This summer, visitors to Azusa Pacific University have had an opportunity to experience one of the rarest pieces of history, five Dead Sea Scroll fragments, along with dozens of other rare biblical artifacts currently on display. After countless hours of preparation and study, the exhibition, Treasures of the Bible: the Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond, opened to the public on May 21.
"This is probably the most fundamental discovery of all time. There has always been a quest to go back to original sources to check the accuracy of the Scriptures, to find a more original interpretation. The Dead Sea Scrolls begin to provide that on the one hand. They also show the continuity of Scripture on the other," said Tom Andrews, professor and research historian for APU's Special Collections.
For months, scholars from APU worked tirelessly in order to verify the Dead Sea scroll fragments, as well as identify their place in the history of the Bible and the relation to faith today. APU is one of only three institutions of higher education in the U.S. to own these vital pieces of biblical history.
Scholars were able to better study the fragments with the help of photography experts Bruce Zuckerman, Ph.D., associate professor of religion at the University of Southern California, and Marilyn Lundberg-Melzian, Ph.D., associate director of the West Semitic Research Project. Using new technology, Zuckerman and Lundberg took pictures of the fragments with infrared and moving light that further displays the markings on the fragments of animal skin, helping scholars to identify the words and linking them to the Bible read today.
"We can now evaluate these fragments in ways we never could before," said Zuckerman.
"[The Dead Sea Scroll fragments] point to the reality of the Scripture and antiquity," said Marvin Sweeney, Ph.D., professor of religion at Claremont Graduate School. "We have hard biblical evidence that is over 2,000 years old."
Yet, it is not simply a collection of artifacts but a journey of the written word. The artifacts exemplify the written and printed word, from a 5,000 year old tablet with the earliest form of writing, the first Bible written in Spanish, to a microform Bible that circled the moon with the Apollo 13 crew.
"I hope [visitors] will come to an experience close to mine when excavating the Philistine temple, that they come into contact with an artifact from the past and realize these Bible stories are not just stories. They are accounts and records of events that really took place. To look at something from the paast really makes the Bible come alive," said Robert Mullins, Ph.D., assistant professor of biblical studies.
Guests who attend are also able to learn about the history and significance of the artifacts they're viewing through the information and resources available throughout the exhibit.
"The visual and the three dimensional, the written text, and the exhibition book with its illustrations all together present the experience [visitors] are going to have," said Andrews. "[Visitors] are going to see history, they are going to see biography, they are going to see great human stories of individuals who have been a part of the Bible, they are going to see the Spiritual aspect, the theological aspect, the sense for truth, the search for a more accurate translation. They are going to see numerous times the Bible has been translated into how many languages and that attempt to move the Bible from being something chained to the pulpit in church to being a part of someone's life at home."
Visitors can also catch a glimpse of next year's exhibit already in the planning stages, which highlights men and women of faith. From the original editions of John Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress, as well as correspondence by C.S. Lewis and notes written in his own hand.
In all, Treasures of the Bible: the Dead Sea Scrolls and Beyond allows for everyone to view a vital part of history.
Due to increased numbers and demand, the exhibition has been extended through August 29.