The Saint John's Bible March 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 3Forward to a Friend

This month The Saint John's Bible staff has been flurry of activity with the opening of The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibition will run until October 24, 2010, and promises to be an inspiring and historic experience. The article this month examines the historical significance of The Dead Sea Scrolls and how The Saint John's Bible relates to that history. If you find yourself in Minnesota or St. Paul this year, be sure to add the exhibition to your list of can’t miss opportunities.

Dead Sea Scrolls, The Saint John’s Bible, and the HMML Mission
An excerpt from an article by Rev. Michael Patella, OSB,
acting director of HMML

On March 11, the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota, opened its exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and alongside it are selections from the HMML (Hill Museum & Manuscript Library) collection as well as pages from The Saint John's Bible. Juxtaposing the Dead Sea finds with selections from HMML and The Saint John's Bible makes perfect sense. The information, which Dead Sea Scrolls have provided to the scholarly community since their discovery, has rewritten much of what we know about the growth and development of both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. If any were to doubt the good that HMML has done for the world’s intellectual and religious life, or why Saint John’s has undertaken the sponsorship of the handwritten Bible, studying the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls provides an example of the knowledge one can glean from ancient and modern texts and their respective provenance.

Before the discovery of the Scrolls, the received opinion was simply that the faith represented in the Jewish Tanak (i.e., the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings), or what Christians call the "Old Testament," simply became a new faith when some of the Jewish community switched their sights to Jesus Christ. With this switch arose the "New Testament". The compilation and transcription of the Dead Sea Scrolls successfully has challenged that opinion by revealing the multiple currents of thought circulating throughout the Holy Land at what some call the, "intertestamental" period. From the scholarly point of view, the number of scrolls and their setting within the ambit of the Judean Desert allows for two approaches to the research: 1) the collection, 2) the community.

Cave 4 above Qumran: Held approximately 500 manuscripts that were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1952. The scrolls stored here were placed on the floor or on wooden shelves, and the complete fragmentation of these fragile documents made it difficult to reassemble all the pieces.

Image courtesy of Ed Fleming.

The collection

Written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the finds can be divided into books of the canonical Tanak (Hebrew canon), selections from apocryphal and deuterocanonical works, and a variety of sectarian writings. Among all the scrolls, the only complete work from within the biblical canon is the Isaiah Scroll; every other find is a fragment of varying length from one of the biblical books. Thus, when inventoried, all books of the Hebrew canon are represented with the exception of Esther. The Isaiah Scroll and the absence of Esther are two details concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls that have answered two questions but also have opened up several others.

The community

The Dead Sea Scrolls were all found in eleven caves along the sharp precipices above Qumran, a large religious compound on the northwestern shore of the sea. Most scholars hold that Qumran itself has all the markings of an Essene site, predominant evidence being the numerous mikva’ot , or baths within the complex; for the Essenes, ritual purity was of preeminent importance. Recent archaeological work suggests that the Essenes built upon an earlier Hasmonean (ca. 150 BC) fortified outpost that served as a lookout for a much larger fortress atop the large hill behind it.

Adding to the theory of Essene occupation of Qumran is the fact that sectarian scrolls found in the surrounding caves are heavily apocalyptic and cultic, and as such, match Essene theology. Without much effort, one can imagine an isolated and intensely pietistic community, whose purpose is to prepare for the final battle against what in their view, was the corrupt Jerusalem Temple priesthood and those allied with it. Scholars believe that, fearing the approach of Roman legions during the first Jewish Revolt (AD 66-70), the Qumran Essenes secured their library in the caves above their settlement, which probably already housed the bulk of their scrolls.

The archaeological evidence also defines a settlement, which is communitarian by design. Because the present-day locale matches the descriptions of an Essene community to a close (but not exact) degree that ancient historians give of the site, most scholars have concluded that this particular Essene community lived at Qumran and wrote the scrolls. Others, while not convinced that the Essenes inhabited Qumran, admit that the inhabitants there were Jewish sectarians outside the pale of other, larger groups.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, HMML, and The Saint John’s Bible

The juxtaposition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, selections from the HMML collection, and The Saint John's Bible, at the Science Museum of Minnesota demonstrates the wealth of information that texts can provide about the communities that preserve or even write them. The information that scholars can glean from these texts will not only shed light on how these communities arose and flourished, but also how we centuries later came to be who we are. Similarly The Saint John's Bible provides a window into a religious text as understood at the beginning of Christianity’s third millennium, using a technology nearly identical to the one which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. What will this fact tell future scholars about faith at this point of time?

The Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Christian manuscripts, and The Saint John's Bible are all linked by humankind’s desire to remember and reflect upon their natural and supernatural experiences. HMML’s mission is to ensure the record of that reflection for the betterment of the human race.

Historical Books Update

The Minnesota winter is showing small signs of retreating as the sun rises earlier, climbs higher and stays with us longer. The rooftops have lost their cover of snow, as long dramatic icicles drip and then crash to ground. We know we are not out of the woods, yet, as March always brings one or two blasts of winter. But, coincidently, when the seasons shift from winter to spring, so too will our long wait for the last pages of Historical Books end. The pages are scheduled to arrive on campus in mid-March and shortly thereafter the process of prepping these last pages for publishing will begin. Be sure to watch our Facebook page for up-to-the minute updates when the pages arrive.

In This Issue

• Dead Sea Scrolls, The Saint John's   Bible, and the HMML Mission

• Historical Books Update

• Upcoming Exhibitions & Events

See the Bible


Milwaukee Public Museum
Milwaukee, WI
January 22 - June 2010

Science Museum of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN
March 12 - October 24, 2010

Print Exhibitions

Regis College
Weston, MA
March 11 - May 16, 2010

Scott County Historical Society
Shakopee, MN
April 20 - May 22, 2010

Find a gallery near you >

We're on Facebook!
Click here to become a fan and stay up-to-date on The Saint John's Bible.

Rejoice in the Easter Season
The Crucifixion Save 40% on all reproduction books
Use code:
SHOP NOW Through April 4, 2010

Contact:The Saint John's Bible, Liturgical Press, Saint John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321
Phone: 1.800.654.0476 or 320.363.2213

© Copyright 2010, Order of Saint Benedict, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. All rights reserved.