Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit in Denver Museum

Google is coordinating a project to have all of the Dead Sea Scroll writings viewable online for study to include a search feature and a translation feature. 

VIDEO: The Dead Sea Scrolls are now online; a project of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, powered by Google technology. Explore them at . .

“The art of reading requires that you develop a beautiful tolerance for incomprehension. The greatest books are the books that you come to understand more deeply with time, with age, and with rereading.” –Michael Silverblatt, Radio Host

When I first learned as a child about the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I was fascinated and so curious to know more. I did a college paper on them, researching what was available about them at the time.

Now, decades later, I got to view them as they a nearing the end of a six city tour on loan in the U.S. from the Israel Antiquities Authority (AUG 2018). This overseer is taking the utmost care of them, monitoring Denver’s museum conditions daily, replacing scrolls every three months after which they are retired for five years for preservation purposes. The fragments are simply amazing to look at with the perspective of our twisted values in 2018. They took such care to make their papyrus paper, to write neatly, and to store them in the beautiful minimalist hand-crafted ceramic jugs in dry caves for safe keeping. There are over 900 of them including one on copper, the map of Jerusalem’s treasures. Ink used was made with charcoal, animal fat, and dead sea water.

Included with the display was this photo below. It is David with lyre. I noted it as having a unique “Greek key” design. There were a few lovely mosaic floors set up in the display. For those who love handmade – everything in the display was handmade including the coins and glassware and pottery. There was an incredible amount of work involved in these displays!

Jerusalem ancient texts and civilization

Website credit:

Picasso Dove postcard

As an artist with a fondness for doves, especially Picasso’s, I also appreciated a short video (in the exhibit) explaining that the dove has represented some aspect of the divine through many ages.

This Bible verse was featured in one area: “The human soul is the Lamp of the Lord…” — Proverbs 20:27. Another referred to His “double love” commandment, to love God and thy neighbor.

I thought this summed up the overall situation so well…

“From a time when everything sacred was written and everything written was sacred.”

Just think of how hard it is to sift through the books and writings these days which compete for our attention vs. back then. 

One more area of interest from the Dead Sea Scrolls is the subject of a “NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH”. It is amazing that the writings from the Dead Sea Scrolls include this subject which overlaps with Ezekiel and Revelations and other sources and is popular in “new age” writings:

Discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls near Qumran, Israel, were fragments of a scroll which describes New Jerusalem in minute detail. The New Jerusalem Scroll (as it is called) appears to contain apocalyptic vision, although, being fragmented, it is hard to categorize. Written in Aramaic, the text describes a vast city, rectangular in shape, with twelve gates and encircled by a long wall. Similar descriptions appear in Ezekiel 40-48 and Revelation 21-22 and comparison to the Temple Scroll (also found near Qumran) shows many similarities despite no direct literary links between the two. (source: Wikipedia)

And, more about it from Wikipedia:

…the Dead Sea scrolls contain a New Jerusalem tradition formed out of strife. As a tiny Jewish sect living in the caves of Qumran, the Essenes opposed Temple leadership and the High Priesthood in Jerusalem. Their condemnation of the Temple focused on criticizing High Priests. They were also frustrated that Judean Kings were also given the role of High Priest. The Essenes were not against the institution of the Temple and its cult per se. The Essenes at Qumran predicted the reunified twelve tribes to rise together against Roman occupation and incompetent Temple leadership and re-establish true Temple worship.

The surviving New Jerusalem texts in Qumran literature focus specifically on the twelve city gates, and on the dimensions of the entire new city. In 4Q554, the gates of Simeon, Joseph, and Reuben are mentioned in this partial fragment. For the author of this fragment, the New Jerusalem’s twelve gates signify the reunification of the twelve tribes of Israel. In 5Q15, the author accompanies an angel who measures the blocks, houses, gates, avenues, streets, dining halls, and stairs of the New Jerusalem. There are two important points to consider regarding the Qumran Essenes. First, we do not have enough scroll fragments to completely analyze their New Jerusalem ideologies. Second, based on the evidence available, the Essenes rebelled against Temple leadership, not the Temple itself. Their vision of the New Jerusalem looked for the reunification of the twelve tribes around an eschatological Temple.

Not long after I saw this exhibit, I met a woman from Israel who now lives in Toronto. When I told her how much I enjoyed this exhibit, she said that “we” value the Dead Sea Scrolls so much, that is why we’ve taken such care with the museum and exhibits. When I told her I’d love to visit Jerusalem, she said I should, and that “there is so much energy there” which she really emphasized. She said the energies are both good and bad, yet, remarkable in their intensity.


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