I had the opportunity of a lifetime. Last night, fellow biblioblogger and good friend, Shaun “the Bible Geek” Tabatt and I went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls! They are on display at the Science Museum of Minnesota from now through mid-October.
Words cannot describe the experience. A picture might help. Notice the smiles…
Unfortunately, they don’t allow photography inside the exhibit. But I don’t know how you’d be able to take in the exhibit with flash photography all around.
The exhibit has plenty of information and artifacts to hold your interest for 2 hours or more, easily. I felt like we were rushing and we spent more than an hour and a half. If it was just Shaun and I and no babysitters to worry about, we’d have spent all night there…. As it was we had our wives and another couple along with.
I enjoyed learning more about the history of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Duke University refused to purchase some of them when first found. And three were advertised for sale in a newspaper, if you can believe it.
The scroll jars and artifacts from 2,000 years ago were also fascinating. The coins dating back to before Christ were even more interesting. I couldn’t help but thinking of National Treasure (the movie), when we noticed the humidity and temperature gauges in the display cases.
The highlight, of course, were the scrolls themselves. They had 5 manuscripts on display. I’ve heard that a total of 15 mss will be rotated through the exhibit. Of the 5 I saw, only 3 were Biblical: Isaiah, Psalms and Genesis. The other texts were the Temple Scroll, and the Damascus document.
With my limited Hebrew (and with some help from the English translations), I was able to make out some words in the Hebrew. On the Psalms manuscript, which was by far the largest manuscript there (portions of six or seven columns), a proto-Hebraic script was used for the name of the LORD (Yahweh). On the other scrolls I was able to read the tetragrammaton (YHWH). On the Genesis scroll I was able to see Jacob’s name twice. I also clearly observed that there were no vowel points in the Hebrew script. (A point that some King James Onlyists dispute, siding with John Owen against the unified testimony of evangelical scholarship.)
The whole exhibit was exhilirating, but there was something extra special about a couple of the text choices. Isaiah’s manuscript started with 53:10. They don’t mention how Christianity interprets that text, however. Even more thrilling to me, was seeing Ps. 119:89 written there in a 2,000 year old manuscript. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens”. These manuscripts attest that God has preserved His Word for us faithfully down through the ages on earth, even, like it is in heaven.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is widely proclaimed as one of the greatest archeological discoveries of all time. God in His providence has given us more insight into the original text of Scripture. And while there remain some questions as to particular readings here or there, the Dead Sea Scrolls witness to the stability and accuracy of the text of the Bible. It was a privilege to see some of that in person.
For more on the Dead Sea Scrolls, you’ll want to come up to Minneapolis and visit the exhibit. Or you can learn more at some of the following links.