New Israeli-German collaboration to digitize Dead Sea scrolls

As this is a retelling of an ancient story, we must go back into the past before we delve into the future.

In a dry and dusty, seemingly lifeless wasteland they waited. For over 2000 years; lovingly hidden and wrapped up; written secrets lay stored in earthenware jars, left by those who penned them, with no myth, legend or treasure map to allude to their existence. Near the Middle East’s salt lake they lay, dispersed over 11 caves at Earth’s lowest point on dry land. Abandoned and neglected, yet some containing the very words of God in written form. They were biding their time getting ready for a debut onto a public stage. The discovery of almost 1000 scrolls cocooned in the ancient sands of time was a result of a seemingly chance encounter, but it changed the world.

In 1946, a well-aimed stone leaving the hand of a Bedouin shepherd boy was propelled into a cave and landed with an accompanying sound of breaking pottery. Curiosity led to discovery and then recovery of the timeless treasure that came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Over a period of 10 years, the protected treasures, in predominantly Hebrew with some Aramaic and Greek, came to light. Scrolls of all sizes, in mostly parchment, but a few on papyrus, dating back a few hundred years before the life of Yeshua. They contain among other writings some of the oldest surviving texts of the Hebrew Bible.

Unfortunately, out of their original sheltered environment exposure to the elements, as well as being handled by enthusiastic humans, took its toll. No longer protected, they started to disintegrate. In 1965, a specialized building was constructed to house and protect these sacred, fragile treasures and it was called the Shrine of the Book. Some fragments and larger remnants that were able to travel, managed to see the world, but the majority have been carefully preserved and treated in this museum, while being studied and worked on to discover as much as possible about the way of life in that part of the world at that time and before. The findings are fascinating to historians and pertinent to all who use the Hebrew Scriptures as a foundation for their belief, including Believers in Yeshua.

Kehila News Staff spoke to Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, the Dean of faculty of the Jewish Studies at eTeacherBiblical and author of the Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel and he said, “It was once thought that the New Covenant was unique to the Gospels, that the Son of God was a Greek idea, that Pharisees were the conservatives of Jesus’ day. All of these and many more perceptions were changed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls”.

The year is now 2016 and this phenomenal discovery occurred 70 years ago. Computer scientists and Dead Sea Scroll scholars are embarking on a new project where they plan to upload the Dead Sea Scrolls to a digital working forum to enable more in-depth study of the parchment fragments. In effect, they will be constructing a giant online puzzle using advanced digital tools which will help identify connection points in the minute script that they can analyze, thereby getting new insights into the manuscripts. With modern technology, palaeographic and alignment tools they will assemble a complete database where readers will be able to access the original text, translations, high-resolution images, dictionary entries, and more. It might not be in the way that the original scribes intended for their work to be preserved, but following in their footsteps albeit with a modern twist, this venture is a tribute to their painstaking labour of love and ongoing legacy.

You can read more about this collaborative partnership between Germany and the Israel Antiquities Authority here.