Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition

Cave 4 at Qumram

Yesterday (Labor Day), I went with a group from here to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. Overall it was well worth the trip and the price of admission to see so many pieces of history. I’ll share a brief overview of the exhibition and then share some of my thoughts concerning what I saw.

The first exhibit contained artifacts from the Hasmonean Kingdom when Alexander the Great was out conquering. The second exhibit featured artifacts from around the time of King Herod in Jerusalem. Then we got to look at some ossuaries that were used to house the bones of the deceased. Exhibit four contained artifacts from Masada, where the Jews made a final stand against Rome (the temple had already been destroyed by this point). After this I believe we got the chance to look at some facisimilies of some fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After all these exhibits we watched a short video explaining the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and then got to look at the actual some fragments from the scrolls themselves as well as some early fragments from the New Testament and some old Christian Bibles from the Reformation (Luther’s Bible, 1611 King James, Erasmus’ Bible, among others).

Impressions

  • Many of the plates and bowls were tiny compared to the size of modern plates and bowls. The ones in my kitchen look gigantic compared to the ones that I saw. I speculate this was the case for two reasons: 1) The food supply was not as stable back then as it is today, so conservation of food was essential. 2) Because conservation of food was so necessary they ate significantly less than we do today; they realized that they could survive on significantly less food than we eat today.
  • It was a bit surreal looking at some of the fragments. It was <surreal synonym> to think that this was a 2,000 year old piece of parchment or papyrus. And not only was it 2,000 years old, but it contained words that we already old when the fragment itself was written. There’s something to be said of words that survive for thousands of years, regardless of whether or not you agree with what they say, because there’s something timeless in them that has meant something to multiple generations. This is why I like reading books by old dead guys (and gals); there is a timeless meaning in them.
  • There were a few illuminated manuscripts on display. Ever since I discovered these existed a few years ago I’ve loved looking at them and wished that there was a modern version of these manuscripts. I loved how elegant they looked and how the pictures served to illustrate elements of the biblical story. So I was excited when I found that there was indeed such a Bible in existence today! You can read about the Saint Johns Bible here.

Overall I definitely have a new appreciation for the Bible. Just seeing how skilled some of the writing was on the fragments, and how well it corresponds to the Bible we have today speaks volumes as to how laboriously and painstakingly these manuscripts were copied. Some people even dedicated their lives to copying these manuscripts.

I’d encourage anyone that has the chance to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls if you ever have the chance, regardless of what you believe.

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