Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Saw the Dead Sea Scrolls Monday 7/16/07

It's a wonderful exhibit here at our Natural History Museum. I've
known for years that they were coming. My best friend is in charge of
the dead plant collection in the botany department there and one day
for my birthday she told me that they were coming but it was a secret.
I had to keep that secret for 2 or 3 years before I was allowed to
speak of it. OTOH, gave me plenty of time to read the Scrolls and
about them too. I am indebted to her for the tickets. Each employee
of the Museum was given 2 free tickets and Judy gave hers to me. My
mother and I had a great day together.

The exhibit starts with a virtual tour of Qumran. I must say,
computer generated imaging is certainly impressive. Then there is a
photographic essay of Qumran, the region and of the discovery and
early history of the Scrolls.

Down in the lower level of the Museum, they recreated the cave where
the first Scrolls were discovered and then it was onto the Scrolls
themselves. They also had some of the actual jars and other bits of
daily life at Qumran.

More than anything, I think I feel awe and deep gratitude. To look at
a scroll of Deuteronomy or Isaiah that was 3000 years old. What words
are there to describe that for a person who regards this literature as

Next I think astonishment. The writing is incredibly tiny yet very
clear. One could clearly see stylistic differences in the handwriting
of different people, no matter how tiny the fragment. Each bit of
Scroll was also carefully photographed and enlarged and hung on the
wall along with an explanation of the importance of the bit and a
translation. The Cooper Scroll is on exhibit.

Another reverential part of the exhibit, at least for me, was a sample
of what, up until the discovery of the Scrolls, had been the oldest
manuscripts of the Bible. I looked at a Greek papyrus 1000 years old.

Part of the exhibit is the history of the transmission of both the
Hebrew and Christian Scriptures so there were also copies of ancient
Bibles. They were unable to get a Gutenberg, but they had Bibles
dating back to 1537. It was in English and someone next to me
identified that as Elizabethan and I felt I just had to pipe up and
say that actually it was older than that. I was challenged how did I
know and I mentioned that the 1st BCP was 1549 under Edward VI so we
were looking at a copy of the Bible that dated from the reign of Henry
VIII. Also on display were 6 pages from the St. John's Bible, a
Benedictine hand written, hand illuminated Bible, the first time this
has been done in 1500 years..

What can I say, I'd love to go back. If there are any members of this
list who would like to come and see the DSS and who are not allergic
to cats, you may stay with me as long as you pay my way into the

More information about the exhibit:

More information about St. John's Bible:

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