Dead Sea Scrolls coming to St. Paul

Fragment of Dead Sea Scrolls
This scroll fragment from the book of Genesis will appear in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World, which opens on March 12, 2010 at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The Science Museum of Minnesota will open a new exhibit in March featuring the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of 2,000-year-old documents that contain original texts from the Hebrew Bible.

The scrolls were first discovered by a Bedouin shepherd boy in 1947. Since then, archaeologists have uncovered more than 600 scrolls and thousands of artifacts in caves along the Dead Sea and among the ruins of Qumran, an old Roman fortress.

Scholars say the scrolls include some of the oldest written records of the Hebrew Bible, or Christian Old Testament.

"If you were studying the Bible in the middle of the last century and you were looking at the oldest records, you'd be looking at documents that dated back to the ninth century," said Mike Day, the senior vice president of museum enterprises at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Museum officials said the exhibit offer a glimpse into ancient Israel's culture and may provide historical insight on the traditions and beliefs of many religions.

"The scrolls certainly have a lot of meaning to multiple faiths and this exhibit certainly addresses faith, culture and science," Day said. "It is science that helps us to understand what the scrolls are, but it is certainly faith and culture that give them meaning."

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Cave in Qumram
Excavations of the caves above the ancient settlement of Qumran yielded thousands of Dead Sea Scroll fragments. This particular cave, left, Cave 4, held approximately 500 manuscripts that were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1952.
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

In conjunction with the Science Museum's exhibit, Concordia University in St. Paul will hold several public lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls on Thursdays in February and March. The next lecture will be held Thursday on February, 25 at 7:30 p.m at the Graebner Memorial Chapel on campus.

Dr. Thomas Trapp, a professor of religion and theology at Concordia University, said that the scrolls will have different meanings to different people.

"Some people will look for connections to how the Christian faith unfolded, some won't," Trapp said. "There are so many widely divergent opinions, so it all depends on where you're coming from."

Trapp also said the scrolls give scholars a chance to learn more about the languages and the time period in which the scrolls were written.

"These documents can tell us how people back then processed their lives," Trapp said. "It can show us the restoration of a world."