Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls in Paradise

Paleo LeviticusIn March 2005 I wrote about the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit that has been traveling over the world, and this morning I went to the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park for the 10:00 admission time and actually experienced it! I'll begin by thanking local philanthropists Joan and Irwin Jacobs, the exhibition's primary sponsors, though there's an impressive list of other individuals, families, foundations and institutions (including our local universities Point Loma Nazarene, UCSD, USD and SDSU) to thank, as well. Amazingly and hopefully(!) the Dead Sea Scrolls are on loan from both the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the Department of Antiquities of the Kingdom of Jordan. Now that I'm trying to blog after really seeing the DSS, it looks as if I don't have much to say beyond a short list of things I got to see and ponder some.

In Virtual Qumran at a couple places we could view explanatory virtual 3-dimensional displays of Qumran structures, antiquities and artifacts; in the theater I also watched the very similar short movie with live narration; Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation—"dedicated to supporting efforts that build a diverse and vibrant Jewish community in the United States"—sponsored Virtual Qumran. In style and appearance they looked and felt something like a stroll through Crate & Barrel.

War Scroll 11Q14After getting our left hands rubber-stamped DSS, we started out on viewing some magnificent, mostly recent, mostly of nature, mostly color photographs with accompanying text descriptions on the Museum's second floor, in bright light, very contrasted with the dimly lit, classically hushed environment surrounding the scroll fragments themselves on the lower floor (undercroft, maybe). They need to be maintained at 68°-70° and it was chilly, even though I thought I'd dressed appropriately. The description on one of the describers pointed out there is no freshwater at Qumran, but they captured rainfall and managed it wisely for ritual and survival. Reading that, I thought how very often ritual, liturgy and celebrations in general often are at least as important to survival and thriving as food, water and sleep. Fascinating news to me is that their main crop, the date palm, is so abundant at the Qumran site because it is the only agricultural commodity that can survive such heavily salted water.

I got to thinking about the word and words talent and talents in the only copper scroll, 3Q15. In biblical language and culture talent usually refers to a specific coin of the realm, something spendable and exchangeable. Some months ago I heard a life-long Christian testifying to his faith as he said he'd "always had that talent of believing, trusting, of faith." In many ways faith and trust in the Creator, Savior, Redeemer God is a type of coinage or currency.

Dead Sea Scrolls BookThe Qumran scrolls (no codices that I'm aware of) range in antiquity from 250 BCE to 68 CE; there are 35 fragments of Psalms and 32 of Deuteronomy, where I read a needed reminder of a verse one of my confirmation students pointed out to me ages ago: Deuteronomy 3:22 Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you! In Papyrus Bar Kokhba 44, from 134 CE (during the rebellion against Rome led by Simeon Bar Kosiba, a.k.a. "Bar Kochba") the Alma Scroll mentions Alma, son of Judah—the earliest known reference outside of the Book of Mormon!

Art of the St John's Bible
On the walls of the actual scrolls room they'd hung several beautiful illuminations/illustrations from the Saint John's Bible project of St. John's University, in Collegeville, Minnesota, and in the bookstore I was ecstatic (not quite literally so, though) to find a small, affordable book, The Art of the Saint John's Bible; I also bought a 96-page book of illustrations and explanations I expect actually to read: The Dead Sea Scrolls "Experience the DSS as never before—unsealed & revealed!" © 2007 by the Biblical Archaeology Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. Also in the bookstore I picked up a CD containing a multimedia presentation, La Cuenca del Rio Tijuana/The Tijuana River Watershed. It was "free to teachers"—well, I teach theology and bible and relative to the subject I'm both an Ecological Theologian and an ecological theologian, so I took one.

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