Friday, October 02, 2009

SOME BACKGROUND to the acquisition of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments by Azusa Pacific University:
Yucaipan brings scrolls to Azusa Pacific
Joy Juedes, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/01/2009 11:25:42 PM PDT


Staff Writer [RedlandsDailyFacts]

Robert Duke's road to Israel and the Dead Sea Scrolls winds through Yucaipa.

Duke, who grew up in Yucaipa, was attending a blood drive at a Yucaipa church. He had studied in Israel and was teaching at Yucaipa Christian School.

At the blood drive, he ended up next to John Malone, a Redlands resident and member of the Yucaipa Rotary Club. The two men struck up a conversation.

"He asked if I would like to go back to school, and I said yes, and he told me about Rotary's Ambassadorial Scholarship," Duke said.

Rotary paid for Duke to study in Jerusalem for a year, where he continued to fall in love with biblical history - the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular.
Azusa Pacific University professor Robert Duke, middle, with students at the Sea of Galilee last year. (Courtesy photo)

Now, Duke has helped bring the scrolls to Azusa Pacific University.

Duke, assistant professor in the Azusa School of Theology's Division of Religion and Philosophy, spent most of the summer confirming the authenticity of the five scroll fragments the university recently acquired.

There follows some personal background on Professor Duke. Then more on the Scrolls:
Azusa acquired four of the scroll fragments from Biondi Rare Books and Manuscripts in Venice, Calif. The fifth came from Legacy Ministries International in Phoenix.

"Ninety percent are in Israel or Jordan, and then there are these fragments that are in private collections," Duke said.

Duke said it is difficult to get ancient artifacts out of their countries of origin because of international rules and a recent antiquity fraud scandal at the Getty Museum.

Azusa Pacific is the third institution of higher education in the country, besides Princeton Theological Seminary and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, to own original Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

"That's a great group of schools to be on the list with," Duke said.

"Bobby will play a critical role (in work with the scrolls)," said Kenneth Waters, associate dean of the School of Theology's Division of Religion and Philosophy.

"He is a young scholar but has already established himself as an authoritative source of information on the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Middle Eastern documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls," Waters said.

Duke said when he first saw digital photos of the fragments, he was struck by how genuine they looked.

"I spent a few months poring over photos, going to the seller to make sure they were authentic," he said.

"Some of it is just looking at lettering - they look like what other scrolls look like that came out of Qumran or other caves," he said.

The seller also provided carbon dating information, which helps verify age, he said.

"By looking at it and comparing with other fragments it was pretty clear we were handling the real material," he said.

Azusa's special collections staff is in charge of handling, preservation, and access to the fragments. The school also checked to make sure the fragments were not illegally owned at some point.

Staff "networked with other libraries and museums in Southern California to assure that APU is storing the fragments properly," Duke wrote in an e-mail.

"The last time I saw the fragments, they were being kept between sheets of glass with no potential for oils or residues from hands to come in contact with them," he wrote.

Background here.