December 30, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls

 One of the items on my to-do list this year has been to gather all of our ducklings and take a family trip to the Southwestern Theological Seminary to see the  Dead Sea Scrolls. These are a big deal. In several caves in Qumran, now known as the West Bank by the Dead Sea, hundreds of scrolls were found dating back to before Christ. Every book in the Old Testament was represented in the findings except the book of Esther. To this date these are the earliest dated writings by hundreds of years. During my Pentateuch class this year when we were discussing source criticism of course the Dead Sea Scrolls were discussed and with great excitement.

So we made the trip before the exhibit closes on January 13th.  The exhibit was broken up into 3 sections (4 if you went outside to the excavation fun), the first section set up the cultural setting, lots of old pottery, pictures of locations, some bone boxes (after 1 year of burial the bones were retrieved from a grave and then put in an inscribed bone box and put in the family burial site), glass from the first century. The 2nd part was a 7 minute film about the findings and translation information for the scrolls, and then thirdly the scrolls themselves. There were also some original illuminated Bibles in different translations and languages to see, along with a part of the Gutenberg Bible, which is the first Bible that a printing press was used to make. No more hand copying Bibles, this meant that the Bible would soon be accessible to all, not just the rich who could pay for a hand copied Bible.

Once the main exhibition was over there was a small exhibition of St. John's Bible, the first hand-written Bible created in over 500 years. The pages are made of calf-skin and the ink the calligraphers use is made by hand. The images created by the artists to represent the books within the Bible are breathtaking, lots of bright colors, lots of gold. Here is a link to a short video highlighting St. John's Bible.

We enjoyed seeing the scrolls, the exhibit took about 2 hours from beginning to end, I don't want to build it up too much, because the pieces on display are small, somewhat unreadable, and behind glass and lit up for 15 seconds then go dark for 30 seconds. But there are lots of enlarged and enhanced illustrations along with the English translation included. And to be able to look at a piece of scroll, and see the words of scripture that are in my Bible and they match in translation what was written over 2000 years ago was very cool.

I am glad that my kids got to see the scrolls, and take in some of the history. It is one of the things in life that I don't think I will ever forget.