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  March 21, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 6Oakland, CA

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articles list
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Pope’s role in Holy Week uncertain
as doctors advise limitations of speech

Berkeley professor wins $1.5 million for science-theology dialogue

Church official urges Congress to help
eradicate ‘scourge’ of human trafficking

New Catholic chronicles his labored journey to faith

San Pablo man’s journey to Church began in Rome

Bishop Cummins honored

Priest offers behind-the-scenes guide
to Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’

EWTN to air Holy Week liturgies

Meditation brings peace to women in prison

Prayer has reached
to harshest prisons

Martyred nun remembered as ‘mother’ of the Amazon

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit shows oldest biblical fragments

Parochial administrator named for Walnut Creek parish

Prominent Catholics join in support of Schiavo

Presentation Sisters to mark 150 years
with April 10 celebration in Berkeley

Fremont priest returns from delivering tsunami aid

Religious educator says faith is best served family style

 

COMMENTARY
Tips for turning travel into pilgrimage

OBITUARY
Sister Mary Ann Whittman, SHF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

placeholder Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit
shows oldest biblical fragments

MOBILE, Ala.—Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient manuscripts whose discovery in 1947 is viewed by many as the archaeological find of the 20th century, have gone on display at a small science museum, attracting sizable daily crowds eager to see the oldest biblical fragments ever unearthed.

Each day, hundreds of visitors to the Gulf Coast Exploreum in Mobile linger at one clear plastic case in particular.

It is the world’s oldest copy of the Ten Commandments, its tiny black text exquisitely inked onto the crinkled surface of a brown animal skin.
Nearby is a 3-foot-wide document whose six columns of precise text contain all or parts of Psalm 135 and three other psalms.

And just a few feet away are other scroll fragments: portions of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Some of the fragments are barely larger than the palm of a hand: dark brown, inscribed with Hebrew text in words little bigger than a grain of rice.

On larger manuscripts, such as the Psalm Scroll, a reader can easily pick out the distinctive four-letter Tetragrammaton—YHWH—the Hebrew symbol for Yahweh, or God.

Organizers of the exhibit say it is the largest collection of biblical Dead Sea Scroll fragments ever assembled in the United States. They were written about the time Jesus Christ lived, and only about 100 miles from the Galilean landscape where he preached.

The display of the scrolls and related items ends April 24.

On display with them are pottery, coins and related artifacts that tell the story of the Essenes, a small community of ascetic Jews who lived apart on the scorched and arid northwest shore of the Dead Sea and who are widely believed to have created the scrolls.

The exhibit also displays a collection of rare Bibles, a page from a 15th century Gutenberg Bible and Roman glass.

The scrolls came to light in 1947, when a young Bedouin shepherd threw a stone into a dark cave above the Dead Sea and heard the distinctive clink of pottery breaking. He recovered the first of the scrolls.

Systematic exploration yielded more than 900 documents in 11 caves. Some had been stored in jars; others lay intact or in fragments on dusty cave floors, preserved by the arid climate.

The find dazzled scholars. The scrolls contained portions of all the books of the Bible except Esther. But mostly they consisted of nonbiblical apocalyptic literature and secular documents. Some explained the rules for living in the community that produced them.

Although a few scholars dispute that the Essenes created the scrolls, the consensus attributing the manuscripts to the wilderness sect is a broad one.
From about 130 B.C. to A.D. 68, the Essenes lived lives of severe discipline and ritual purity in a community called Qumran in the Judean wilderness.
They studied Scripture and prepared for a world-shaking clash between the “sons of darkness” and the “sons of light.”

It is not a long leap to imagine the New Testament wilderness prophet John the Baptist an Essene, said James Bowley, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. But the evidence is mixed. “Certainly possible and not unlikely, ... (but) not close to a certainty,” he said.

“At the very least, what is most probable and totally reasonable is that John, being at the same time and in the same region, knew of the community and of at least some of their ideas.”

This Dead Sea Scrolls fragment contains Colossians 3:21-4:7 on the front side and 4:7-15 on the back. It is written on papyrus in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language.

RNS PHOTO/CARUCHA L. MEUSE

Visitors to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit can see some of the hundreds of text fragments, including the world’s oldest copy of the Ten Commandments.

RNS PHOTO/BILL STARLING


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