Posts tagged "dead sea scrolls"

The Ten Commandments Come To Times Square!


Ever thought you’d have the chance to see the world’s oldest and best preserved parchment of the Ten Commandments, on display right in the center of the Crossroads of the World? Here at Discovery Times Square, we’re incredibly excited to be able to bring the millennia-old Ten Commandments Scroll to New York City for the first time ever, and starting tomorrow you can see it our exhibit, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times.  

The Ten Commandments Scroll features the passage in Deuteronomy 5, and was written in Hebrew on a piece of parchment that measures only 18 inches by 3 inches. Scholars estimate that the scroll was written sometime between 50 CE and 1 CE, which makes it the oldest known parchment (animal skin) document featuring the Ten Commandments. There is only one document featuring the Ten Commandments that’s older: the Nash Papyrus, which was written on a plant-based paper in Egypt some 50 to 100 years before the scroll was composed. The next-oldest text of the Ten Commandments is from about 1000 CE- more than a thousand years later.

And the oldest copy of the Ten Commandments? That would be on the stone tablets that, according to the Bible, are stored in the Ark of the Covenant!

Because the scroll is so ancient and delicate (and important!), we can only display it for two weeks (until January 2), when it will be returned to its light-free, climate controlled storage site in Israel. You can buy your tickets here, and if you’re unable to make it to the exhibit before then Ten Commandments Scroll returns in January, you’ll still be able to marvel at the additional 10 Dead Sea Scrolls we’ll have on display at Discovery Times Square until April 15!

Scroll Expert Shares His Personal Experiences

This week, we thought we’d share with you some questions we asked Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, a curatorial advisor to the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Discovery Times Square. Dr. Schiffman, a noted Dead Sea Scroll scholar, was a longtime professor of Hebraic and Judaic studies at New York University and is now vice provost of Yeshiva University. Here, Dr. Schiffman talks about how he first got interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the most surprising thing he’s learned about them. And stay tuned for next week, when Dr. Schiffman shares his favorite scroll with us, as well as the scroll creator he’d most like to travel back in time and talk to!

When did you first become interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

I began working on the Dead Sea Scrolls when I wrote my senior honors paper at Brandeis University in 1970. Then, when I was looking for a topic for my doctoral dissertation that would combine my fields of interest in Bible and rabbinic literature, I realized that the Dead Sea Scrolls were a perfect area of research for me. Of course, at that time only about one-quarter of the material was available, but there was still a lot of work to do.

Over your decades of study, what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the Dead Sea Scrolls?

For me the most surprising thing was to realize that there was an entire library of texts that somehow didn’t enter the mainstream of Jewish literature and thought throughout the ages but that had been part of Jewish culture in Second Temple times, and which did in fact have important influences on Judaism and Christianity. It was amazing to learn how much could be learned from these texts about the history of Judaism and background of Christianity.  

What do you think is the most important question that today’s Dead Sea Scrolls scholars need to answer?

I think we face the challenge of synthesizing what we are learning from the Dead Sea Scrolls with the related fields of study of Hebrew Bible, New Testament and the history of Judaism. The problem that we really face is that we have a small cadre of scrolls experts who have finally brought the material to the light of day and have achieved an amazing amount in creating the necessary research tools for wide dissemination of this new knowledge. We just have to make sure that this knowledge gets to the audience that needs it and can contribute most to its wider understanding. That’s why it’s so gratifying to see so many people coming to the exhibit and learning about the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

More From Our Scroll Expert, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman

Last week, we asked Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and a consultant for the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Discovery Times Square, to share this personal thoughts about the scrolls. Today, Dr. Schiffman shares his favorite scroll with us, and tells us what he would do if he could go back in time to speak to the author of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Do you have a favorite scroll? If so, what is it and why?

My favorite scroll is the Temple Scroll. I’ve published two books on the scroll and I am planning a new addition and commentary on the scroll that I’ve really been working on for more than 35 years. It’s a rewrite of the Torah to which the author adds his own interpretation and laws and seems to represent a very valuable window onto the Sadduceeanpriestly trend of biblical interpretation and Jewish law. There’s so much to do in restoring, translating, and analyzing this text that it has absorbed me for years.

If you could go back in time and talk to the composer of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls—to  find out why he wrote what he did—what scroll would it be and why?

I would love to speak to the authors of the document we call MMT, which is a foundation document of the Qumran sect, identified by most scholars with the Essenes. I’d love to ask the author of the MMT if I’m correct the issues of Jewish law pertaining to the Temple, and if [disputes over issues of] sacrifices and purity are one the fundamental causes of the schism between the Qumran sectarians and the authorities of the Temple.  I would love to know if I’m right in claiming that the Qumran sectarians followed the approach of the Sadducees and oppose the approach of the Pharisees, which at that time had been adopted by the priestly leaders in the aftermath of the Maccabean Revolt(164-168 BCE). 

Amar'e Stoudemire visits Dead Sea Scrolls!

Can you believe it’s possible to scuba dive in the Dead Sea

If you’ve ever been to the Dead Sea, you’ll never forget the desolate, almost lunar landscape of the area and the strange feeling of easily floating atop the warm, super-salty water. Everybody agrees it’s an unusual place, and we’re sharing some pretty odd (and pretty fascinating!) facts about the “sea” that gave the Dead Sea Scrolls their name.

The Dead Sea isn’t a sea- it’s actually a lake which happens to be on the lowest point on land (1388 feet below sea level!).

The Dead Sea is not the saltiest lake body of water on Earth (there are saltier bodies of water in Ghana, Turkmenistan and Antarctica) but it is the world’s deepest super-salty lake at 1,237 feet. 

The ancient Greeks called the Dead Sea “Lake Asphaltites” because it spits out small blobs of asphalt from the lake floor. The Egyptians used this material for mummification.

In 1980, unusually heavy rains decreased the salinity of the lake and encouraged the temporary growth of a bacteria that turned the Dead Sea bright red

The Dead Sea is literally shrinking: water that would typically feed the lake has been diverted, and evaporation has caused it to separate into two bodies of water

Fascinated by the Dead Sea and its history? Make sure you come see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Discovery Times Square before it closes on April 15th!

Last Weekend To See The Dead Sea Scrolls!


The Dead Sea Scrolls have had a wonderful run here in New York City, and if you haven’t had a chance yet to see these remarkable artifacts in person, there’s still time! Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times is on display through Sunday, April 15th. Buy your tickets here, and we hope to see you at Discovery Times Square. Our next remarkable exhibition opens in just a few weeks: stay tuned for details!