The Dead Sea Scrolls Project: More Than an Exhibition

Article excerpt

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the foundation documents of Western civilization. They constitute the earliest written sources for the Hebrew Bible / Christian Old Testament, and are considered as divinely inspired in the Muslim tradition as well. The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain sectarian texts on law, references to a Messiah, and warnings of the apocalypse to come.

To offer a selection of the most important of these scrolls at the ROM for six months in 2009 is thrilling and moving. One is caught off guard by the power of their presence, whatever one's faith or way of living in the world. The simple facts of their age, humanity, and influence are enough to provoke reflection and even awe.

The ROM's project on the Dead Sea Scrolls will bring archaeology and culture together with unprecedented weight. We use the term "project" rather than "exhibition" to emphasize the scope of programming and partnerships that will accompany the scrolls. The presence of these documents in Ontario creates the ground for an extended public conversation about shared roots and diverging paths. It invites us to explore how much we have in common as cultures and religions, and what marks us as distinctive, too. There is hardly a better jurisdiction in the world to engage in this conversation, given Ontario's potent diversity and traditions of intellectual freedom and democracy.

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Counseled by a special Community Advisory Panel, and working with universities and cultural, religious, and educational organizations, the ROM will produce an ambitious series of public lectures, debates, and events in the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls. …