Dead Sea Scrolls online: a window on Judaism in the time of Jesus (VIDEO)
Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now online. More could be coming in the years ahead. The Dead Sea Scrolls show the diversity of Jewish religious thought around the time of Jesus.
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The online launch precedes a public display of 20 scrolls at Discovery Times Square in New York City, opening Oct. 28 and presented by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is accompanying the exhibit with over 500 other artifacts from ancient Israel. The organization expects to launch a similar online exhibition of its Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts by 2016.Skip to next paragraph
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Upon their excavation last century, the scrolls “startled” scholars for the picture they created of an early Jewish group, widely thought to be the Essenes, whose teaching later had resonances in the teachings of Jesus, says Elaine Pagels, a religious scholar at Princeton University in New Jersey. While they are, on one hand, appreciated as historic artifacts, they are also pinholes for religious scholars to look through to understand the various strains within Judaism and how they were shaping the religion.
“For people who really haven’t looked into the richness and diversity of Jewish groups, [the scrolls] could be exciting to see different perspectives than the ones that have been more commonly been known,” Ms. Pagels says. “There is quite a lot that we can put into context to what happened in the first century and the divisions in the Jewish community that even survive to this day.”
The five scrolls that appear online include the Great Isaiah Scroll, which contains the Book of Isaiah – meaning the book was at least 1,000 years older than what was previous thought.
Viewers can read the Great Isaiah Scroll line by line with pop-up boxes that contain English translations. Magnifying tools allow users to zoom in on the text – a feature made possible through digital photography that provides resolution almost 200 times higher than the resolution of a conventional camera.
The Israel Museum said it plans to upload more scrolls in the coming years to create a complete historic archive for public viewing.
“One cannot think of content and information which is more important than content related to the culture and religious heritage of so many people in the world," said Yossi Matias, the managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel.