Saturday, July 18, 2009

ANOTHER REVIEW of the ROM Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition:
Mysterious Qumran finally reveals some secrets to 21st-century voyeurs

Sacred words, never meant to be seen by outsiders, are on display now to the world

Michael Valpy

From Saturday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Friday, Jul. 17, 2009 11:58PM EDT

The crowds move slowly through the soft, muted light at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum exhibit of the Dead Sea scrolls. They are focused, mesmerized, reading every word on display. As intense, perhaps, as peeping toms.

That is Chad Stauber's thought. The 29-year-old doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, who spends his academic life studying the scrolls and their meaning and whose recorded voice reading documents in Aramaic is part of the exhibit, said encountering the 2,000-year-old documents ignites a feeling of voyeurism.

The people who wrote the scrolls, who ritually recited them, who may have spirited them away from other libraries and from Jerusalem's great Second Temple, and who finally hid them in caves as an advancing Roman army destroyed everything in its path – the mysterious Dead Sea community of Qumran – never intended they should be seen by outsiders.

Despite the headline, this is the longest and most thoughtful review of the exhibit I've seen so far. And there's this additional information:
As awe-inspiring as the fragments of the scrolls on display are the two inscribed chunks of Jerusalem limestone from the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The first bears the message, in Hebrew, “to the place of trumpeting,” suggesting it marked the spot where a temple priest would have stood to blow a trumpet to indicate the beginning and end of the sabbath. The second contains part of a warning, in Greek, that non-Jews who venture into the temple's precincts can be put to death by order of the high priest.

Chad Stauber stands beside the two temple fragments and says repeatedly that he is astonished that the Israeli Antiquities Authority allowed them to come on tour with the selection of scrolls.

He said, gesturing to the “place of no trumpeting” fragment of the temple: “Jesus would have walked under that, or by that.”
Background to the exhibition is here (and keep following the links back).

Some background to the Greek Temple inscription is here.