced thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves. During those same years, archaeologists searching for a habitation close to the caves that might help identify the people who deposited the scrolls, excavated the Qumran ruin, a complex of structures located on a barren terrace between the cliffs where the caves are found and the Dead Sea. Within a fairly short time after their discovery, historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence, as well as carbon-14 dating, established that the scrolls and the Qumran ruin dated from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. They were indeed ancient! Coming from the late Second Temple Period, a time when Jesus of Nazareth lived, they are older than any other surviving biblical manuscripts by almost one thousand years.
Since their discovery nearly half a century ago, the scrolls and the identity of the nearby settlement have been the object of great scholarly and public interest, as well as heated debate and controversy. Why were the scrolls hidden in the caves? Who placed them there? Who lived in Qumran? Were its inhabitants responsible for the scrolls and their presence in the caves? Of what significance are the scrolls to Judaism and Christianity?
This exhibition presents twelve Dead Sea Scroll fragments and archaeological artifacts courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority as well as supplementary materials from the Library of Congress. It is designed to retell the story of the scrolls’ discovery; explore their archaeological and historical context; introduce the scrolls themselves; explore the various theories concerning the nature of the Qumran community; and examine some of the challenges facing modern researchers as they struggle to reconstruct the scrolls from the tens of thousands of fragments that remain.
The Dead Sea is located in Israel and Jordan, about 15 miles east of Jerusalem. (A map of the Dead Sea Region is available). It is extremely deep (averaging about 1,000 feet), salty (some parts containing the highest amount of salts possible), and the lowest body of water in the world. The Dead Sea is supplied by a number of smaller streams, springs, and the Jordan River.
Because of its low elevation and its position in a deep basin, the climate of the Dead Sea area is unusual. Its very high evaporation does produce a haze yet its atmospheric humidity is low. Adjacent areas to it are very arid and favorable for the preservation of materials like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Bible’s description, in Genesis 19, of a destructive earthquake near the Dead Sea area during the time of Abraham is borne out by archaeological and historic investigation. While no evidence remains of the five cities of the plain (Zeboim, Admah, Bela or Zoar, Sodom, and Gomorrah) their sites are believed to be beneath the waters at the southern end of the sea.
Archaeological sites near the Dead Sea include Masada, Ein Gedi, and Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found).
The scrolls and scroll fragments recovered in the Qumran environs represent a voluminous body of Jewish documents, a veritable “library”, dating from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Unquestionably, the “library,” which is the greatest manuscript find of the twentieth century, demonstrates the rich literary activity of Second Temple Period Jewry and sheds insight into centuries pivotal to both Judaism and Christianity. The library contains some books or works in a large number of copies, yet others are represented only fragmentarily by mere scraps of parchment. There are tens of thousands of scroll fragments. The number of different compositions represented is almost one thousand, and they are written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
There is less agreement on the specifics of what the Qumran library contains. According to many scholars, the chief categories represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls are:
· Biblical: Those works contained in the Hebrew Bible. All of the books of the Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther.
· Apocryphal or pseudepigraphical: Those works which are omitted from various canons of the Bible and included in others.
· Sectarian: Those scrolls related to a pietistic commune and include ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and liturgical works.
While the group producing the sectarian scrolls is believed by many to be the Essenes, there are other scholars who state that there is too little evidence to support the view that one sect produced all of the sectarian material. Also, there are scholars who believe there is a fourth category of scroll materials which is neither biblical, apocryphal, nor “sectarian.” In their view, such scrolls, which may include “Songs of the the Sabbath Sacrifice”, should be designated simply as contemporary Jewish writing.
Scroll Fragments from the Qumran Library
· Psalms Tehillim
· Phylactery Tefillin
· The Community Rule Serkeh ha-Yahad
· Calendrical Document Mishmarot
· Some Torah Precepts Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah
· Enoch Hanokh
· Hosea Commentary Pesher Hoshe’a
· Prayer for King Jonathan Tefillah li-Shlomo shel Yonatan ha-Melekh
· Leviticus Va-Yikrah
· Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice Shirot ‘Olat ha-Shabbat
· Damascus Document Brit Damesek
· The War Rule Serekh ha-Milhamah
Like the scrolls themselves, the nature of the Qumran settlement has aroused much debate and differing opinions. Located on a barren terrace between the limestone cliffs of the Judean desert and the maritime bed along the Dead Sea, the Qumran site was excavated by Pere Roland de Vaux, a French Dominican, as part of his effort to find the habitation of those who deposited the scrolls in the nearby caves. The excavations uncovered a complex of structures, 262 by 328 feet which de Vaux suggested were communal in nature. In de Vaux’s view the site was the wilderness retreat of the Essenes, a separatist Jewish sect of the Second Temple Period, a portion of whom had formed an ascetic monastic community. According to de Vaux, the sectarians inhabited neighboring locations, most likely caves, tents, and solid structures, but depended on the center for communal facilities such as stores of food and water.
Following de Vaux’s interpretation and citing ancient historians as well as the nature of some scroll texts for substantiation, many scholars believe the Essene community wrote, copied, or collected the scrolls at Qumran and deposited them in the caves of the adjacent hills. Others dispute this interpretation, claiming either that the scroll sect was Sadducean in nature; that the site was no monastery but rather a Roman fortress or a winter villa; that the Qumran site has little if anything to do with the scrolls; or that the evidence available does not support a single definitive answer.
Whatever the nature of the habitation, archaeological and historical evidence indicates that the excavated settlement was founded in the second half of the second century B.C.E., during the time of the Maccabees, a priestly Jewish family which ruled Judea in the second and first centuries B.C.E. A hiatus in the occupation of the site is linked to evidence of a huge earthquake. Qumran was abandoned about the time of the Roman incursion of 68 C.E., two years before the collapse of Jewish self-government in Judea and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
For more information about the people who lived in Judea during this time, see The Late Second Temple Period (200 B.C.E. - 70 C.E.).
You can explore various artifacts excavated from the Qumran Site
· Phylactery Cases
· Wooden Artifacts
· Vases, Jugs, Cooking Pots, and Bowls
· Basketry and Cordage
· Leather items
About two thousand years elapsed between the time the scrolls were deposited in the caves of the barren hills surrounding the Dead Sea and their discovery in 1947. The fact that they survived for twenty centuries, that they were found accidentally by Bedouin shepherds, that they are the largest and oldest body of manuscripts relating to the Bible and to the time of Jesus of Nazareth make them a truly remarkable archaeological find.
Since their discovery, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of great scholarly and public interest. For scholars they represent an invaluable source for exploring the nature of post- biblical times and probing the sources of two of the world’s great religions. For the public, they are artifacts of great significance, mystery, and drama.
Interest in the scrolls has, if anything, intensified in recent years. Media coverage has given prominence to scholarly debates over the meaning of the scrolls, the Qumran ruin, as well as particular scroll fragments, raising questions destined to increase attention and heighten the Dead Sea Scrolls mystery. Did the scrolls come from the library of the Second Temple or other libraries and were they hidden to prevent their destruction by the Romans? Was the Qumran site a winter villa for a wealthy Jerusalem family or was it a Roman fortress? Was it a monastery not for Essenes but for a Sadducean sect? Does this mean we need to revise our view of Jewish religious beliefs during the last centuries of the Second Temple? Do the Dead Sea Scrolls provide clues to hidden treasures? Does the “War Rule Scroll” (object no. 12) refer to a pierced or piercing messiah?
Since the late 1980s, no controversy has been more heated than that surrounding access to the scrolls and the movement to accelerate their publication. The push by scholars to gain what the “Biblical Archaeology Review” characterized as “intellectual freedom and the right to scholarly access” has had significant results. In 1988, the administration for scroll research, the Israel Antiquities Authority, began to expand the number of scroll assignments. By 1992, they included more than fifty scholars. In 1991, a computer-generated version as well as a two-volume edition of the scroll photographs were published by the Biblical Archaeology Society. Late in the same year, the Huntington Library of California made available to all scholars the photographic security copies of the scrolls on deposit in its vault. Closing the circle, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that it too would be issuing an authorized microfiche edition, complete with detailed indices.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include a range of contemporary documents that serve as a window on a turbulent and critical period in the history of Judaism. In addition to the three groups identified by Josephus (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes), Judaism was further divided into numerous religious sects and political parties. With the destruction of the Temple and the commonwealth in 70 C.E., all that came to an end. Only the Judaism of the Pharisees—Rabbinic Judaism—survived. Reflected in Qumran literature is a Judaism in transition: moving from the religion of Israel as described in the Bible to the Judaism of the rabbis as expounded in the Mishnah (a third-century compilation of Jewish laws and customs which forms the basis of modern Jewish practice).
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date back to the events described in the New Testament, have added to our understanding of the Jewish background of Christianity. Scholars have pointed to similarities between beliefs and practices outlined in the Qumran literature and those of early Christians. These parallels include comparable rituals of baptism, communal meals, and property. Most interesting is the parallel organizational structures: the sectarians divided themselves into twelve tribes led by twelve chiefs, similar to the structure of the early Church, with twelve apostles who, according to Jesus, would to sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Many scholars believe that both the literature of Qumran and the early Christian teachings stem from a common stream within Judaism and do not reflect a direct link between the Qumran community and the early Christians.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of avid interest and curiosity for nearly fifty years. Today, scholars agree on their significance but disagree on who produced them. They debate specific passages of individual scrolls and are still assessing their impact on the foundations of Judaism and Christianity. For the public in this country and throughout the world, the scrolls have an aura of reverence and intrigue which is reinvigorated periodically by the media—journalists who report serious disagreements among well-known scholars, as well as tabloids which claim that the scrolls can predict the future or answer life’s mysteries.
This Library of Congress exhibition presents a significant sampling of scrolls and explores both their history and their meaning. It is the Library’s hope that visitors will leave both satisfied in having seen these remarkable survivors of a far-off past and in having learned something of the challenges facing scroll scholars and intrigued by questions that surround the scrolls and the community that may have produced them.
Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? How did the Qumran library come to be? Whose scrolls were they? Why were they hidden in the caves? Today, with specialists and scholars throughout the world poring over the newly released scroll texts, solutions to these mysteries undoubtedly will be proposed. But these solutions will themselves raise questions—fueling continuing public interest and scholarly debate.
Copied late second century - early first century B.C.E.
Height 10.9 cm (4 1/4 in.), length 100.2 cm (39 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (4)
This scroll was discovered in 1956, when a group of Ta’amireh Bedouin happened on Cave 11, but it was first unrolled fourteen years later, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Inscribed in the scroll are parts of the final chapters (22-27) of Leviticus, the third book in the Pentateuch, which expounds laws of sacrifice, atonement, and holiness. This is the lowermost portion (approximately one-fifth of the original height) of the final six columns of the original manuscript. Eighteen small fragments also belong to this scroll. The additional fragments of this manuscript are from preceding chapters: Lev. 4, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18-22.
The Leviticus Scroll was written in an ancient Hebrew script often referred to as paleo-Hebrew. The almost uniform direction of the downstrokes, sloping to the left, indicates an experienced, rapid, and rhythmic hand of a single scribe. The text was penned on the grain side of a sheep skin. Both vertical and horizontal lines were drawn. The vertical lines aligned the columns and margins; the horizontal lines served as guidelines from which the scribe suspended his letters. Dots served as word-spacers.
Reference Freedman, D. N., and K. A. Mathews. The Paleo-Hebrew Leviticus Scroll. Winona Lake, Indiana, 1985.
11Q1(PaleoLev) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (4)
1.(22)[...edges of your field, or] gather [the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger; I the LO]RD [am]
3.(23)The LORD spoke to Moses saying: (24)Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month
4.on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with load blasts.
5.(25)You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD.
6.(26)The LORD spoke to Moses saying: (27)Mark, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day
7.of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering
8.by fire to the LORD; (28)you shall do no work throughout that day. For
9.[it is a Day of Atonement on which] expiation is made on your behalf [before the LO]RD your God. (29)Indeed, any person who
Translation from “Tanakh,” p. 192. Philadelphia, 1985.
Acacia tortilis - A tree prevalent in the southern wadis (valleys) of Israel.
Apocrypha - Books included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but excluded from Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament.
Aramaic - A Semitic language known since the ninth century B.C.E.; official language of the Persian empire; used extensively in southwest Asia and by the Jews after the Babylonian exile; the cursive script replaced the ancient paleo-Hebrew script for secular writing as well as for holy scriptures.
B.C.E. - Before the Common Era; indicates that a time division falls before the Christian era; same as B.C.
C.E. - Common Era; indicates that a time division falls within the Christian era; same as A.D.
Canon - A collection of books accepted as holy scripture.
Carbon-14 dating - A heavy radioactive isotope of carbon of mass number 14 used in dating archaeological and geological materials
Denarii - Roman Republican coins, originally cast in silver and worth 10 asses; known as a “penny” in the New Testament. The Library of Congress exhibition includes coins from the mid-first century B.C.E.
Essenes (“Judah” in some Qumran writings) - One of the three orders of Jews during the Second Temple Period; a separatist group that formed an ascetic monastic community and, in response to apocalyptic visions, retreated to the wilderness.
First Temple Period - ca. 850 - 586 B.C.E.; ended with destruction of the First Temple and exile of the Hebrews.
Flavius Josephus - ca. 37 - 100 C.E. Jewish historian who defined and described the characteristics of the three existing Jewish orders: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes; for example, he reported that those Essene men who chose to marry were primarily concerned about their wives’ morality.
Genizah - A storehouse for damaged or defective Hebrew writings and ritual articles.
Halakhah (pl. halakhot) - Corpus of Jewish religious law; disagreement on these matters caused the Judean Desert sect to secede from Israel.
Hasmonean - A family of Jewish patriots to which the Maccabees belonged; period of Jewish history from 167 - 30 B.C.E.
Herodian - Associated especially with Herod the Great’s reign 37-4 B.C.E.; a period of Jewish history from 30 B.C.E - 70 C.E.
Judea - Southern region of ancient Palestine; the Qumran region was a barren area within the Judean desert which yielded the Dead Sea scrolls treasure.
Leviticus - Third book of Jewish and Christian scripture consisting mainly of priestly legislation. Scroll fragments are included in the Library of Congress exhibition.
Maccabees - A priestly Jewish family which ruled Palestine in the second and first centuries B.C.E. and wrested Judea from the rule of the Seleucids and their Greek practices. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees’ recapture of Jerusalem and reconsecration of the Temple in December 164 B.C.E.
Masada - Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine situated on a butte west of the Dead Sea; last stronghold of the Zealots who committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.
Masoretic - Relating to a body of notes on the textual traditions of the Hebrew Old Testament; compiled during the first millennium of the Christian era; traditional text of the Hebrew Bible.
Mishnah - Collection of Jewish traditions based on rabbinic traditions and compiled about 200 C.E.; part of the Talmud.
Paleographic - Relating to the study of ancient writings and inscriptions or to an ancient manner of writing.
Paleo-Hebrew - Ancient Hebrew script; one of the offshoots of the Phoenician script; used exclusively in the First Temple period and in priestly circles and as a symbol of nationalistic revival in the Second Temple Period. A version of this script is still used today by the Samaritans.
Parchment - Prepared animal skin on which text is written.
Pentateuch - The first five books of scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the first of three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible
Pharisees (“Ephraim” in some Qumran writings) - One of the three orders of Jews during the Second Temple period; noted for strict observance of rites and interpretation of the law; their teachings concerned the immortality of the soul, resurrection of the body, future retribution, and a coming Messiah.
Phylacteries (tefillin) - Two small leather boxes containing four scriptural passages in Hebrew and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the forehead by Jewish men during morning prayers.
Plaited baskets - Made of single coiled braid in which successive courses are joined around cords to form a ribbed texture; each basket had two arched handles.
Pliny the Elder - ca. 23 - 79 C.E. Upper class Roman historian who wrote about the Essenes and identified their location as the Dead Sea area.
Psalms (tehillim) - Collection of Biblical hymns, i.e. sacred songs or poems used in worship and non-canonical passages.
Pseudepigrapha - Pseudonymous or anonymous Jewish religious writings of the period 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., especially those attributed to biblical characters.
Qumran - Northern Dead Sea desert plain, part of Jordan (1949- 1967); region of the eleven caves yielding Hebrew biblical, sectarian, and literary scrolls. It is the habitation site where excavations have uncovered a complex of communal structures and generated numerous artifacts; the site was founded in the second century B.C.E. and abandoned about the time of the Roman offensive of 68 C.E. when the site was destroyed.
Sadducees (“Menasseh” in some Qumran writings) - One of the three orders of Jews during the Second Temple Period; priestly and aristocratic Jewish families who interpreted the law more literally than the Pharisees and were much less formal in the observance of rites and traditions; denied the concept of immortality and tended toward materialism.
Second Temple Period - 520 B.C.E - 70 C.E.; a time of crucial development for monotheistic religions; ended with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied.
Sectarian - Characteristic of a sect, a religious group adhering to a distinctive doctrine.
Septuagint - The Greek version of the Old Testament (including the Apocrypha) translated by Jewish scholars in the third to second centuries B.C.E.; the first vernacular translation of the Bible and still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Seleucid - Empire Created out of part of Macedonian Empire after death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.E.) and, at its height, extended from southern coast of modern Turkey south through Palestine and east to India’s border; spanned period 312 - 64 B.C.E.
Talmud - The authoritative body of Jewish law and tradition incorporating the Hebrew Mishnah and the Aramaic Gemara and supplementing the scriptural law; developed in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E.
Tetradrachms - Ancient Greek silver coins. The Library of Congress exhibition includes coins minted in Tyre about 136 - 126 B.C.E.
Tetragrammaton - The four Hebrew letters that represent the divine name of God, usually transliterated YHWH or JHVH; out of reverence, Jews ceased to pronounce the word aloud about the third century B.C.E.
Yahad - The group within the Judean Desert sect who chose to live communally. The sect divided humanity between the righteous and the wicked and asserted that human nature and everything that happens in the world are irrevocably predestined.
an Exhibit at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC
The exhibition Scrolls From the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship brings before the American people a selection from the scrolls which have been the subject of intense public interest. Over the years questions have be en raised about the scrolls’ authenticity, about the people who hid them away, about the period in which they lived, about the secrets the scrolls reveal, and about the intentions of the scrolls’ custodians in restricting access. The Library’s exhibition describes the historical context of the scrolls and the Qumran community from whence they may have originated; it also relates the story of their discovery 2,000 years later. In addition, the exhibition encourages a better understanding of the challenge s and complexities connected with scroll research.
The exhibition is divided into five sections:
· Introduction — The World of the Scrolls
· The Qumran Library
· The Qumran Community
· Today — 2,000 Years Later
The original exhibtion included nearly 100 objects: scroll fragments, artifacts from the Qumran site, and books and illustrations from the Library of Congress’ collections. The online exhibit includes images of 12 scroll fragments and 29 other objects lo aned by the Israel Antiquities Authority for this exhibition.
You may view the exhibit by selecting any of the above sections or you may choose to browse the entire exhibit by selecting
Outline of Objects and Topics in Scrolls from the Dead Sea
Project Judaica Foundation, the international sponsor of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition, has brought the exhibit to the Library of Congress, New York, San Franciso, The Vatican and Jerusalem. Project Judaica is continuing its efforts to make the Scrolls and other Judaica available to the public through the Internet.
The Project Judaica website also provides more information on the background of the Scrolls exhibit, including information on ordering an interactive CD-ROM of the exhibit.
In December 1991, Mark Talisman, the President of Washington D.C.’s Project Judaica Foundation, approached the Library of Congress on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority with a proposal to mount an exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls. That initial contact led to a fruitful collaboration between the Library of Congress, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the New York Public Library, and the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The outcome of that collaboration, “Scrolls from the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship,” is on view through August 1 in the gallery of the James Madison Memorial Building.
The proposal to mount a Dead Sea Scroll exhibit came on the heels of the very public squabble concerning scholarly access to the unpublished fragmentary Dead Sea Scrolls in the custody of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In late August 1991, two scholars affiliated with Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati—Ben Zion Wacholder and Martin Abegg—published a computer reconstruction of various texts using a decades-old concordance. In September of that year, the Huntington Library, responding to the public outcry, acted unilaterally and opened its microfilms of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the public. And finally, Hershel Shanks, the publisher of _Biblical Archaeology Review_, produced a two-volume facsimile edition of the scrolls. The exhibit that was proposed to LC by the Authority would include scrolls from the very collection that had been the subject of the heated public debate and controversy.
From the outset, the organizers viewed the scroll exhibit as an opportunity to showcase related materials from the collections of each of the respective venues. “Scrolls from the Dead Sea,” therefore, highlights not only the scrolls and artifacts on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, but also books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, atlases, prints, and even newsreel footage, from the special and general collections of the Library of Congress. Two types of materials were selected to augment the Israeli materials: (1) rarities from the special collections housed in PSCMI and (2) examples of “modern scholarship”—that is, monographs and specialized studies on the exhibited scrolls from the General Collections. The New York Public Library and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum will follow suit and include materials from their own collections (or materials borrowed from other collections) to supplement the Israeli objects that will form the common nucleus of each venue’s exhibition.
The LC materials have been used to highlight a variety of subjects. To illustrate the the chain of transmission of the biblical text, we have placed alongside the two-thousand-year-old Dead Sea Psalm Scroll, a facsimile of the tenth-century Aleppo Codex (which until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was the earliest known Hebrew Bible manuscript) and the first Hebrew printed edition of the Psalms from 1477—both from the Library’s Hebraic collections. A series of views of the Holy Land from atlases and maps from the Geography and Map Division, as well as a 19th-century panorama of Jerusalem from the Prints and Photographs Division, provide visitors with a sense of place for the scrolls and artifacts. Early editions of Flavius Josephus and Pliny the Elder from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division are displayed in the exhibition section that treats the possible Essene identification of the Qumran community. The Leviticus Scroll, written in the paleo-Hebrew script, is grouped with an 18th-century Torah Scroll and a 19th-century Samaritan Bible manuscript (written in a script similar to the paleo-Hebrew)—all opened to same verses in Leviticus.
Of special interest, are the materials connected with the Library of Congress’ first Dead Sea Scroll exhibition in October 1949. A newsreel from the Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, titled “Library of Congress ... Oldest Known Bible Scrolls on Display,” documents the delivery of the scrolls to the national library, the unrolling of the Isaiah Scroll in the Whitall Pavilion by the Metropolitan of Jerusalem’s Syrian Jacobite Church, and the opening of the three-scroll exhibition in the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. Completing this section on “LC and the Scrolls” are photographs and memoranda documenting the event from the Manuscript Division.
Interspersed throughout are examples of modern Dead Sea Scroll research drawn from the General Collections. The exhibition features scholarly monographs on the Psalm Scroll, the Book of Enoch, Leviticus, the Damascus Document, the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, the Community Rule, the phylactery text, the Calendar Scroll, the Hosea Commentary, and the War Rule. A section on the “Dead Sea Scrolls in Translation” includes Indonesian, Japanese, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian, Russian, and Yiddish versions from the Library’s Area Studies collections as well as from its General Collections.
THE opening of the largest academic conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, called to mark their discovery 50 years ago, was marred by an Israeli-Palestinian dispute over ownership of the documents.
As 350 participants from 25 countries gathered at the Israel Museum to hear 120 lectures on the scrolls, Amir Drori, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the Jewish state would keep the 2,000-year-old documents because they were legally inherited and an inseparable part of Jewish tradition. His Palestinian counterpart, Hamdan Taha, responded that Israel’s capture of the works in the 1967 Six Day War was theft “which should be recitified now”.
Between 1947 and 1956, 800 scrolls were found in 11 caves in the hills above Qumran. The works, in Hebrew, Aramaic the language of Jesus and Greek, include Old Testament texts and psalms.
Israel purchased some of the parchments soon after they were unearthed by a Bedu shepherd. These are kept at the Israel Museum in Jewish west Jerusalem. Others were acquired in 1967 when Israel captured east Jerusalem, where the Rockefeller Museum, which houses many of the scrolls, is located.
At a news conference starting the week-long gathering, Mr Drori said: “The bottom line is that ... no one is going to take them away from us.”
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, said that the scrolls “the greatest archaeological discovery of all time ... remind the world of the depth and quality of Jewish roots in this country”.
Mr Taha, head of the Palestinian Archaeology Department, argued that ownership of the scrolls should be determined by where they were found. He urged international scholars not to co-operate with Israel in studying the scrolls.
The issue is part of final status talks on an overall Israeli-Palestinian settlement, but these have been stalled since Mr Netanyahu was elected.
JERUSALEM (AP) — A California scholar said Wednesday that he has broken some of the 2,000-year-old codes used by a mysterious Jewish sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Stephen Pfann, a scroll expert from Cupertino, told a conference of 300 international scholars that several coded scrolls written by the Essenes contained their basic spiritual tenets, a record of the moon’s cycle, and even laws regarding mildew.
The Essenes, a celibate sect of men who referred to themselves as the “Sons of Light,” used the coded scripts to “keep teachings from the Sons of Darkness,” Pfann said.
Out of the 800 documents found in 11 caves along the Dead Sea shore 50 years ago, only 10 are in code.
Pfann said the cryptic manuscripts, unlike the rest of the scrolls, date to the second century B.C., the earliest period of the sect.
“They played a very important part in the formative years,” he said. “This is divine revelation in progress.”
The scrolls, believed to be written between the second century B.C. and the first century, contain the oldest known texts of the Old Testament. They include messianic prophecies and moral teachings that shed light on the development of Judaism at the time of Jesus and the origins of Christianity.
Pfann said he had broken two of three codes used — the codes were based on symbols relating to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet — and was working on a third. His efforts are a continuation of work begun by researcher Jozeph Milik at Jerusalem’s Rockefeller Museum in 1954.
“Undoubtedly, there is no question that Stephen Pfann caught the codes,” said Lawrence Schiffman, a Jewish history expert from New York University.
Among the revelations contained in the coded scrolls are detailed studies of the phases of the moon during three solar cycles.
Pfann said the Essenes believed the calendar was a manifestation of God, concluding that “being on time was not merely a conventional obligation (but) an absolute necessity, if one’s worship was to be effective and acceptable to the divine.”
Another surprising subject covered in the codes is how to tackle mildew. The Essenes, who were obsessed with cleanliness, considered mold found in a house a type of leprosy.
Some conference delegates rejected Pfann’s theory that the coded documents were considered especially important by the writers.
Schiffman said the Essenes decided at random which documents to code.
JERUSALEM — A secretive encounter with a Bedouin in a desert valley led to the discovery of two fragments from a nearly 2,000-year-old parchment scroll — the first such finding in decades, an Israeli archaeologist said Friday.
The finding has given rise to hope that the Judean Desert may yield more treasures, said Professor Chanan Eshel, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv’s Bar Ilan University.
The scrolls are being tested by Israel’s Antiquities Authority. Recently, several relics bearing inscriptions, including a burial box purported to belong to Jesus’ brother James, were revealed as modern forgeries.
More than 1,000 ancient texts — known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls — were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves overlooking the western shores of the Dead Sea.
“No scrolls have been found in the Judean Desert” in decades, Eshel said. “The common belief has been that there is nothing left to find there.”
Now, he said, scholars may be spurred on to further excavations.
Archaeologist and Bible scholar Steven Pfann said he had not seen the fragments. If authenticated, they would “in general not be doing more than confirming the character of the material that we have from the southern part of the Judean wilderness up until today.”
But “what’s interesting and exciting is that this is a new discovery,” Pfann added. “This is the first time we’ve seen anything from the south since the 1960s.”
Eshel said he was first shown the fragments last year during a meeting in an abandoned police station near the Dead Sea.
A Bedouin said he had been offered $20,000 for the fragments on the black market and wanted an evaluation.
The encounter that both excited and dismayed the archaeologist who has worked in the Judean Desert since 1986.
“I was jealous he had found it, not me. I was also very excited. I didn’t believe I would see them again,” said Eshel, who took photographs of the pieces he feared would soon be smuggled out of the country.
But in March 2005, he discovered the Bedouin still had the scroll fragments. Eshel bought them with $3,000 provided by Bar Ilan University and handed them over to the Antiquities Authority, he said.
“Scholars do not buy antiquities. I did it because I could not see it fall apart,” Eshel said.
The finding constitutes the 15th scroll fragments found in the area from the same period of the Jewish “Bar Kochba” revolt against the Romans, and the first to be discovered with verses from Leviticus, Eshel said.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the Essenes, a monastic sect seen by some as a link between Judaism and early Christianity. The scrolls comprise more than 1,000 ancient texts found a half century ago in the caves above Qumran in the West Bank, one of the most significant discoveries in the Holy Land.
With the commercial success of “The Da Vinci Code” movie, the Dead Sea Scrolls are back in the news again.
So is controversy about how the Bible was preserved, translated and assembled into what we know today.
For those wanting to know the answers to many of the questions being posed today by those from author Dan Brown to “scholars” who question the authenticity of the Bible, a new one-hour documentary packs a lot of information into a limited time of entertainment and enlightenment.
It’s called “Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” but the title doesn’t even begin to describe all you will see and hear on this DVD documentary.
It is divided into three parts:
* In part one, Dead Sea Scrolls expert Joel Lampe provides an introduction to the 19,000 pieces of parchment that make up the collection. He shows how modern technology is helping researchers learn more about relics discovered a generation ago in a cave near the Dead Sea.
* In part two, Dr. Frank Seekins gives an introductory course into ancient Hebrew that you will never forget. You will be stunned by the languages similarities to English and learn about the simple, powerful word pictures that help shed light on the Bible in its original tongue.
* In part three, Dr. Craig Lampe recounts the rampant superstition and ignorance that dominated the Dark Ages, very nearly extinguishing the light of the Bible. He tells the amazing story of how the scriptures were preserved because a few brave men obeyed God.