Monday, September 14, 2009

THE DEAD SEA SCROLL FRAGMENTS acquired by Azusa Pacific University get coverage in the Los Angeles Times:
Southern California universities acquire rare religious texts

Five fragments of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls are in the collection of Azusa Pacific. Loyola Marymount is displaying a leaf from one of the original Gutenberg Bibles from the 1450s.
I will excerpt some of the news on the Scroll fragments:
Azusa Pacific University has acquired five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known versions of the Hebrew Bible.

The 2,000-year-old shards, featuring passages from the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, will be exhibited in May at the evangelical Christian university in the San Gabriel Valley.


The five fragments in the Azusa Pacific collection, each about the size of an adult's palm, are stored in a campus safe until they can be readied for the May exhibition that will use artifacts to tell the history of the Bible.

The university bought four of the fragments from a private rare-manuscript dealer in Venice. The fifth came from a Christian ministry in Phoenix that collects biblical artifacts.

University officials would not say how much they paid for the pieces, which include a fragment from the Book of Daniel.

But Robert Duke, an assistant professor of biblical studies, sounded almost giddy as he described the university's new acquisitions. "They are 2,000 years old, and you can still see letters . . . with the naked eye," he said.

The university released a photograph of one fragment that already has been studied by an outside researcher. The brownish-colored section with frayed edges shows part of the 27th chapter of Deuteronomy. In it, Moses delivers a discourse from God, telling the Jewish people to build an altar of stone once they cross the River Jordan into the land of Israel.

The fragment lists the location for the altar as Mount Gerizim. Modern Bibles mentioned another site, Mount Ebal.

James H. Charlesworth, a New Testament professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, said the difference suggests that the fragment may be an original copy of Deuteronomy that was altered at some point by warring factions of Jews.

"We finally found the original text of Deuteronomy," said Charlesworth, who directs the seminary's Dead Sea Scrolls Project. "This is sensationally important."

Azusa Pacific said it is only the third U.S. institution of higher education to acquire fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And some scholars say the purchase has elevated the name of the 8,500-student campus virtually overnight. "They are now on the map," Charlesworth said.
Hmmm ... In February there were fragments of Daniel and Exodus (and another unidentified fragment) on the market (noted here and here). I suspect that these are the fragments of those books bought by Azuza Pacific, but I don't know for sure. Also, Charlesworth published a fragment of Deuteronomony 27 in July of 2008 which must be the fragment mentioned here.

Background here.

UPDATE (15 September): Regarding the whole business about an "original copy" (what is an original copy?), I think Charlesworth must have said something to the effect that this copy has an important reading ("Mount Gerizim") which is different from the Masoretic Text and which could be original. See the link on Deuteronomy 27 above for discussion.