A Journey through Aesthetic Realms
 
Unlocking the Dead Sea Scrolls      
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Welcome, esteemed viewers, to A Journey through Aesthetic Realms.

Today, we will visit the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem which takes care of the preservation, exhibition and publishing of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also called the Qumran Scrolls, these precious documents have even been regarded as the most important archeological finding of the 20th century. They are by far the oldest existing scrolls of biblical scriptures studied in three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

My name is Pnina Shor and I’m a head of a new unit that the Israel Antiquities Authority established to take care of the Dead Sea Scrolls. So the unit is called Dead Sea Scrolls Project, and what we do is we take care of the scrolls physically, meaning conservation and preservation of the scrolls. We do all the curatorial work. We are in charge of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibitions all over the world. And we are in charge of this big, huge digitalization project that we are about to begin.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of hundreds of documents from the Hebrew Bible as well as religious texts which are not part of the biblical canon.

My name is Emanuel Tov. I am a professor of Hebrew Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. I teach Bible and I teach Dead Sea Scrolls.

Some 20 years ago, I’ve been appointed as the editor-in-chief of the International Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Committee. Before that time, I studied the Dead Sea Scrolls in general and I also published some scrolls, but at that point 20 years ago, I was appointed to oversee some 50, 60, 70 people in the whole world that were involved with the publication of the scrolls.

It means that we look at the little fragments and we try to read them. We call that “to decipher” what is written on each small fragment, and we try to combine the fragments to a larger picture. And we then try to understand. And since the scrolls are fragmentary, we have to reconstruct what is found in the places that have not been preserved, and we write a commentary on each scroll.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, that’s the name we give to these fragments which have been found in 1947 in a cave, and then afterwards in several additional caves near the Dead Sea. That’s the lowest point on Earth, a very hot area in Israel. And because it was a hot area, the fragments have been preserved very well. It’s an enormous amount of material. We now reckon that they are more than 900 different scrolls, although sometimes only small pieces of a scroll have been preserved.

The scrolls were first discovered in 1947 at Khirban Qumran on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea by a Bedouin shepherd boy. From 1947 to 1956, many scrolls were unearthed in several locations, mostly along the western shore of the Dead Sea. In the 1960s, more scrolls were found during the excavation of the ancient fortress of Masada. And even in the last decade, there have still been a few new findings of scrolls.

They give us a very good life picture of literature that was used by the Jewish people 2,000 years ago. They are written in ancient Hebrew, and ancient Hebrew is the language of the Hebrew Bible. And a smaller group is in Aramaic. That’s a language that is related to Hebrew, and some of the books in the Hebrew Bible like Ezra, Daniel are also in Aramaic.

And Aramaic was the language that was spoken by Jesus. So it’s a very important language. Some scrolls were written in the Greek language, the language that was the language of the period. The proper conservation of these unique scrolls is an elaborate task and an enormous responsibility which requires a lot of dedication.

My name is Elena Libman. I am the head of the Dead Sea Scrolls conservation laboratory of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Shortly after the discovery, they were re-placed from the desert to the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. And a team of eight scholars dealt with the scrolls and when deciphering and putting the right position to the million fragments, unfortunately they used tape.

Actually nobody wanted to do any harm to the scrolls, but the fact is that harm was done. Let me show you the sample of such a plate with more than 30 I think, tiny fragments written in Hebrew and put in between two sheets of plain glass, window glass. And you can see the tape glued on the back side of each fragment, sometimes several layers, one upon another. When two or three parts of same fragment were found, unfortunately they were joined in such an inappropriate way.

First thing which was done when we became conservators here – it was almost 20 years ago – was to replace the fragment from glass plates to acid-free cardboards. Most of them are now in acid-free cardboards but there are some, about 10 or 15 plates, like this one, remained in glass plates. Why? Because in this case, the fragments are stuck to the surface of the glass and it’s impossible for us to open it. When the scrolls were replaced from the glass plates to the acid-free cardboard, as this is the sample, the scroll looks like this one.

This is very tiny, very small fragments of tefillin, what, maybe you know, religious Jews use when praying. We put it in a tiny box here on the forehead, and on the left hand. So this is a head phylacteries for the forehead, and it is prepared to be exhibited in such a way we have to put fragments inside two layers of such a sort of polyester net. Each fragment is sewn around, not touching it, with the same thread.

It is written on both sides, that is why it is possible to see it from both sides. Now it is opened because it is back, not exhibited. In case when it is not written on both sides, it is put on the background of a linen.

A cornerstone for the foundation of Judaism and subsequently for Christianity was the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. We were indeed lucky to have a chance to see the only Dead Sea Scroll which contains the oldest existing writing of the Holy Ten Commandments!

This is a very interesting scroll, the Deuteronomy scroll, the one and only scroll with the Ten Commandments, written 2,000 years ago. Here it is. It is written, “Honor your father and your mother.” Here.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written during a crucial time in history. Ms. Pnina Shor explains: The scrolls are manuscripts that were written between the end of the third century BC and until the first century CE, until the year 70 – the destruction of the Second Temple. And the majority of them were written in the first century BC and the first CE. And this is the crucial time in history, when both Judaism and Christianity were formalizing as we know them today. Therefore, these scrolls are very, very important both to the Jewish world and to the Christian world.

Who were the people who wrote the scrolls? What information do the scrolls give about them?

They include all of the books of the Bible and more than one copy of them, except for the Book of Esther. They include a lot of non-Biblical material, apocryphal, apocalyptic writings, sectarian writings or writings that were written by a certain sect at the end of Second Temple times. They called themselves the Yachad, which mean “togetherness,” and they’re one of many such groups that formed at the end of the Second Temple times.

And early Christians were such another group. So there’s a lot of writings, especially the sectarian writings or the apocalyptic writings that talk about the Messiah, about the world at the end of the days that the Christian world relates to. But there’s no actual copy of the New Testament within the scrolls because the New Testament began to be compiled only about a century or two later.

The public in the world usually thinks that the Dead Sea Scrolls [are] only the scrolls of the Bible, because they’re so important. And indeed, the Bible has been found there and many, many copies. But there are also other scrolls that we call briefly “non-biblical scrolls,” and these scrolls aren’t just anything. They could be sectarian writings describing the life of the people who lived near the Dead Sea. Some of them are psalms (hymns).

Some of them are calendars describing the work in the imaginary temple. And through that work in the temple and the names of the people that had to work in the temple, we understand about their calendar, which was different from the calendar in the remainder of Israel. Other scrolls are commentaries on the Bible. Other scrolls are simply works that are, you might say, notes. Other scrolls describe theological issues, how to relate to God, how to worship God, prayers to God. And what God will do with us at “the end of days.”

This concludes the first part of our program featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. Thank you, gracious viewers, for being with us today on A Journey through Aesthetic Realms. Please tune in again next Sunday, July 3, for the 2nd and final part of our exploration of the fascinating Dead Sea Scrolls.

We will find out more about the digitalization and online publishing of the scrolls, and about the beliefs of the spiritual group who wrote these valuable religious testimonies. Now, please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Our Noble Lineage, right after Noteworthy News. May Heaven’s abundant blessings be upon you.

To find out more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, please visit: Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation: www.DeadSeaScrollsFoundation.com Israel Antiquities Authority: www.Antiquities.org.il Prof. Emanuel Tov’s website: www.EmanuelTov.info
Welcome, cherished viewers, to the 2nd and final part of our program on the Dead Sea Scrolls, a famous collection of documents that were discovered in the 20th century.

We will continue our visit at the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem which takes care of the preservation, exhibition and publishing of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also called the Qumran Scrolls for the name of the site near where they were found, these precious documents have even been regarded as the most important archeological finding of the 20th century.

They are by far the oldest existing scrolls of biblical scriptures studied in three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Professor Emanuel Tov is a professor emeritus of the Bible at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former editor-in-chief of the international Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project.

Modern scholarship thinks that certain scrolls were written at Qumran and others were not written at Qumran but were imported to Qumran. I think we can know which, more or less, not exactly, which scrolls were written by the Qumran scribes. I think there was a Qumran scribal school.

So the people who lived at Qumran, the so-called group or sect, they wrote all the sectarian writings as I described a little while ago, sectarian writings that depict the life of the community. But many other writings were brought to Qumran.

What I depict in my mind is that the scrolls were brought there by the Qumran people as they moved out from the centers of society, say Jerusalem, and they went to the desert to live a spiritual life. So they took with them everything they owned, including scrolls.

Some believe that the people who wrote the scrolls belonged to the spiritual order of the Essenes. Could this be true? Professor Tov has concluded that it is. But Ms. Pnina Shor, the curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has a different view.

In general, I can tell you that this group was ascetic. You know, they were very, very religious, and the idea of purification was very central to their way of life. Many scholars say that this group is not necessarily the Essenes, because nowhere in the scrolls is the name of the Essenes mentioned.

The only name we can give this group is what they called themselves. They called themselves in the scrolls the “Community,” they called themselves the Yachad. The Yachad means the community. And this is why it’s called the Community Rule.

In the caves at Qumran, ten fragmentary copies and one complete copy of the Community Rule of the Yachad group were found. The following is an excerpt from it in its English translation:

“No man shall argue or quarrel with the men of perdition. He shall keep his council in secrecy in the midst of the men of deceit and admonish with knowledge, truth and righteous commandment those of chosen conduct, each according to his spiritual quality and according to the norm of time.

He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community… He shall perform the will [of God] in all his deeds and in all strength as He has commanded. He shall freely delight in all that befalls him, and shall desire nothing except God's will...”

The writings of the New Testament, which comprise the last part of the Christian Bible, were written at the same time that some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any of the gospels of the New Testament and do not mention the name of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the people who wrote the scrolls were early Christians. However, the spiritual group at Qumran and the early Christians shared some similarities. For example, one parallel to the Early Christians is that the scrolls of Qumran speak about the “Teacher of Righteousness,” a wise Master who was persecuted without real justification.

They have in common that they both call their new religion “The New Covenant,” or as we say now, “The New Testament.” The New Testament is a new covenant with God that replaces the old contract with God. And also, the Qumran people, Essenes, speak about the New Covenant. They share all kinds of ideas. They share the idea of immersion in water to clean the body and the spirit, named baptism in the New Testament with a Greek word.

They share the idea of common meals. They share the serving of God with prayer. They share the seeking for justice, the love for God. And we see very often the same types of phrases used in both places. The Sermon on the Mount has “the meek of spirit will come to me,” etc. There’s a section in one of the Qumran scrolls, co-called 4 Qumran 525 that is similar to the Sermon on the Mount.

In Judaism, it is not allowed to erase or damage the name of God in Hebrew. Jewish people also refrain from pronouncing God’s name in Hebrew. It is treated with great reverence. Ms. Elena Libman, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls laboratory, showed us a scroll where the scribe had accidently written it.

This is one part of a long scroll, psalm scroll, which is very interesting. There are two types of script here. A square type of script of the whole text, and sometimes you may see such a sort of another script, 4 letters actually. This one and this one. This is the name of God; four letters, Tetragrammaton in Greek, Yodh – He – Waw – He, four letters.

It was forbidden, and it is forbidden, to pronounce the name of God, and only these four letters are Hashem (reference to God) in Hebrew. They are written in this script which is actually the script of the First Temple [period].

And this is very touching. When the man who wrote the scroll made a mistake, he simply erased it, like this one or this one, or the letter or even the whole word. But in this case, the name of God was written here by mistake but it was forbidden for him to simply remove it. That’s why he put dots above, above the letters and on the bottom. That means for us, for you and me, don’t read it. It’s a mistake. It’s very touching, isn’t it?

We found in Qumran various commentaries on the books of the Bible. A special commentary is the one called Sharim Pesher [Pesharim]. And a Pesher is what we call a sectarian writing, namely, the so-called Pesher literature shows us the way the Hebrew Bible was viewed by the members of the Essene group.

And they wanted to show us that basically, the Hebrew Bible shows that the views of the Essenes are correct, and that they are themselves already mentioned in the Bible, because every time the Bible speaks about the good men, it speaks about them, for example. And if the Bible speaks about the bad men, then it speaks about their enemies.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give a clear picture of the spiritual values the people who wrote them, as well as their daily life and religious rituals.

The group that lived at Qumran talk a lot about their cleansing themselves, their body. And it’s true that on the spot, we found an enormous water system. This is a very dry area. And the water fell only in the winter and when it fell, it fell with an enormous speed and they collected the water in several water basins. The texts speak about it, that the people who lived on the spot had to clean themselves several times a day.

Really, the main things they talk about is learning the Bible, cleaning themselves and working and worshipping God. And the fact that they entered the water is not only a cleansing their body but also purifying their mind, and they appear more clean before their God. And this should be seen parallel to the baptism in the New Testament.

They lived a life of austerity and poorness, and for them, to be poor was a virtue. Like in the Book of Psalms, they said the poor people are the ones who can serve the Lord. So, they had a very intellectual life of working and learning and all this is reflected in the writings that have been found near the Dead Sea.

Next, Ms. Pnina Shor spoke to us about the digitalization of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the collaboration with Internet company Google to publish them online.

It was suggested to us by a professor for the Weizmann Institute to use spectral imaging to monitor the well-being of the scrolls. Now, spectral imaging was first developed for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and one of their senior physicists, whose name is Craig Berman, is our consultant today for this whole project.

Once we decided to do that, we said, “Wow, if we’re going to image these scrolls, why don’t we do an overall project, whereby we’ll image all of the scrolls in the best possible resolution? In color and infrared and everything beyond infrared, which will then give us the best possible infrared images and those spectral images that we need for the monitoring?”

And then we said, “Okay, why don’t we add all the transcriptions, the translations, the bibliography, everything that we know about the scrolls? And since it is all published, and since this is mutual cultural heritage, why don’t we share it with the world?”

Soon, thanks to the meticulous expert endeavors, everyone will be able to view the Dead Sea Scrolls at home from one’s computer. They combine the millions of fragments to do the “ultimate puzzle” themselves!

The idea is that once we complete the imaging, you’ll have everything online. As I always picture it, it's like you can sit back in your couch at home and google any Dead Sea Scroll that you would like to see.

You'll be able to do the ultimate puzzle by taking the different fragments and trying to see if you don't like the reconstruction of the scholars, you can try and do it yourself.

Ms. Pnina Shor shared with us one of her favorite quotes from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There's the famous Psalm, which says in Hebrew, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” In free translation, it says, “Behold, how good it is for brethren to sit together.”

With these uplifting words, we conclude our program on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Our sincere thanks and best wishes, Professor Emanuel Tov, Ms. Pnina Shor and Ms. Elena Libman for introducing the work of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in preserving, deciphering and publishing these illuminating ancient documents.

Thank you, goodhearted viewers, for joining us today on A Journey through Aesthetic Realms. Up next is Our Noble Lineage, right after Noteworthy News. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. May peace, love and wisdom be ever present in your life.

To find out more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, please visit: Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation: www.DeadSeaScrollsFoundation.com Israel Antiquities Authority: www.Antiquities.org.il Prof. Emanuel Tov’s website: www.EmanuelTov.info

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