[Correction: February 10, 2010 -  In the original release posted September 3, 2009, we were mistakenly informed that Princeton Theological Seminary owned a Dead Sea Scroll fragment, but in fact they do not. At that time, only APU and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago owned fragments. Recently, in January 2010, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas acquired three fragments, bringing the total to three higher educational institutions in the US that now own fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Below is an updated version of our original news release.]

Announced September 3, 2009:

In its most significant holding to date―and possibly ever―Azusa Pacific University acquires five Dead Sea Scroll fragments and a collection of rare biblical antiquities.

Joining the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, APU becomes only the second institution of higher education to own original fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. These earliest known texts of the Hebrew Bible, dating back to roughly 150 B.C., were discovered in the caves of Qumran, east of Jerusalem, between 1947-56. Today, many of the estimated 15,000 known fragments are held in private collections. With this acquisition, APU can study, research, and share these fragments with scholars and the public while carefully preserving the history of Scripture.

“This acquisition allows us to tell the remarkable story of how humanity came to have the Bible, and how Scripture has been preserved through history,” said President Jon R. Wallace, DBA. “Having these documents also reinforces APU’s history and commitment to a high view of Scriptures. This is a milestone for APU, and we are deeply grateful to Legacy Ministries International for allowing us to continue Legacy’s devotion to protect these ancient documents that mark the very beginnings of the written Bible.”

Four of the fragments were obtained from Lee Biondi of Biondi Rare Books and Manuscripts in Venice, California. The fifth fragment came from Legacy Ministries International, a Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit committed to telling the story of the Bible and assembling artifacts, objects, Bibles, and documents tracing the history of Scripture.

In addition, APU received five original King James Bibles dating from 1611-40, a collection of Bible leaves, two late 17th-century Hebrew Sefer Torah Scrolls, and more from Legacy Ministries International.

“This opens the door for numerous scholarship opportunities,” said Russell Duke, Ph.D., acting dean of APU’s School of Theology. “Our theology faculty will be able to study these manuscripts first hand, share them with students, and bring new depth to biblical history in the classroom.”

Plans are in progress for a special exhibit in May 2010 that tells the story of 2,000 years of the Bible through artifacts, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Bibles of the 21st century.

“Since their discovery, many Dead Sea Scroll fragments have been known only to their owners, and many are becoming impossible to read since they are no longer accompanied by the low humidity, thick ozone layer, and coverings that protected them for almost 2,000 years,” said James Charlesworth, Ph.D., George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary and director and editor of the PTS Dead Sea Scrolls Project. “Now, thanks to the president and scholars at Azusa Pacific University, these fragments have been recovered and will be scientifically protected. Each one preserves priceless data from the beginnings of Western Culture and is a unique witness to documents in the Bible of Jews and Christians.” Charlesworth will be working closely with several APU faculty to publish these fragments.

“This acquisition will set Azusa Pacific University apart from all other Christian institutions of higher education in the world,” said Paul Gray, Ed.D., vice provost for graduate programs and research and dean of the University Libraries. “What better location to have available for the public to see the earliest of Scripture than in Southern California, home to millions of people.”

The Dead Sea Scroll fragments and biblical antiquities expand APU’s existing Special Collections of more than 10,000 rare and one-of-a-kind artifacts, from books and manuscripts documenting California history, to writings depicting the history of fine printing.

For more information, or to arrange an interview on these new holdings, contact Allison Oster, public relations manager, at (626) 815-4518.