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Friday, February 24, 2017
Dead Sea Scroll on display for first time in UK
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 A Dead Sea Scroll dating from 50 AD is to go on display for the first time in the UK in the British Library exhibition Sacred: Discover what we share (April 27 ­ September 23) which brings together some of the world's most important, oldest-surviving and beautiful religious texts from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The sheepskin fragment, most likely to have derived from Cave Four in Qumran, east of Jerusalem, shows verses from Psalm 33 and Psalm 35. It is on loan from the Musée Bible et Terre Sainte, Paris which has had it in its collection since 1960. The fragment was acquired in 1952 by Professor Jean Starcky, a French scholar who in the early 1950's worked as an editor of the Cave Four Scroll fragments at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in East Jerusalem. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovery has transformed Hebrew textual scholarship. Being nearly 1,000 years older than the previously earliest-known surviving Hebrew manuscripts, these manuscripts have provided significant information about a much earlier stage in the evolution of the Hebrew Bible. Different versions of books of the Hebrew Bible were still circulating in the mid 1st century AD. The Book of Isaiah (the only book of the Hebrew Bible preserved in its entirety in the scrolls) shows over a thousand variants from the standard text. It is remarkable that, at such a late date, the Hebrew Biblical canon was not yet closed. This fragment is of particular importance because it shows that the arrangement and order of the Psalms is quite different from that known today, and so Psalm 32 is not present in its expected place. In the current Hebrew Bible there are 150 Psalms and they are numbered - at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls they didn't have verse numbers and this fragment clearly shows they had a different order at that time. The Dead Sea Scrolls comprise over 800 manuscripts, dating from around the mid 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. They were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves at Wadi Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Only about 85% of the texts have so far been identified. About 30% are fragments of the Hebrew Bible, with the exception of the Book of Esther and the Book of Nehemiah. Some 25% are religious texts that have been left out of the Hebrew canon, whereas a further 30% comprise commentaries and religious rules and regulations. The other 15% of the manuscripts remain unidentified. Some scholars claim that the scrolls belonged originally to a particular Jewish sect known as the Essenes, but others dispute this. They are reckoned to date from the mid 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD, the majority being written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, the Hebrew Codex London from the 10th century (another 'star' treasure in the exhibition) was one of 20 oldest-surviving Torah manuscripts in the world from that period. . Graham Shaw, the exhibition's lead curator, said: "It is a great privilege to be able to display this historically important fragment in the UK for the first time. The British Library has one of the world's greatest collections of sacred texts and this exhibition enables us to compare and contrast some of the earliest surviving texts from the three faiths. This will be of great interest to scholars and general visitors alike." For more information see:
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