Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls

From September 23, 2006 to January 7, 2007, an exhibition called “Discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls” came to Seattle. It was developed and hosted by a partnership of the Pacific Science Center in Seattle and Discovery Place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was curated by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

This exhibition generated quite a lot of excitement among Christians and others who read the Bible in the Seattle Area. Being downtown (practically beneath the Space Needle), it turned into a real public spectacle that ended up being SOLD OUT. Our parish went on a little outing to see the exhibit on the very last day, thanks to N. who facilitated the arrangements for us. The exhibit was very interesting and professional, with interactive segments on Paleography, Geography and History prior to the exhibition of the scrolls themselves.

I say "scrolls", but there were no actual scrolls included in the exhibition. Rather, there were a dozen or so ‘fragments', which appeared to the viewer as small scraps of vellum with Hebrew script on them, in controlled cases, with intermittent lighting.

The fragments were classed as Biblical, Apocryphal and Sectarian (the last name was given to the Commentaries and Community Rules by the curators). Here are some of the writings represented among the fragments: Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, An [Essene] Community Rule, A Commentary on Hosea, A Calendar, A Book of War, and "Pseudo-Ezekiel".

Upon reflection, it seems to me that there was very little information in the exhibition that is not already pretty much common knowledge, at least among anyone who has been to Seminary in the past 50 years. I also have to wonder - Why is it, that the Israel Antiquities Authority continues to conceal literally hundreds of scrolls retrieved from the Qumran site, while releasing only bits and scraps to other scholars and to the public?


Why is it that the IAA immediately puts its own spin on the tiny bits of information that it does release? Here is one example of the kind of commentary that I heard at the exhibition (not an exact quote, but the general sense): The Essenes and other Jewish groups around the first century BCE were awaiting the birth of a King who they believed would be the Son of God. This does not mean they were waiting for Jesus, but it merely means that this belief was prevalent at the time.
Well, I guess I just have to differ with them on the last point.