Israel to Display the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet
JERUSALEM €” In a crowded laboratory painted in gray and cooled like a cave, half a dozen specialists embarked this week on a historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file €” among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth €” available to all on the Internet.
Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact.
The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.
The scrolls’ contemporary history has been something of a tortured one because they are among the most important sources of information on Jewish and early Christian life. After their initial discovery they were tightly held by a small circle of scholars. In the last 20 years access has improved significantly, and in 2001 they were published in their entirety. But debate over them seems only to grow.
Scholars continually ask the Israel Antiquities Authority, the custodian of the scrolls, for access to them, and museums around the world seek to display them. Next month, the Jewish Museum of New York will begin an exhibition of six of the scrolls.
[…more at The New York Times…]
Not really related to the above story, but interesting nevertheless:
Quandary for Hebrew: How Would Isaiah Text?
JERUSALEM €” Some Israelis have described being moved almost to tears by a rare viewing of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved and most complete Dead Sea biblical scroll, on special exhibit this summer at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum for the first time in 40 years.
The familiar, unfulfilled prophecy of the 2,100-year-old scroll €” “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” €” undoubtedly arouses emotion here. But there is also a thrill born of ordinary people being able to read, and at least partly understand, an ancient Hebrew text.
Two centuries after it was written, Jewish history became one of dispersal and exile, and Hebrew ceased to be widely spoken for the next 1,700 years.
Its revival is often hailed as one of the greatest feats of the Zionist enterprise; today Hebrew is the first language of millions of Israelis, a loquacious and literary nation that is said to publish an average of 5,500 books a year.
But in a country where self-doubt and insecurity run deep, even a linguistic triumph can be a cause for concern. After such a meteoric comeback, some worry that the common language may already be in decline, popularized to the point where many Israelis can no longer cope with the rich complexities of traditional Hebrew prose.
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