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Unlocking the Dead Sea Scrolls - P2/2    
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Welcome, cherished viewers, to the 2nd and final part of our program on the Dead Sea Scrolls, a famous collection of documents that were discovered in the 20th century.

We will continue our visit at the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem which takes care of the preservation, exhibition and publishing of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also called the Qumran Scrolls for the name of the site near where they were found, these precious documents have even been regarded as the most important archeological finding of the 20th century.

They are by far the oldest existing scrolls of biblical scriptures studied in three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Professor Emanuel Tov is a professor emeritus of the Bible at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former editor-in-chief of the international Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project.

Modern scholarship thinks that certain scrolls were written at Qumran and others were not written at Qumran but were imported to Qumran. I think we can know which, more or less, not exactly, which scrolls were written by the Qumran scribes. I think there was a Qumran scribal school.

So the people who lived at Qumran, the so-called group or sect, they wrote all the sectarian writings as I described a little while ago, sectarian writings that depict the life of the community. But many other writings were brought to Qumran.

What I depict in my mind is that the scrolls were brought there by the Qumran people as they moved out from the centers of society, say Jerusalem, and they went to the desert to live a spiritual life. So they took with them everything they owned, including scrolls.

Some believe that the people who wrote the scrolls belonged to the spiritual order of the Essenes. Could this be true? Professor Tov has concluded that it is. But Ms. Pnina Shor, the curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has a different view.

In general, I can tell you that this group was ascetic. You know, they were very, very religious, and the idea of purification was very central to their way of life. Many scholars say that this group is not necessarily the Essenes, because nowhere in the scrolls is the name of the Essenes mentioned.

The only name we can give this group is what they called themselves. They called themselves in the scrolls the “Community,” they called themselves the Yachad. The Yachad means the community. And this is why it’s called the Community Rule.

In the caves at Qumran, ten fragmentary copies and one complete copy of the Community Rule of the Yachad group were found. The following is an excerpt from it in its English translation:

“No man shall argue or quarrel with the men of perdition. He shall keep his council in secrecy in the midst of the men of deceit and admonish with knowledge, truth and righteous commandment those of chosen conduct, each according to his spiritual quality and according to the norm of time.

He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community… He shall perform the will [of God] in all his deeds and in all strength as He has commanded. He shall freely delight in all that befalls him, and shall desire nothing except God's will...”

The writings of the New Testament, which comprise the last part of the Christian Bible, were written at the same time that some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any of the gospels of the New Testament and do not mention the name of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, it cannot be assumed that the people who wrote the scrolls were early Christians. However, the spiritual group at Qumran and the early Christians shared some similarities. For example, one parallel to the Early Christians is that the scrolls of Qumran speak about the “Teacher of Righteousness,” a wise Master who was persecuted without real justification.

They have in common that they both call their new religion “The New Covenant,” or as we say now, “The New Testament.” The New Testament is a new covenant with God that replaces the old contract with God. And also, the Qumran people, Essenes, speak about the New Covenant. They share all kinds of ideas. They share the idea of immersion in water to clean the body and the spirit, named baptism in the New Testament with a Greek word.

They share the idea of common meals. They share the serving of God with prayer. They share the seeking for justice, the love for God. And we see very often the same types of phrases used in both places. The Sermon on the Mount has “the meek of spirit will come to me,” etc. There’s a section in one of the Qumran scrolls, co-called 4 Qumran 525 that is similar to the Sermon on the Mount.

In Judaism, it is not allowed to erase or damage the name of God in Hebrew. Jewish people also refrain from pronouncing God’s name in Hebrew. It is treated with great reverence. Ms. Elena Libman, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls laboratory, showed us a scroll where the scribe had accidently written it.

This is one part of a long scroll, psalm scroll, which is very interesting. There are two types of script here. A square type of script of the whole text, and sometimes you may see such a sort of another script, 4 letters actually. This one and this one. This is the name of God; four letters, Tetragrammaton in Greek, Yodh – He – Waw – He, four letters.

It was forbidden, and it is forbidden, to pronounce the name of God, and only these four letters are Hashem (reference to God) in Hebrew. They are written in this script which is actually the script of the First Temple [period].

And this is very touching. When the man who wrote the scroll made a mistake, he simply erased it, like this one or this one, or the letter or even the whole word. But in this case, the name of God was written here by mistake but it was forbidden for him to simply remove it. That’s why he put dots above, above the letters and on the bottom. That means for us, for you and me, don’t read it. It’s a mistake. It’s very touching, isn’t it?

We found in Qumran various commentaries on the books of the Bible. A special commentary is the one called Sharim Pesher [Pesharim]. And a Pesher is what we call a sectarian writing, namely, the so-called Pesher literature shows us the way the Hebrew Bible was viewed by the members of the Essene group.

And they wanted to show us that basically, the Hebrew Bible shows that the views of the Essenes are correct, and that they are themselves already mentioned in the Bible, because every time the Bible speaks about the good men, it speaks about them, for example. And if the Bible speaks about the bad men, then it speaks about their enemies.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give a clear picture of the spiritual values the people who wrote them, as well as their daily life and religious rituals.

The group that lived at Qumran talk a lot about their cleansing themselves, their body. And it’s true that on the spot, we found an enormous water system. This is a very dry area. And the water fell only in the winter and when it fell, it fell with an enormous speed and they collected the water in several water basins. The texts speak about it, that the people who lived on the spot had to clean themselves several times a day.

Really, the main things they talk about is learning the Bible, cleaning themselves and working and worshipping God. And the fact that they entered the water is not only a cleansing their body but also purifying their mind, and they appear more clean before their God. And this should be seen parallel to the baptism in the New Testament.

They lived a life of austerity and poorness, and for them, to be poor was a virtue. Like in the Book of Psalms, they said the poor people are the ones who can serve the Lord. So, they had a very intellectual life of working and learning and all this is reflected in the writings that have been found near the Dead Sea.

Next, Ms. Pnina Shor spoke to us about the digitalization of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the collaboration with Internet company Google to publish them online.

It was suggested to us by a professor for the Weizmann Institute to use spectral imaging to monitor the well-being of the scrolls. Now, spectral imaging was first developed for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and one of their senior physicists, whose name is Craig Berman, is our consultant today for this whole project.

Once we decided to do that, we said, “Wow, if we’re going to image these scrolls, why don’t we do an overall project, whereby we’ll image all of the scrolls in the best possible resolution? In color and infrared and everything beyond infrared, which will then give us the best possible infrared images and those spectral images that we need for the monitoring?”

And then we said, “Okay, why don’t we add all the transcriptions, the translations, the bibliography, everything that we know about the scrolls? And since it is all published, and since this is mutual cultural heritage, why don’t we share it with the world?”

Soon, thanks to the meticulous expert endeavors, everyone will be able to view the Dead Sea Scrolls at home from one’s computer. They combine the millions of fragments to do the “ultimate puzzle” themselves!

The idea is that once we complete the imaging, you’ll have everything online. As I always picture it, it's like you can sit back in your couch at home and google any Dead Sea Scroll that you would like to see.

You'll be able to do the ultimate puzzle by taking the different fragments and trying to see if you don't like the reconstruction of the scholars, you can try and do it yourself.

Ms. Pnina Shor shared with us one of her favorite quotes from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There's the famous Psalm, which says in Hebrew, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” In free translation, it says, “Behold, how good it is for brethren to sit together.”

With these uplifting words, we conclude our program on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Our sincere thanks and best wishes, Professor Emanuel Tov, Ms. Pnina Shor and Ms. Elena Libman for introducing the work of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in preserving, deciphering and publishing these illuminating ancient documents.

Thank you, goodhearted viewers, for joining us today on A Journey through Aesthetic Realms. Up next is Our Noble Lineage, right after Noteworthy News. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. May peace, love and wisdom be ever present in your life.

To find out more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, please visit: Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation: www.DeadSeaScrollsFoundation.com Israel Antiquities Authority: www.Antiquities.org.il Prof. Emanuel Tov’s website: www.EmanuelTov.info
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