VIDEO - Israel's Antiquities Authority (IAA), in a joint venture with Google, has launched the Leon Levy Online Library, a free online digitized virtual library featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The launch comes some 11 years after the completion of the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, initiated by the IAA, and 65 years after the first scrolls were unearthed in the Caves of Qumran.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
The library contains over 5,000 scans of sections of the scrolls, exhibited in optimal resolution. For the first time, anyone can have full access to these scrolls which were, until now, almost inaccessible. The documentation process took two years, and included the usage of advanced software initially developed for NASA's use.
The library includes some 1,000 new scans of the scrolls, 3,500 scans of the negatives taken of the scrolls in the 50s, and a data bank of 900 manuscripts. The documents are displayed on a 1:1 scale, identical to the original in quality.
One can find in the library the oldest existing copies of the Hebrew Bible. Fragments of every book of the Hebrew Bible (except the Book of Esther) were found in the Qumran caves, the most famous of the Dead Sea Scrolls sites.
In addition, the library features passages of Tefillin from the Second Temple, letters and documents and hundreds of additional 2000-year-old texts.
Fragment of Psalms (Photo: Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)
Zev Erlich, a historian, told Tazpit News Agency that several versions of the Bible were discovered in the caves. Some of the versions are identical to the modern accepted version, others are closer to the Septuagint, and others are close to the version of the Torah retained by the Samaritans. There were probably several versions of the Bible in circulation at the time.
As for the source of this vast collection of manuscripts, this question is still open to speculation and research. They were probably brought there from several locations.
Why? Again, the questions remains unanswered, possibly hidden for safekeeping by refugees fleeing the Roman army during the Bar Kochba Revolt. These findings provide answers and clarify some points, but also raise many other questions about life and belief during the times these documents were written.
Strenuous lab work (Photo: Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)
The IAA is currently marking the 65th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd in search of a runaway sheep. He entered a cave and discovered earth-ware containing documents thousands of years old, which were preserved thanks to the hot and dry climate in the Dead Sea area.
Since this initial discovery, archeologists have uncovered hundreds of other ancient documents in other caves in the area. The scrolls expose a unique variety of beliefs and concepts retained by Jewish sects during the turbulent period of the Second Temple, sharpening academia's understanding in biblical studies, the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity.
The finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered one of the most important archeological findings in the 20th century.
Reprinted with permission from the Tazpit News Agency