The Dead Sea Scrolls:
Coming to a screen near you
The Dead Sea Scrolls are still turning heads after more than 60 years. The curious story of their discovery in 1947, the intrigue surrounding their publication, and the speculations about their contents all contribute to the mystique of the scrolls. Many see them as the most important archaeological find of the 20th century (and there’s some pretty good competition).1
Latter-day Saint interest in the scrolls is natural. The very idea of a lost community coming to light through the discovery of its ancient records is going to get our attention. It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that within a decade of their discovery Hugh Nibley had already published two items on the Dead Sea Scrolls.2 This LDS interest in the scrolls has continued and even intensified over the years, as suggested by a recent survey listing 124 LDS books and articles on the topic.3 The Maxwell Institute itself has published two volumes on the Dead Sea Scrolls aimed at LDS audiences.4
The Dead Sea Scrolls have a particularly important place in Maxwell Institute history because they, along with some recently acquired Syriac documents, were the impetus for establishing the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART) in 1996. The primary goal of CPART was to create the Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library. The first part of this electronic library, comprising all published sectarian or nonbiblical scrolls, was released in 1999, with a revised edition appearing in 2006. Since that time, CPART has been working on the second part of the library, which will contain all of the biblical scrolls. We are happy to announce that this project, led by Professor Donald W. Parry of BYU’s Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, is nearing completion and is expected to be published within a year.
The new electronic library includes images, annotated transcriptions, and translations of the biblical scrolls, combined with the advanced search functionality of the WordCruncher software. As such, it is primarily a research tool for Dead Sea Scrolls and biblical scholars and students. As before with part 1, publisher E. J. Brill of Leiden will allow part 2 to be made available to BYU faculty and students. Information about accessing the library is forthcoming.
Those who are not BYU students or faculty need not worry. Thanks to a recently launched project by the Google Cultural Institute, many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now available on a screen near you. Go take a look at google.com/culturalinstitute/about/deadseascroll.html and dss.collections.imj.org.il/.
1. Kristian S. Heal, "Dead Sea Scrolls: What’s the Competition?," Insights 31/1 (2011): 3, http://mi.byu.edu/publications/insights/.
2. Hugh W. Nibley, "More Voices from the Dust," in Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies, ed. John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1986), 239–44; and Nibley, "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon," part 6 of Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988). These books and the other publications cited below can be accessed at http://mi.byu.edu/publications/.
3. Daniel B. McKinlay and Steven W. Booras, "The Dead Sea Scrolls: Select Publications by Latter-day Saint Scholars," Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 2 (2010): 105–16. This issue is entirely devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
4. Donald W. Parry and Dana M. Pike, LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997); and Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Questions and Responses for Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000).