The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found. A project launched by the Israel Museum and Google aims to preserve these historical documents. Too delicate to even be exposed to direct light, the dead sea scrolls will now be forever protected using Google’s online storage power. Online file storage has become increasingly prominent in reliably protecting and backing up data online  This is promising considering that the scrolls were nearly lost to the environmental elements; it would be a shame to lose them through technology short comings. This project follows another with the Israel Museum that went live in January and put an archive and search function for photos from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum online.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 11 different caves between 1947 and 1956. The Israel Museum will be displaying sections of the scroll in in its Shrine of the Book and rotate the fragments every three months to limit exposure to light. The online version of these scrolls will feature five of the 950 manuscripts. The images are accompanied by videos and background information on the texts. According to plan more scrolls will be added in up-coming years.

The content of the scrolls is a telling and powerful window into the past of the Old Testament. There are prophecies by Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel as well as Psalms attributed to King David and Joshua written in the scrolls that can’t be found in the Old Testament today. There are also some aspects of it that are missing from the scrolls. Because the Old Testament has been rewritten so many times, historians are unsure if the missing content deteriorated or if it was just added later. A variety of related but “non biblical” writings were also found in the caves. These offered commentaries on the Old Testament as well as rulebooks and war conduct.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were most likely written by the Essenes, an outcast group, during the period from 200 B.C. to 68 C.E./A.D. They were led by a priest they called the “Teacher of Righteousness,” who was opposed and possibly killed by the established priesthood in Jerusalem. The scrolls are on a variety of materials; animal skin, papyrus and copper. Misinterpretation of these passages is easy as the authors used no punctuation and, in some cases, did not put spaces between words at all. They were written in a carbon-based ink.

The Dead Seas Scrolls are some of the rarest documents in the world. Making them digitally accessible for free is a significant step for religious history and scholarship. Google and the Israel Museum should be applauded for their efforts to preserve and protect such a significant body of work.


[photo credit: KOREphotos]