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Dead Sea Scrolls sent to Utah for exhibition


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SALT LAKE CITY — From the caves of Qumran in the Judean Desert, came what some scholars and archaeologists believe is the greatest find ever - ancient manuscripts that describe how a group of people lived in this wilderness and what they believed.

Those who have the task of preserving the precious, priceless pieces of ancient manuscripts have sent some of them to Salt Lake City.

"The scrolls have been preserved for 2,000 years. Our duty is to protect them for at least 2,000 years more," said Pnina Shor, Curator & Head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project.

The scrolls include the books of the Old Testament. For people of faith, they connect two of the world's main religions.

"Religious manuscripts, written over 2,000 years ago, the time when Judaism and Christianity were formalizing as we know them today," Shor added.

The scrolls have been preserved for 2,000 years. Our duty is to protect them for at least 2,000 years more.

–Pnina Shor, Curator & Head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project.

Archaeologist Uzi Dahari showed members of KSL the caves where the scrolls were discovered. Although the scrolls do not include manuscripts from the New Testament, one of the visitors to Qumran may have been John the Baptist.

"I do think so. At least according to the New Testament. You can understand it. He lived here in the desert. He used to purify himself and his disciples in the Jordan River and so, why not believe?" Dahari said.

Professor Shalom Paul, Chairman of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, which is responsible for the scrolls publication, said that the scrolls contain the idea of a Messiah.

"In the scrolls it mentions not one but two Messiahs," Paul said. "One from the house of David that would be a royal Messiah and one from the house of Aaron that would be a priestly Messiah."

And the scrolls include another reference found in the New Testament.

"It says, ‘thou shalt be called the son of god, the son of the most high,' that's Luke! That's Luke! Now, in the scroll itself, as always happens when we investigate these materials, just's broken...and you don't know whom he's referring to," Paul said.

David Seely, Ph.D., teaching now at BYU's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies said, "they don't prove Mormonism, they actually don't prove Christianity either but they provide the context, they provide a context for the world of Jesus."

In the early '80s, he was a member of the international team of translators of the scrolls and believes the exhibition in Salt Lake will be very intriguing to Latter-day Saints.

"We understand that there are other scriptural books, for example, that existed in antiquity," Seely said. "We have fragments of the book of Enoch, for example, at Qumran...we have fragments of the book of Melchizedek, right? Those figure we hold dear to our hearts. Truly, they are a voice from the dust. They will speak to us from a long time ago."

What we have, according to Professor Seely, is nothing short of a miracle. Beautifully hand-written on parchment - deeply personal and very spiritual expressions - more than 2,000 years old. What came from the Qumran caves has become a treasure for people of all denominations, all faiths.

"I love the scrolls where people are expressing themselves and their hearts and souls to god in the first person," Seely said.

Whether you are fascinated by the faith connection or love ancient history - the other artifacts are incredible - this exhibition, which will be at the Leonardo through April 27, is well worth seeing.


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Carole Mikita


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