I recently spent an afternoon at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul visiting The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit now on display. It was a deeply impacting time for me. My wife Susan and I visited Israel and toured its length and breadth several years ago. Although we saw the caves of Qumran on the Northwest coast of the Dead Sea we were unable to visit the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem where the scrolls are housed because the museum was closed for renovation. I was disappointed at the time in not seeing them first hand.
Now after visiting the exhibit available here through October 24, 2010, I would strongly recommend everyone taking advantage of this amazing opportunity right in our backyard. You will not regret it. If you have already seen them I would be interested in your reaction and how the exhibit affected you.
1. It verifies the authority and authenticity of the Bible beyond the shadow of a doubt. The Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947, were written between approximately 200 BC to 70 AD. The findings included biblical books, hymns, prayers, biblical commentaries, apocryphal books (books excluded from the biblical canon), and rules for religious community life. A total of 207 of the 930 scrolls written by numerous scribes represent the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament as we know it including portions from every book but Esther.
Amazingly the faithfulness to our current Bible in both language and content lines up almost perfectly. The only discrepancies can be attributed to idiom phrasing, scribal errors or omissions both unintentional and editorial. Just imagine, when you read the Old Testament or the many quotes from it in the New Testament you are reading the same word’s Jesus quoted and Paul penned. The scriptures they referred to are these very same words, words from the mouth of God given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
2. It provides remarkable insight into the Life and Times of Jesus. Bring your imagination. As part of the exhibit there are a number of artifacts on display from that period of time when Jesus walked the earth. You will see stone water jars like Jesus used to turn the water into wine and woven fabrics like He may have worn. You can see coins with rulers images imprinted on them like the ones Jesus told the hypocritical religious leader to render unto Caesar or Peter may have found in the fish’s mouth to pay the temple tax for he and Jesus. The most interesting of all to me, were a number of hand held oil lamps like Jesus referred to in His parable of the ten virgins.
Seeing artifacts like these are great aids in making the Bible literally come alive as you read it. What a rare opportunity to see things that would normally require thousands of miles of travel – don’t miss it! Also don’t miss the video simulation of a tour of Herod’s temple (they refer to it as the “Second Temple”) where Jesus and the apostles spent so much time.
3. It is a strong prophetic witness to a secular world that God is calling all to repent and live for Him. The culmination of the exhibit is the scroll room which contains five actual Dead Sea Scroll fragments shrouded in a reverent darkness to preserve them from harmful light. For me being in the scroll room was a religious experience. Two of the fragments are from the Old Testament – Leviticus 20:1-6 and Genesis 48:5-9; two from the apocrypha (non canonical books) including the book of Enoch and a Psalm of David (not in our bible). And the final fragment is from the Community Rule or Manual of Discipline by which the Dead Sea community conducted its’ religious life. For each fragment there is an explanation and translation posted on the wall behind it.
Three of the texts present a strong prophetic call to align ourselves with the holiness of God (Leviticus), resist the evils of sin and the devil (Psalm) and reckon with eternal accountability for all humankind at a final judgment day (Enoch). As I read each of these texts in turn I was overwhelmed with a sense of the seriousness of God. I found myself praying that the anointing of the Holy Spirit would take these words that were inscribed thousands of years ago, make them alive with conviction today and burn them into the consciences of all who pass through this room.
4. It is an encouragement to believers in Christ to continue to fight the fight of faith by standing on God’s word. The cosmic struggle within our own minds between good and evil, spirit and flesh, life and death is affirmed so amazingly by these ancient scrolls. They beckon us to a life of faith, to a life based on God’s unchanging Word.
The scrolls encourage us to join countless generations of people who have gone before us, spanning thousands of years, who put our hope and confidence in His Word. They should inspire us to study, to memorize, to sing and to confess these life giving words that we might lead a victorious, God glorifying life.
5. The store at the end of the tour. Take a few minutes to look around. It is full of great resources and special Holy Land products that I paid thousands of dollars to go to Israel to buy. Yes you can get some actual Holy Land anointing oil and even water from the Jordan River.
Disturbing Disclaimer: Don’t be thrown off by the BCE/CE (Before the Common Era/Common Era) designations replacing BC/AD (Before Christ/Anno Domini-year of Our Lord. The decision to use Common Era (CE) notation is a recent development criticized by many Christians as just another secularization and political correctness move so as not to offend those who are not Christians. Obviously retaining the BC/AD abbreviations reminds us of the preeminence of Christ and His place in world history. The use of BCE/CE designation at such an exhibit is ironic. It shows the folly of man in wanting to remove Jesus Christ from an exhibit of the very Scriptures that He declared point directly to Him. “These are the Scriptures that testify about Me.” John 5:39
Please post your comments here of your experience at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.