Dead Sea Scrolls are now available for online viewing

The text on the ancient scrolls, which are kept in a vault in Jerusalem, is still being studied by scholars.

GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
Dr. Adolfo Roitman is the curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, now available online for viewing.

Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls were made available online today as part of a partnership between Google and the Israel Museum, the widest access to the scrolls that has ever been given to the public.

The scrolls, which contain the Book of Isaiah that is printed on the Great Isaiah Scroll and the supposed details of God’s instructions to Moses, among other texts, can now be viewed using a zoom feature, searched for a specific word or passage, and translated into English. Photographer Ardon Bar-Hama took digital pictures of the scrolls for the project.

“They are of paramount importance among the touchstones of monotheistic world culture, and they represent unique highlights of our Museum's encyclopedic holdings,” James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, told the Daily Telegraph.

Seven of the scrolls were first discovered in 1947 by members of the Ta’amra tribe in Khirbet Qumran near the Dead Sea. Various fragments of more than 950 other scrolls were discovered over the next several years by Bedouins in the area as well as by an archeological expedition co-sponsored by the École Biblique et Archéologique Française and the Rockefeller Museum. Today, the scrolls are stored in a special vault in a building in Jerusalem, and accessing the documents requires three keys, a code and a magnetic card, according to a USA Today article. The scrolls are now owned by various museums and private collectors.

The caretakers of the scrolls were once criticized for giving only a small number of scholars access to the materials. Work on the scrolls is continuing, with researchers using powerful cameras to read bits of text on the scrolls that weren’t legible beforehand. The results from a study of the fragment called the Thanksgiving Scroll, which contains a part of a verse referencing he who “will be called the son of God,” are due to be released online at the end of the year.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.

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