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Google Brings the Dead Sea Scrolls To the Digital Age 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the nothing-is-dead-on-the-internet dept.
skade88 writes "Google has been working to bring many old manuscripts to the internet at high resolution for all to see. From their announcement: 'A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century. Today, we're helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before.'"
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Google Brings the Dead Sea Scrolls To the Digital Age

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  • I've been typing recaptchas every day like a maniac for years. Where are they offering these works I helped digitize?
  • Some extra info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by butalearner (1235200) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @08:06PM (#42332041)

    I can't find the percentage of identified vs. unidentified, but among the identified scrolls:

    40% are copies of text from the Hebrew Bible
    30% are copies of texts not canonized in the Hebrew Bible (i.e. fanfiction) from the Second Temple Period like the Books of Enoch, Jubilees, Tobit, Sirach, and additional psalms
    30% are "sectarian manuscripts" - texts that describe rules or a set of beliefs held by certain groups within Judaism.

    • by lucm (889690)

      30% are copies of texts not canonized in the Hebrew Bible (i.e. fanfiction) from the Second Temple Period

      For using the expression "fanfiction" to describe Dead Sea scrolls, you sir deserve a mod point I don't have.

      Disclaimer: I opted out of the moderation system because I do not trust collective wisdom.

    • Re:Some extra info (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @08:41PM (#42332289)

      30% are copies of texts not canonized in the Hebrew Bible (i.e. fanfiction)

      I don't think you can characterize ancient texts that way. Canonization is a complex "theopolitical" process, and what gets in and what is left out doesn't necessarily have much to do with its quality, or who wrote it, or when (unless of course it was written after the canonization process was complete.) It's mostly a matter of whether the influential people in the society that does the canonization think a document supports their views or conflicts with them.

      • A timely example is the story of the Maccabees. Now, all that gets talked about is the successful rebellion. You don't hear much about the Hasmoneans after the end of the rebellion. Turns out that they weren't all that nice once they were in charge, so they were intentionally left out of the Bible.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Sounds pretty much like what happens with, for example, Star Wars books, cartoons, etc. If you've got official sanction, either pre- or post- production, you're canon. Otherwise, you're not, and the compatibility of your work with the head honcho's vision is a major factor in the decision. Admittedly, with modern publishing and production money changes hands... oh, no, that's another probable similarity.

    • Why are you ignoring the fact that the "Book of Enoch 1" was the 3rd most popular book in the Dead Sea Scrolls??
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_sea_scrolls#Biblical_books_found [wikipedia.org]

      Besides, Enoch is quoted in Jude 14.

    • And here I thought all of it, canonized or not, was fan fiction of a sort. It's certainly mostly fiction, historical fiction in some cases but fiction nonetheless.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      30% are copies of texts not canonized in the Hebrew Bible (i.e. fanfiction)

      You mean, "The Gospel According to Mary Sue"?

  • Pooh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @08:29PM (#42332211)

    The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

    Atlantis was discovered hundreds of times during the 20th Century. Surely that adds up to more than a single discovery of some scrolls.

    On a serious note, I'm skeptical of the claim anyway. We discovered entire civilizations we never previously knew existed, and a great number of unknown texts, entire unknown languages and writing systems, etc.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

      Atlantis was discovered hundreds of times during the 20th Century. Surely that adds up to more than a single discovery of some scrolls.

      On a serious note, I'm skeptical of the claim anyway. We discovered entire civilizations we never previously knew existed, and a great number of unknown texts, entire unknown languages and writing systems, etc.

      Back up your claims with links, otherwise this is a humor post.

      • The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

        Atlantis was discovered hundreds of times during the 20th Century. Surely that adds up to more than a single discovery of some scrolls.

        On a serious note, I'm skeptical of the claim anyway. We discovered entire civilizations we never previously knew existed, and a great number of unknown texts, entire unknown languages and writing systems, etc.

        Back up your claims with links, otherwise this is a humor post.

        Perhaps I erred by mixing humor and not-humor in one post, but if you're actually interested it will take you about 30 seconds to get a list started using Google. I mentioned a few in another branch of this thread.

  • by SIR_Taco (467460) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @08:58PM (#42332405) Homepage

    "...at a quality never seen before.'"

    With the exception of when I saw them at the Royal Ontario Museum.

    At a quality never seen before *online* maybe

  • by shadowofwind (1209890) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @09:33PM (#42332669)

    It might be worth at least skimming a translation of the scrolls before forming a strong opinion about their content and value.

    Yeah I know what site this is, and I'm not new here.

    Something I think is worth keeping in mind....Just as there is ignorance now that rivals ancient ignorance, there was also intelligence in ancient times that rivals the best the modern world has to offer. Though its true that religious writings are largely fiction, a lot of very intelligent people worked on them, and there is significant understanding mixed in unevenly with the nonsense.

    Modern academics are very good at understanding subjects where the same observations consistently yield the same statistical distribution of results. They're even better at studying things that can be perturbed in a controlled way, and dynamics that can be modeled well mathematically. They're generally very bad at understanding anything else. Many go so far as to assert that if a phenomena can't be modeled in a predictive way then for practical purposes it doesn't even exist. In this manner they ignore everything they're not good at solving. In my experience some ancient scriptures describe discoverably real aspects of life that modern experts are mostly ignorant of.

    I didn't find much of interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but a lot of that is just me personally, it doesn't mean there's nothing there for anyone. Other old writings such as in the Nag Hammadi discovery have a lot of interesting content though, notwithstanding that they're not trustworthy as standards of truth. And I don't mean interesting from a historical perspective, I mean there is insight there that can not be found elsewhere.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "In my experience some ancient scriptures describe discoverably real aspects of life that modern experts are mostly ignorant of."

      Got some examples? I'm serious... curious whether you're referring to miracles and such or some of the philosophically valuable material. If the latter, I probably disagree that modern experts are ignorant of it, but agree that what passes as an "expert" currently may well be.

      • OK. I mean both, and can give different kinds of examples.

        In Patanjali's yoga sutras, we're told that we can obtain definite knowledge on subjects through contemplation. This contrasts to the modern method of reasoning about sensate experience, performing experiments, and checking results. As I see it, that belief amounts to a kind of appeal to authority, an 'inner' authority, corroborated by the authority historically accepted religious teachers. So its a self-reinforcing belief system, and when they'r

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @03:28AM (#42334443)

    A lot of comments here are dismissing the entire idea of God but they don't seem to have really wrapped their head around 'God.' Generally, God, as known in the old and new testament, is a being...a force...a 'father' who transcends the world and the entire universe and has existed forever and will always exist. God created everything that we see including all of the laws and relationships that define our understanding of 'science.' It is the 'actions' of God that define our understanding of him in the old testament. This is the God who delivered miraculous military victories in the face of overwhelming enemies, who caused bushes to burn but not be consumed, who delivered plagues and pestilence upon enemies, who parted the sea allowing escape, and who fed a people wandering in the desert, gave them a code to live by, and provided a new land for them to live in. We can dismiss all of these events as 'fables', secure in our scientific understanding that tells us such things are 'impossible' but we cannot deny that these events were very real to people who claimed to have experienced them. Similarly, there was a man who lived in what is now Israel approximately 2,000 years ago and performed a variety of miraculous actions before returning to life following a cruel execution. We cannot deny that the events that occurred 2,000 years ago were so amazing to the people who experienced them that their lives were transformed forever and they began living according to a new 'code' that has persisted to the present and is, coincidentally, the basis for most of our current civilization and law. Finally, we cannot deny that a significant portion of the entire population of the world believes in the principles taught by that man and follows them in their daily lives. So those dusty scrolls from 2200 to 1900 years ago, found in those old caves, represent documents produced during a time of religious ferment and upheaval. We are no different than those people were. If there were a religious figure today who was giving sight to the blind, curing uncurable diseases, causing paraplegics to give up their wheelchairs, changing water into wine, multiplying food at the local Safeway by 1000x, teaching us to love others, and then returning to life to walk among us after being beheaded by evildoers, we would be just as impressed as those people were then. Of course, those who were not actually present would be just a little skeptical and their descendants even more so...but, with the power of God, they would recognize the truth for what it was...and so do we.

  • by DSS11Q13 (1853164) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @04:02AM (#42334581)

    I also have a Master's degree in New Testament and Early Christianity from Harvard where I spent a lot of time studying them as well. I thought I would just repost what I did last year when slashdot ran an almost identical story. The questions that seem to arise when something like this is posted are perennial so I hope this answers some of yours or clarifies some things, and, as before, feel free to ask any questions you might have and I'll do my best to give a scholarly answer:

    It's taken this long to publish partly for bureaucratic reasons, but mostly because there are thousands of fragments that are basically shredded wheat that had to be put back together, reconstructed, translated, categorized, edited, and published. This was also around the time the State of Israel was formed, and the cluster**** that was caused a lot of delays and red tape.They have not been kept secret, they have been steadily published in the DJD series (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert) for the last 50 years as this tremendous task has been accomplished. As someone said above, yes people were not very careful with them by today's standards, people smoked around them, drank coffee, and used the handiest invention that had just come out-"scotch tape"- to piece them together. All that said, with the exception of fragments in private collections, the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls were published in the early 90's.

    This is not publishing anything new, or secret. It is being scanned and put online for the public, who doesn't have a clue what to do with them, can look at them. Scholars have known how to look at them, in the DJD, and in a half a dozen other widely available publications that have been around for decades.

    Facts the dilettantes have said in these comments that have made me [face_palm]:
    The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS hereafter) were composed in Qumran, not Jerusalem. (some of the stuff is clearly copies of other documents that circulated elsewhere however)
    The Qumran community responsible for the scrolls existed between the 2nd century BCE and ca 70CE during the Roman war.
    There is nothing in the DSS about Jesus
    There are, however, certain strong affinities between things we find in the DSS and the New Testament, including the method of scripture interpretation, some apocalyptic ideas, as well as the stuff you would expect people with the same basic religion, ethnicity and geography to share
    There is nothing damaging or threatening to the modern religions of Judaism and Christianity. To be sure, the DSS are of tremendous importance for contextualizing their origin and telling us what life was like back then, but this is not a conspiracy to keep them hidden.

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