« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Dead Sea Scrolls debate still very much alive

April 13, 2009 |  2:24 pm

The Dead Sea Scrolls are back in the news again. This time, the debate surrounds an exhibition of the religious artifacts that is scheduled to open in June at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Scrolls It seems that high-ranking Palestinian officials are upset about the show, claiming that it violates international law because the scrolls were illegally obtained by Israel when the state annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.

Letters sent by Palestinian officials to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and museum officials are demanding that the exhibition be canceled, according to a report in the Toronto Star. A museum official has stated that the show probably falls within the parameters of the law.

The exhibition is organized with the cooperation of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

In 2007, the San Diego Natural History Museum hosted a selection of the famous scrolls in a heavily attended six-month show. Interestingly, Palestinian officials did not protest that exhibition, according to a spokeswoman for the San Diego museum. Nor have they voiced protest about the many museum shows around the world where the scrolls have already been on display.

Why Palestinian officials have waited until the Toronto exhibition to speak up remains a mystery, although the report in the Star surmised that this may "be a test case for the Palestinians."

The ROM has hired the same curator who organized the San Diego exhibition, Risa Levitt Kohn, who is a biblical scholar at San Diego State University.

Israeli officials are famously strict over the movement of the scrolls, allowing them leave the country for only three months at a time. For the San Diego exhibition, two series of 12 scrolls were rotated for the show's six-month run.

-- David Ng

Photo: A fragment from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Credit: Tsila Sagiv & Clara Ami / San Diego Natural History Museum

Comments () | Archives (16)

dont waste your time on the dead sea scrolls.i recently saw them in a darkened museum in israel and what the picture shows in the los angeles times today may just be superior!

"Why Palestinian officials have waited until the Toronto exhibition to speak up remains a mystery..."

Because Canada is famously agreeable to such claims?

William Kraal wrote: "dont waste your time on the dead sea scrolls.i recently saw them in a darkened museum in israel and what the picture shows in the los angeles times today may just be superior!"

That's like saying don't go to Washington DC because a video of the White House will show you more than a tour will, and don't go to the National Archives because you can get better pictures of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in books or on the internet. And, it's like saying Don't go to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because there are other ways to get the experience.

Sorry, but if you have an interest in seeing the dead sea scrolls, seeing the real thing beats seeing anything else. Kinda like saying I'd rather read about Thomas Edison than shake his hand.

When the dead sea scrolls came to Idaho Falls...they were being used by the local christian churches to support christianity...
In truth the scrolls give support to the idea that Jesus was no big deal 200 years after he died and 50 miles from Jerusalem....the scrolls didn't mention Jesus...christians...or the cross once.....think about it

They kept track of how many beans were in inventory...but no mention of Jesus....

Until then I believed Jesus was an historical figure... but the scrolls give credence to the idea that he may have never existed....

If a young man saves 10% of his income over his lifetime...when he grows old..he will be very wealthy...
If a young man gives 10% of his income to his church over his lifetime...when he grows old...his church will be very wealthy...

Wow, it is obvious that certain commenters have an agenda against Christianity. It would be wise to do some research into what the Dead Sea scrolls are all about before using them to support the assertion that Jesus never existed. The scrolls have nothing to do with that; what they show is the incredible accuracy of the manuscripts of Scripture over time.

Gordon, keep your 10% each month and never give anything to anybody and at the end of your lifetime you will be known as a stingy greedy old man who bitterly kept evertything he ever owned. Eternity is forever, this life is life is short in retrospect. If you want to bet on that, go ahead and keep your money.
As for the Dead Sea Scrolls, all they show is the acuracy of early manuscripts like wiebe says. It helps to know what you are talking about before you spout words.

This forum is full of a bunch of idiots! Jesus never existed? Even if you don't believe in Jesus, only a moron would buy a conspiracy theory so stupid and juvenile.

I agree with Steve Jordan

If the scrolls show accuracy... then do we agree they accurately reflect the beliefs and knowledge of the time? Why then, no mention of Jesus or Christianity? Is it because *at that time* both were relatively unheard of?

Either they are accurate...which means Jesus was no big deal then...or they aren't...which means the others are just as potentially inaccurate. Either way...these are ORIGINAL, unlike the others which have been changed countless times.

People will use them to support whatever they already believe...nothing new.

Hope they allow the exhibit. I did attend the San Diego Natural History Museum presentation. I found the exhibit information on many levels. Israel, the finding the scrolls and preservation of them, the scholarly efforts to translate and then the history of the Quman society culture. Being religious myself, of course, the being of what they were drew me upfront...but the well-rounded nature of the exhibit was very enlightening as well. I do want to inform those, like myself, who are religious that this is a secular presentation of the scrolls and their significance. Factual based. I see no reason why anyone who find offense with this exhibit. Obviously the presenters tried to make if for information to everyone; though it does hold a special significance a believer. It made me want to learn more... I'm sure there was much debate on how this should be approached by the exhibitors. Sort of a rock and a hard place. I hope you attend and develop your own personal opinion. Some will be disappointed that there wasn't a "wow" factor, others may appreciated new insightful facts, others may find the political correctness a disappointment, others may find it a spark to their curiosity... Just remember it is an exhibit, in a museum, catering to the people of all backgrounds and you can walk away with what you wish for.

evidence shows that they actually believed in three messiahs—one a prophet, another a priest and the third a king or prince.

In the document mentioned earlier called the “Manual of Discipline” or the "Rule of the Community," it is laid down that the faithful should continue to live under the rule "until the coming of a prophet and the anointed ones [messiahs] of Aaron and Israel" (column 9, line 11). These three figures would appear to usher in the age for which the community was making preparation.

In another document found in Cave Four and referred to as the “Testimonia,” a number of Old Testament passages are brought together which formed the basis for their messianic expectations. The first is the citation from Deuteronomy 18:18-19 where God says to Moses: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee." Next comes a quotation from Numbers 24:15-17, where Balaam foresees the rise of a princely conqueror: "a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab," etc. The third passage is the blessing pronounced by Moses upon the tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe) in Deuteronomy 33:8-11. The way in which these three quotations are brought together suggests that the writer looked forward to the advent of a great prophet, a great prince and a great priest.

There were three individuals in the Old Testament writings that were referred to as "my anointed ones"—the prophet, the priest and the king (refer to Ex. 29:29; 1 Sam. 16:13, 24:6; 1 Kg. 19:16; Ps. 105:15). Each of these was consecrated to his work by an anointing with oil. The Hebrew word for "anointed" is meshiach, from which we get the word Messiah.

The marvelous truth of the New Testament doctrine of the Messiah is that each of these three offices found fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth! The people were amazed at His feeding of the multitude and said, "This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world" (Jn. 6:14; also Jn. 7:40; Acts 3:22, 7:37). Jesus also was a priest, not from the order of Levi but from the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7), who offered Himself as a sacrifice and appears for us in the presence of His Father (Heb. 9:24-26; 10:11-12). Also, Jesus was announced as the One who will receive "the throne of his father, David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Lk. 1:32-33). He will be acclaimed "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:16).

Thus, we have found an interesting point of contact between Qumran and Christianity—a point of contact which is also a point of cleavage. The Qumran community and the early Christians agreed that in the days of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies there would arise a great prophet, a great priest and a great king. But these three figures remained distinct in Qumran expectation, whereas the New Testament saw them unified in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

One more manuscript that has come to light in recent years provides a fascinating background to the New Testament messianic hope. It has been reconstructed from twelve small fragments, furnishing less than two columns of writing; but this much can be ascertained from its brief contents. It is a prediction of the birth of a Wonderful Child, possibly drawing on Isaiah 9:6-7: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given... and his name shall be called Wonderful." This child will bear special marks on His body and will be distinguished by wisdom and intelligence. He will be able to probe the secrets of all living creatures, and He will inaugurate the new age for which the faithful fervently awaited.

Is it not striking that soon after this manuscript was composed, a child wa sborn who fulfilled the hopes of Israel and inaugurated a new age? Although the men of Qumran were mistaken in the details of their messiah, they did expect one whose general characteristics were strikingly illustrated by Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Messiah. It is not known if some early Christian brought the message of Jesus to this wilderness community. We are left only to speculate on how they would have responded to the Wonderful Child born in Bethlehem who was the Prophet, Priest and King of Israel.

Christianity was not talked about because it was a competing system of belief. And most of the scrolls were written before Yeshua began teaching. And were about interpretations of ancient and more recent Hebrew writings after the end of accepted teachings. They were not a history book or newspaper.

Christiantiy had huge and growing centers of believers from Marseille to Antioch to Egypt. Listen to the folks above, and crack open a history book, preferrably at a good library that hass the Cambridge histories with pages and apges of footnotes listing sources of the time.

Gordon Hill is messed up as teh scrolls were written from 180 years before Yeshuas teachings and death, til about 40 years afterward. when teh Romans got sick of Jewish rebellions and kicked them out of Judea, and burning the second Temple. SG is just desperate to prove is own sily adn ignorant beliefs.
Learn who we are before you go about commenting on humanity through art or other mindless rantings.

I see some of the comments are trying to discredit the dead sea scrolls because they don’t mention Jesus or Christians? Well du! The prophets writing the old testament were describing the coming messiah (he had not arrived yet). Christianity did not start till after & during Jesus time on earth (new testament). You who refuse to believe historical facts will continue to get check mated, give up & come join us followers of Christ, it’s a beautiful way to live.

Really doesn't matter if "JESUS" is mentioned in the SCOLLS. Just because "YOU" do not believe does not mean Jesus didn't or yet exist. In the end every Knee--INCLUDING "YOU" shall bow and every TONGUE shall CONFESS that HE is Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings. We shall see him in all of His AWESOME GLORY. AND STILL HE REINS. YEAH !!!!

I attended the exhibition in San Diego in 2007 and came away very enriched. I am ambivalent about religion, but the scrolls were fascinating and the exhibition was very well curated.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.