Weekend Word Wrap: recovered words

David K. Israel

Taking a cue from guest-star _floss blogger A.J. Jacobs and his past week's worth of postings on these pages, I thought I'd use the Wrap to look at some Biblical words found in the caves of Qumran in 1946: The Dead Sea Scrolls.

The San Diego Natural History Museum has mounted a fantastic exhibition featuring the 2000-plus year-old scrolls and has generously put together a enlightening list of facts for us. Plus, they've given us permission to repurpose a cool video on the scrolls, so be sure to check that out as well. (And if you live in Southern California, or think you're going to be visiting before the end of the year, be sure to check out the museum's Web site for tickets to this one-of-a-kind exhibit.)

Dead Sea Scrolls Facts The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament: more than 2000 years old. The scrolls were first found in caves along the shoreline of the Dead Sea in 1946. There are 225 caves in the area. Eleven caves yielded the scrolls. The search took place from 1946 to 1957. A Bedouin goat-herder was the first person to discover the scrolls; he was looking for a lost goat which he thought had wandered into a cave. The goat-herder threw some rocks into the cave, hoping to route out the goat. He heard the rocks hitting the clay jars and knew something besides his goat might be in the cave. He did not understand their importance right away and took some of the leather fragments to give to his co-workers to repair their sandals. (Many more interesting scroll facts after the jump.)

Some of the scrolls were found in little pieces, and some were found somewhat in tact. In total nearly 100,000 scroll pieces were found; over the years they have been put together like pieces of a puzzle, resulting in 900 recognizable individual documents. Piecing the scrolls together was like putting together a 100,000-piece puzzle with no picture on the box top. The pieces were matched by: color, handwriting style and language. With the evolution of crime- scene science, many were matched using DNA, since most of the scrolls were written on goat skin. Many of the scrolls were wrapped in linen cloth and stored in clay jars. The steady, dry climate in the caves helped preserved the scrolls over 2000 years. Originally, as the scrolls were being pieced together, the conservators used Scotch tape. Later all the tape had to be meticulously removed when conservators realized the tape was disintegrating and damaging the scrolls. Using more crime scene investigative techniques, scientists study the pollen, clothing fibers, and even lice that were found on the scrolls to learn more about who wrote the scrolls and also about the environment back then. The scrolls are written in three languages: Paleo-Hebrew, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Aramaic was the predominant language of the time. Paleo-Hebrew was writing that was used before the Babylonian exile. It is believed the writers of the scrolls hid them in caves because they were anticipating an invasion by the Roman army and they wanted to keep the scrolls safe. There are three types of scrolls: biblical, apocryphal and sectarian. The biblical scrolls are those that became the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. The apocryphal scrolls were determined not to be the inspired word of God and the sectarian scrolls were scrolls written about the current times and included land deeds, rules of war and community._ Some people believe the Essenes wrote the scrolls. The people who lived in Qumran called themselves "the sons of light." The Deuteronomy scroll containing the Ten Commandments uses both versions of the Ten Commandments, from Deuteronomy and Exodus: same rules with slightly different wording. It "weaves" the two versions together. The 10 Commandments are the original commandments, 613 Jewish laws hang on 10 commandments. The Copper Scroll is the only Dead Sea Scroll engraved in copper. The Copper Scroll is also unique because it doesn't talk about religion or community living—it's all about treasure. It lists 67 locations and the treasure that can be found in those places (over $1 million in 1960's US dollars). Some people take it seriously, and others think it's an ancient hoax. Treasure hunters and archeologists haven't found anything (yet). The Copper Scroll is from Jordan and has never before been displayed on American soil. In the Psalms Scroll, the order of the Psalms is different than what we are used to—there are also "extra" psalms (155 vs. our 150) and a few extra poems. The St. Petersburg Codex (a codex is the first form of a book) is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. It is dated to 1010 CE. There are 11 codices in the exhibition; most have never been seen on the West Coast; never been seen outside of Russia. Like Jewish people today, the people that wrote the scrolls thought saying or writing out the name of God was irreverent. So they used four letters, called a tetragrammaton in Greek: YHWH. Some scribes were even more cautious and put the four letters in an older, blockier Hebrew called Paleo-Hebrew. One scribe just used four dots in place of the letters, like this: "¢ "¢ "¢ "¢ This is the largest exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls ever assembled and it will only be in San Diego. It won't travel to LA or anywhere else. In all, 24 scrolls from Israel and three from Jordan are on display In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, this exhibition has dozens of other ancient manuscripts from around the world that trace the Bible through history and different cultures. As of October 15, the oldest copy of the Ten Commandments from the Dead Sea is on display. The Genesis Scroll with the flood story is also on display.

Lastly, if you're a fan of satire, here's a Biblical recovered word send-up on The Morning News I wrote some moons ago.