This last weekend I visited the Milwaukee Public Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It definitely changed the way I thought about these ancient documents.
The exhibit opened with artifacts dating from the same era as the scrolls (150 BC – 70 AD). There were coins, oil lamps and ossuaries, to name a few of the items. Then I found myself immersed in history, learning about the excavation sites, the people and places where they were found. Little did I know the scrolls are a collection of 900 documents found in 11 caves near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
Next I entered a room with the replica of the most complete scroll, the Isaiah scroll. It contains the entire biblical Book of Isaiah and measures 24 ft long. In the same room a museum historian talked about the various surfaces the scrolls were written on (parchment, papyrus, copper and stone) and the various inks (black iron-gall ink and the red ink-cinnabar).
Then I entered the scroll room! Here I laid eyes on, and was only inches from, the actual scroll fragments written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Traditionally the scrolls have been divided into three groups: Biblical manuscripts (copies of texts from the Bible), non-canonical manuscripts (such as Enoch, Tobit, Sirach) and secular manuscripts (documents that speak to the rules and beliefs of a particular sect of people.) It was amazing to see something of such religious and historical significance.
The final rooms of the exhibit contained various bibles from across time. My favorite was the Luther bible in German.
I would recommend this exhibit to those interested in seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls. I would also suggest going early on a weekday. The exhibit can become quite crowded