Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 20. It is re-posted now to supplement the Living Word exhibition of Biblical manuscripts and artifacts taking place at the Regent University Library from March 20th to March 23rd.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of around 850 scrolls and fragments, dating between c. 250 BC and c. 70 AD, discovered in caves at Qumran, near the Dead Sea.1 Most scholars believe that the documents were hidden in caves by members of a Jewish sect (probably Essene) before the destruction of their community by the Romans in 68 AD.2 Roughly a third of the texts are from the Hebrew Bible, with the remainder made up of apocryphal or pseudepigraphic texts and sectarian writings. The finding of these priceless artifacts between 1947 and 1956 was the most important discovery in the history of Biblical archaeology. The most complete of the documents, the Great Isaiah Scroll, provided Biblical scholars with a complete text of the Book of Isaiah 1,100 years older than what had been the earliest known copy.
In 2011, in a partnership with Google Israel, the Israel Museum went online with digitizations of five of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in 2012, the Israel Antiquities Authority followed with hundreds of the fragments found at Qumran. Both of these archives are beautifully organized and make use of the most advanced imaging technology. Like the digitization of the Codex Sinaiticus, which went live in 2009, the importance of these projects for scholars and lovers of the Bible around the world can hardly be overstated. A good place to begin exploring these archives is the video tour of the Great Isaiah Scroll by Dr. Adolfo D. Roitman at the Israel Museum:
1Tov, Emanuel. “Dead Sea Scrolls.” In The Oxford Companion to the Bible. : Oxford University Press, 1993. http://0-www.oxfordreference.com.library.regent.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780195046458.001.0001/acref-9780195046458-e-0179.
2“Dead Sea Scrolls.” In The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, edited by Berlin, Adele, and Maxine Grossman. : Oxford University Press, 2011. http://0-www.oxfordreference.com.library.regent.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780199730049.001.0001/acref-9780199730049-e-0803.
Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:View_of_the_Dead_Sea_from_a_Cave_at_Qumran.jpg
A recent article in Inside Higher Ed urges faculty, staff, and students of colleges and universities to be mindful of the contribution their libraries make to their institutions. Maria Shine Stewart, an adjunct professor of writing who spends a lot of time in libraries, enumerates three virtues that make library faculty and staff an important resource to their communities:
- Most academic librarians and staffers are very patient.
- Most library personnel have vast intellectual curiosity.
- Library personnel have a superb sense of organization.
According to the author, “The energy of students, faculty, and staff members moving from the sheer beauty of a question to a strategy or to a resource – or to a series of strategies and resources – and then on the path to a firm (or tentative) answer is for me the heart of what a college represents.”
Prof. Stewart concludes her article urging readers to spend more time in their campus libraries, noting that, “Academic libraries may be some of the kindest places on campus.”
Written by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian
Second only to churches, libraries have perhaps inspired architects and builders to their greatest creative powers. Librarian of Congress James Billington has written that a book “should inspire a certain presumption of reverence,” and throughout history, great universities and cities have spared no effort to build libraries that would instill feelings of respect and reverence in their users.
WebUrbanist recently published interior photos of thirteen astonishingly beautiful historic libraries, dating from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Just as great churches are an earthly reflection of the glory of Heaven; these libraries are testimonies to the nobility of the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.
To view the gallery, click here. If your architectural tastes run to concrete and glass rather than cut stone and polished wood, never fear: WebUrbanist also has another gallery with 14 Marvelous Modern Libraries.
The Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest known surviving manuscript of the Bible. Copied by four scribes sometime between 325 and 360, the entire Bible is in Greek, the text of the Old Testament being the Septuagint. The manuscript takes its name from the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert, where it was discovered in 1844 by a German archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf who brought a portion of the manuscript to Leipzig University. He returned in 1853 for more. On his final trip to the monastery in 1859, Tischendorf took 694 pages of the Bible, which he brought to St. Petersburg, Russia. The precise terms under which Tischendorf executed these transfers are disputed. In 1933, the Soviet government, desperate for cash, sold the codex to Britain for £100,000. In 1975, an additional 12 pages and 40 fragments were found at St. Catherine’s.
The Codex Sinaiticus is now split between four owners:
- The British Library in London (347 pages).
- Leipzig University Library (43 pages).
- The Monastery of St. Catherine (12 pages and 14 fragments).
- The Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (fragments of 3 pages).
In 2005, the three libraries and St. Catherine’s agreed to work together to reunite the oldest surviving Bible online. After four years of planning and work, the Bible premiered online this month at http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ . The website is designed to appeal both to scholars and general readers. The site has proven far more popular than the creators anticipated and as a result is still running a little slow. The website features easy navigation and reunites, digitally, for the first time in 165 years one of the most important documents from Christian history.
If you think your books are overdue, take a look at these links about a book recently returned to Leyburn Library at Washington and Lee University 145 years after it was stolen during the Civil War:
The Leyburn Library kindly waived the $52,000 fine.
Remember, it’s never too late to return library books!