Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Information on the Dead Sea Scrolls

An international conference in Vancouver on the Dead Sea Scrolls marks the 60th anniversary since the treasured manuscripts were discovered by a goat herder near the shores of the Dead Sea in 1947.By 1956, a total of about 900 scrolls were discovered in 11 caves, becoming one of the world's most important archeological finds.

Carbon dating and handwriting revealed the scrolls - written on animals skins, papyrus and copper - to be dated from about 250 B.C. to 68 A.D. New findings were announced at the three-day conference.

Some pieces of the puzzle that have confounded researchers are being cracked to shed light into biblical texts that originated 2,000 years ago and confirm the reliability of the Bible people read today. They include a missing verse in Psalm 145, in which each line begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Verse 14 of the psalm, culled from the Dead Sea Scrolls, reads: "God is faithful and glorious in all His deeds."

Since 2003, when fragments of a few of the scrolls began being exhibited for the first time in North America, starting in Grand Rapids, Mich., audience attendance has shattered all records, he said.The scrolls, which have also been exhibited inNew York, Montreal and Ottawa, are currently being shown in San Diego, where about 400,000 people are expected, followed by an exhibit in Seoul starting in December.

Emanuel Tov, who attended the conference and is a top scrolls scholar from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said exhibits of the manuscripts are such a hit because people somehow feel connected to the ancient world. "People are in awe," said Tov, head of the international team that publishes writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls."There's an aura of mysticism around them because they were found in difficult times, in times of war in '47, in areas of war, in caves, and they date to the time of Jesus and before."

"They help us understand Jewish history from the third century before Christ until the first and second centuries after Christ."

Most of the scrolls are displayed at a special museum in Jerusalem but are so fragile that scholars are allowed to only look at them, not handle them since about 15 years ago, Tov said.He said the scrolls are so significant because they allow scholars to know what the original Hebrew Bible - except for the books of Esther and Nehemiah - looked like, how three languages developed and how the Jews near the Dead Sea viewed religious ideas.

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