Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit Tours United Kingdom and Europe
Since their initial discovery in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have drawn the interest of people worldwide. FARMS has been fortunate to play a part in bringing the scrolls to the world, and that effort continues. The FARMS Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and managed by full-time missionaries Wayne and Janet Chamberlain, completed its tour of the United Kingdom and western Europe in May and is now making its way through central Europe.
Traveling through such cities as London, Cardiff, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Madrid, the tour has been very well received. In Bordeaux, France, the local government cosponsored the exhibit in a downtown art venue, drawing some 3,500 visitors to the exhibit during its week there. Other venues have been similarly successful. The exhibit is usually hosted at Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, visitors’ centers, and CES institute buildings. Many notable visitors have attended the exhibit in various cities, including local leaders of Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant groups.
Donald W. Parry, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Brigham Young University and a member of the international team of Dead Sea Scrolls translators, has given over 25 lectures in conjunction with this exhibit during the last three years to members of the press and to dignitaries at VIP receptions. The receptions included both community and religious leaders. Parry has also presented a number of lectures to Latter-day Saint congregations on the topic of “LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls.” “The response to the exhibit is always one of great interest,” he said.
John W. Welch, the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at BYU, greeted the press and gave a guided tour of the exhibit in the Stuttgart Stake Center and similarly in the Salzburg First Ward cultural hall. Several articles in German newspapers resulted. In Stuttgart, he spoke to over 150 people at the VIP reception and lectured to 200 as the opening speaker in a four-part lecture series during the duration of the exhibit in Stuttgart. The local rabbi was one of the lecturers. About 3,000 people came through the exhibit in Stuttgart, a tribute to the very diligent work of the local church leaders. A richly illustrated lecture was also given in Salzburg, in all cases in German. Included among the guests in both locations were town and county government officials.
Another FARMS scholar, Stephen D. Ricks, a BYU professor of Hebrew and cognate learning, gave a lecture on the exhibit’s opening night in Zollikofen, Switzerland. He spoke on the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and says that the many community leaders in attendance were favorably impressed with the quality of the exhibit. Ricks also spoke to the Latter-day Saint community in the area on the following evening. A specialist on the scrolls, Ricks imparted to his audiences much information and insight, though he modestly maintains, “I received so much more in return.”
Beautiful leather facsimiles of several scrolls, including the 24-foot-long Isaiah scroll, highlight the display. Also included are a model of the community at Qumran, genuine Qumran coins and clay oil lamps, a sword forged around the time that Qumran was destroyed (about ad 70), and photographs and maps. The tour has benefited from such guest lecturers as Donald Parry, Florentino GarcÃa MartÃnez (a world-renowned scrolls scholar), and Valérie Triplet-Hitoto (a Nibley Fellow pursuing a PhD at the University of Paris, Sorbonne).
“The biblical scrolls serve as a focal point due to the fact that the Bible is a religious text shared by a number of religions and faiths,” said Parry. “This is one reason the scrolls represent such a vital archaeological find. They are ancient relics that bring together people of various faiths who share this common scriptural heritage.”
The exhibit continues its tour in central Europe, with visits that began in Frankfurt and will end in Copenhagen. Please check farms.byu.edu for further information.