By Brent Harker
In conjunction withThe Story of Masada exhibition, nine original Dead Sea Scrolls are on display at the BYU Museum of Art through Sept. 18.
“Thousands of people go to Jerusalem each year, and they can’t see these scrolls even there,” says John W. Welch, codirector of the exhibitions and editor of BYU Studies.
Four of the scrolls are from Jordan. They have never left the Kingdom of Jordan, and two of them have not been on public display for more than 30 years. One scroll, a copy of the book of Exodus, is one of the oldest known fragments of a biblical book anywhere in the world.
The largest of the Jordanian fragments is an appendix to the Qumran Manual of Discipline from around the time of Christ and speaks of a great banquet to be held when the Messiah comes. The other texts from Jordan contain Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament and words of Moses not found elsewhere.
Fourteen Hebrew scroll fragments were found at Masada, and four of them are among the many artifacts in The Story of Masada exhibition. Those four scrolls contain passages from the Psalms and Ezekiel 37 in the Bible, as well as two small fragments from other ancient Hebrew texts. The Ezekiel scroll has never been displayed in public, according to Welch, and has significance for Latter-day Saints because of its prophecies regarding the resurrection of the dry bones and about the sticks of Judah and Joseph.
The other scroll is a rare Hebrew deed from the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. This document is from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt in a.d. 132.
“Many requests have been made for the Jordanian scrolls,” says Weston Fields, executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem. “The others have always been turned down. But when the request came from BYU, the Jordanian government was willing because they trusted the LDS people, BYU, and FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies). That trust made all the difference.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition, which also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the scrolls, is sponsored by FARMS. One ticket admits a person to both the Masada and the scrolls exhibitions. Tickets may be obtained by calling (801) 378-BYU1 or (800) 322-BYU1. (For more information, see the Masada home page.)