The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

11Q5 Psalms manuscript

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: 11Q5 Psalm Manuscript

Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

In a previous post I wrote about The Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project. This digital project introduces the public to some of the most important scrolls which are part of the many documents found at Qumran.

As a result of that post, I received an email from the Israel Antiquities Authority in which they called my attention to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library which contains thousands of scroll fragments which have been digitized with the help of multi-spectral imaging. This process gives the scrolls and the many fragments a clear view of their content, a view that has not been available to the general public before.

For an introduction to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, watch the video below:

The following is an introduction to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library by Shuka Dorfman, General Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is very proud to present the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, a free online digitized virtual library of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hundreds of manuscripts made up of thousands of fragments – discovered from 1947 and until the early 1960’s in the Judean Desert along the western shore of the Dead Sea – are now available to the public online. The high resolution images are extremely detailed and can be accessed through various search options on the site.

With the generous lead support of the Leon Levy Foundation and additional generous support of the Arcadia Fund, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google joined forces to develop the most advanced imaging and web technologies to bring to the web hundreds of Dead Sea Scrolls images as well as specially developed supporting resources in a user-friendly platform intended for the public, students and scholars alike.

The launch of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library comes some 11 years after the completion of the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, initiated and sponsored by the IAA, and 65 years after the first scrolls were unearthed in the Caves of Qumran. This digital library is another example of the IAA’s vision and mission, to make these ancient texts freely available and accessible to people around the world. The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library represents a new milestone in the annals of the story of one of the greatest manuscript finds of all times.

What follows is an introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls provided by the library:

Introduction

The most well-known texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient religious writings found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. Discoveries from additional sites yielded mostly documents and letters, especially papyri that had been hidden in caves by refugees from wars. While some of these writings survived as nearly intact scrolls, most of the archive consists of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments.

Qumran Caves Scrolls

The Qumran Caves Scrolls contain significant religious literature. They consist of two types: “biblical” manuscripts—books found in today’s Hebrew Bible, and “non-biblical” manuscripts—other religious writings circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. Of this second category, some are considered “sectarian” in nature, since they appear to describe the religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community.

Scroll dates range from the third century bce (mid-Second Temple period) to the first century of the Common Era, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce. While Hebrew is the most frequently used language in the Scrolls, about 15% were written in Aramaic and several in Greek. The Scrolls’ materials are made up mainly of parchment, although some are papyrus, and the text of one Scroll is engraved on copper.

Biblical Manuscripts

About 230 manuscripts are referred to as “biblical Scrolls”. These are copies of works that are now part of the Hebrew Bible. They already held a special status in the Second Temple period, and were considered to be vessels of divine communication. Evidence suggests that the Scrolls’ contemporary communities did not have a unified conception of an authoritative collection of scriptural works. The idea of a closed biblical “canon” only emerged later in the history of these sacred writings.

I have spent some time exploring the library and reading some of the information about the collection and looking closely at some of the manuscripts. It is an amazing collection.

Take some time, visit the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library and read more about the collection and look at some of the scroll fragments discovered at Qumran. Click here to explore the archive.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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