In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dead Sea Scrolls

For Thanksgiving, my other half and I went to Seattle to be with his family. It was an incredible weekend for a variety of reasons. One of the activities we did (we, meaning my other half, his mother, and me) was go to an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They only have a few public viewings in the United States, and they have been in Seattle since the beginning of November. It was amazing.

First, the story of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was incredible enough. Before they were discovered, most of the Old Testament was from manuscripts taken from the Middle Ages. These manuscripts are dated about 1000 years older than any of the manuscripts we had at that time (2000-2500 years old).

Some shepherds stumbled upon the manuscripts in the 1940s. One of the shepherds threw a rock into a tiny opening in a cave and heard the sound of pottery breaking. They entered and found clay pots filled with manuscripts. They sold four of them to a dealer for only $65.

The exhibit also had a lot of the artifacts from the find. The ancient city of Qumran was a intentional community of the Essenes. They withdrew from society and, apparently, collected religious writings. All of the manuscripts were of a religious nature, but not all of it was included in the Old Testament. There were other psalms, passages, and even apocalyptic literature.

We looked at coins, pots, bowls, and learned about the excavation process. Then, we got to enter the room with some of the actual scrolls. Most are in fragments, so we looked at mid-sized scraps of paper with writing in Hebrew and Aramaic (they said others were in Greek, but none of them were on display). The room was dark, because light damages the ancient paper (papyrus or parchment). Even in the display, the lights would turn off occasionally to restrict the light on the paper.

I have not studied Hebrew, and I'm wishing I had. Some of the writing was very hard to distinguish. Other times, it was very clear. At one point, the name of God was written in a completely different script. Instead of leaving the space blank, attention was brought to the name, so the reader would not say the name of God aloud.

I purchased a book with the writings of the scrolls. All the writings in the book are the ones not included in the current Bible. However, I wanted to read the manuscripts of the biblical literature. It was said that the Dead Sea Scrolls have had an impact on what our current Bible says! How amazing it would be to read something direct from the manuscript.

This was one of many adventures in Seattle, but it has left a profound impact on me.


Blogger Trish said...

I'm jealous. The Dead Sea Scrolls were in Chicago one time while I was in the city for other things. I wasn't able to drive then, and my mother wouldn't take me. That's so awesome that you got to see them. I'm glad you enjoyed your time, too.

11:03 PM  

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