Dead Sea Scrolls: The Ten Commandments
To read the press release and download an image of the Ten Commandments Scroll, click here.
Limited Engagement: Friday, March 29 - Sunday, April 14
Witness the oldest, best-preserved parchment scroll of The Ten Commandments, containing text from Deuteronomy 5 - perhaps the most remarkable of all the Dead Sea Scrolls - in Cincinnati for 17 days only.
A special gift from Great American Insurance Group has enabled Cincinnati Museum Center to bring the 2,100-year-old Ten Commandments Scroll to Cincinnati from Good Friday (March 29) to April 14, 2013, to join 10 other scrolls in our special exhibition Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times. The Ten Commandments Scroll contains text from Deuteronomy 5 and is among the trove of ancient writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, a group of approximately 900+ ancient writings discovered in 11 caves in the Judean desert and dating from 250 BCE to 68 CE.
The 17-day exhibition period of the Ten Commandments Scroll is the longest that the Israel Antiquities Authority has allowed it outside Israel since 2007 because of the scroll’s universal importance, its fragility and its age. Following the exhibition, which closes on April 14, the Ten Commandments scroll will be returned to Israel.
HISTORY OF THE SCROLL
Discovered in 1952 in Cave 4 near Khirbet, Qumran, the Ten Commandments Scroll is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in a series of caves – found initially by a Bedouin shepherd – that are near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. They are believed to date from around 250 BCE to 68 CE. When the scrolls were discovered, the area was part of the British Mandate for Palestine. It is now part of Israel.
The condition of this scroll is exceptional. The scroll is the most complete and best preserved ancient example of the Ten Commandments in the world. Ancient parchment, which is made from animal skin, is very fragile. In addition to destruction caused in fires, floods, or battles, parchment can be damaged by humidity, light, and variations in temperature. It is remarkable that the Ten Commandments Scroll has survived until today.
WHAT DOES THE SCROLL LOOK LIKE?
The Ten Commandments Scroll is written in Hebrew on a parchment scroll measuring just over 18 inches by 3 inches.
WHEN WAS THIS SCROLL WRITTEN?
Between 50 BCE and 1 BCE (Before the Common Era).
WHO WROTE THIS SCROLL?
The identity of the scribe who wrote the Ten Commandment Scroll is not known. Many scholars believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Ten Commandments Scroll, were written by members of a sect who broke away from mainstream Judaism and lived in the desert from the 3rd century BCE until 68 CE, when their community was destroyed by the Romans. Other scholars believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls also include writings from other areas including Jerusalem.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS SCROLL
This Ten Commandments Scroll is the oldest known text of the Ten Commandments on parchment, as well as the most complete and the best preserved. The Nash Papyrus, which is in the Cambridge University Library, is less complete, is in fragments, and dates to 150–100 BCE. They are the only surviving texts of the Ten Commandments dating from before Christ. The next earliest version of the Ten Commandments text is over 1,000 years later, a gap that highlights how fragile and perishable texts on parchment or papyrus were. The pillars of morality and law in the Western world, the Ten Commandments were written into the civil and criminal codes of 12 of the original 13 U.S. colonies 3,500 years later.