Friday, 26 July 2013

Dead Sea scrolls at Drents Museum in Assen

English: Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scro...
English: Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 57:17 - 59:9), 1QIsa b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Dead Sea scrolls very rarely travel outside Israel, but they represent one of the major archeological discoveries of the last century. Since they were first found around sixty years ago, they have yielded ground breaking new scholarship. Many of the interpretations and reconstructions are heavily discussed and contested. Not only do they contest previously held insights among scholars, but they also give new insights into two of the major religious traditions: Christianity and Judaism. Themes include the nature of Judaism at the time, the nature of the community of people living at Qumran, but also whether the notion of a suffering Messiah was already present before the time of Jesus.


Fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls on display a...
Fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls on display at the Archeological Museum, Amman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some of the texts represent the oldest existing texts of the bible, but many are also of a much more mundane nature, representing documents that people would take anticipating a flight from violence. Because of the varied nature of the documents found, they are a window unto the life during the times when (parts of) the Middle East was under Roman and Greek rule, the revolts against these empires and the links Jewish communities had to other parts of the world.

The exhibition in Assen is the result of a cooperation between the Drents museum Assen, the Israeli Antiquities Authority and Mladen Popovic, director of the Qumran institute at the University of Groningen. It can be visited until the 5th of January 2014.

English: Photographic reproduction of the Grea...
Photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved of the biblical scrolls found at Qumran. It contains the entire Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, apart from some small damaged parts. This manuscript was probably written by a scribe of the Jewish sect of the Essenes around the second century BC. It is therefore over a 1000 years older than the oldest Masoretic manuscripts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the 2nd century bce and 2nd century ce the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. The Scrolls clarify our understanding of the fundamental differences between different Jewish sects, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. at that time the people working at reproducing the writings of the Holy Scriptures considered their work very important and looked at the older writings as Sacred Scriptures where no fault could be allowed in the reproduction.
The non-biblical texts show profound discrepancies in the ways that the different groups, different Jewish sects, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, interpreted their Scripture and obeyed its guidelines.

The texts shown on the exhibition may shed light on philosophical disputes about issues such as the Temple and priesthood, the religious calendar and the afterlife. They also present us with the more practical disputes at the time with the focus on everyday law and observance.

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls digital library of the Israeli Antiquities Authority has a beautiful website with background information in English, as well as high quality images of the scrolls themselves.

Popovic explaining the significance of the scrolls on the Dutch new programmeKnevel and van den Brink (Dutch, towards the end of the program)

Article in Dutch highbrow newspaper NRC on the Dead Sea scrolls


Portion of a photographic reproduction of the ...
Portion of a photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved of the biblical scrolls found at Qumran. It contains the entire Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, apart from some small damaged parts. This manuscript was probably written by a scribe of the Jewish sect of the Essenes around the second century BC. It is therefore over a 1000 years older than the oldest Masoretic manuscripts. This picture shows all of Isaiah 53 (and is mostly identical to the Masoretic version). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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