Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Dead Sea Scrolls
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosted an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls through Sunday of last week. I decided to go the last day and mentioned to my son that we were going to see the Dead Sea Scrolls that day. A couple hours later he asked "what is this dead sea monkey thing we're going to see." So I had him google Dead Sea Scrolls before we went. Crowded with last minute viewers like myself the exhibition was still enjoyable as they strictly controlled the number of people who could go see the scrolls themselves as the room had to be temperature controlled. The leadup to the scroll room was a informative exhibit about Qumran (the place where these scrolls were found) and the people who might have created them. The scrolls themselves seem to have been hidden due to the advancing Roman army who were well on their way to destroying the second temple (and destroying everything in their path, including Qumran). These texts are the oldest known examples of verse from the old testament. Some 1,000 years older than any previously known written examples at the time they were found. Some of these fragments date back to 1 BCE. These scripts were the original books of the old testament in copies, Genesis, Isaiah, Exodus, Deuteronomy along with some communal rules and communal prayers. Those who wrote these believed they were the true people of God and that others were less faithful to the true calling of the teachings in the Old Testament. Turns out Duke University had a chance to buy a large collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1950s but declined the purchase. Some antique manuscripts from the Duke Collection were on display in this exhibit. Another surprise were that these scrolls were written on leather not parchment. Their preservation in cool caves inside of clay jars made their survival that much more likely than a paper equivalent.