What is Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible like? The exhibition is divided into several categories:
Phillips Library and Lobby
There is plenty to discover as part of your experience. The Phillips Library, adjacent to the lobby, displays several early Bibles and beautiful illuminated texts, including an Erasmus New Testament from 1516 and a King James Bible from 1611. The lobby itself offers a variety of interactive puzzles explaining how the scrolls were carbon-dated and demonstrating the difficulty of piecing together the scroll fragments. You can even sit inside an authentic Bedouin tent flown in from the Near East. The nomads of the desert have used these tents for thousands of years, and the young shepherd who first discovered the scrolls probably lived in one.
Journey to the Dead Sea of the Past
Your tour begins with the sights and sounds of Qumran and the Dead Sea transporting you back in time to the Holy Land. Learn about life under the Roman conquerors, the First Jewish Revolt, and the last stand at Masada by viewing artifacts from the time period – including the ossuary (chest for human skeletal remains) of Simon of Cyrene’s son Alexander.
Archaeology of Qumran and the Caves
Zoom in on a more specific place and time—the excavation at Qumran. Walk through the archaeologist’s tent, viewing actual tools used in the excavation, and experience the excitement of Father Roland Guérin de Vaux and his team.
Sorting of the Scrolls
Fast-forward in time for a look at the challenge of making sense of the scrolls; the sorting of the recovered fragments, the monumental task of distinguishing one scroll from another, as well as the major discoveries that were made by the translation team.
These rare, exact facsimiles of the scrolls were created near the time of the scrolls’ discovery so that multiple scholars would be able to study them. The Isaiah facsimile, which is more than 20 feet long, is one of only 12 in existence.
Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament Manuscripts
Enter the scroll room. You will view actual fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest-known manuscripts of the Old Testament, at least 12 of which have never before been on public display. You will also see rare New Testament fragments written on papyrus on loan from the University of Michigan.
This is a sandstone tablet, in three pieces, with 87 lines of Hebrew text in ink on its face. Dated to the first century B.C. and known as “The Jeselsohn Stone” or “the Gabriel Stone,” the tablet has been translated to describe, in part, a prophetic revelation that might include the concept of the resurrection several decades before the birth of Jesus. It is on display in this exhibition from the collection of Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, Zurich.
Transmission of the Biblical Text
Here you will see the various formats taken by the texts as the world adapted them for respective times and cultures, including:
St. John’s Bible
Learn the scribal tradition of creating a document written by hand—from preparation of the animal skins to illumination—by viewing the St. John’s Bible, the modern-day, handwritten, illuminated Bible.
Part of the discovery at Qumran included benches and inkwells—leading archaeologists to believe they had found the remains of a scriptorium, or "a place for writing." Our modern-day scriptorium allows you to view the scrolls the way scroll scholars see them, using touch-screen kiosks. High-resolution images of the manuscripts, captured as Polynomial Texture Maps (PTM), allow you to zoom in on portions of each scroll fragment. You’ll be able to see the hair follicles on the animal-skin fragments, the thickness and layering of the scribe’s writing, as well as scribal marks made visible only by infrared photography.
Visit a replica of Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. You can even write your thoughts and prayers on a slip of paper to slip into the cracks of the wall.
Bibles of the World
Learn about the importance of archaeology and scientific truth in relation to the theology program here at Southwestern Seminary, as well as the role translation plays in biblical education, demonstrated through the display of Bibles from several different countries shown with an oversized map of the world.
Qumran Simulated Dig Site
Just outside the exhibition, you can visit a replica of a ruined city, where you’ll learn the finer points of excavation hands on, from experienced Ph.D. students. We’ve layered several tons of dirt, limestone and rock with hundreds of 2,000-year-old potsherds from the Ancient Near East, contributed by the Smithsonian Institute. If you find one while digging, it's yours to take home. Find out more about the dig site experience and costs.