By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Along the shores of the Dead Sea, Dr. Hanan Eshel has been searching through caves, hoping to find the words of God.
But he took a break from his search to see some other discoveries as they travel to museums across America. As part of that trip, he spoke on campus Monday as the exhibit-“Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book”-comes to Dallas.
“Many people know stories in the Bible,” said Dr. Bill Noah, the exhibit’s curator, “but not the story of the Bible.”
The exhibit, which is cosponsored by the university, shows artifacts that trace the Bible’s history, from ancient Hebrew artifacts and the Dead Sea Scrolls to fragments of the Septuagint and a handwritten Wickliffe Bible. The exhibit is showing in Dallas’ Biblical Arts Center until Nov. 16.
Eshel, assistant professor in Bar-Ilan University’s department of land and Israel studies near Tel Aviv, has spent the last several years directing excavation in Qumran, where his team has discovered several ancient documents. Qumran is on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
The Qumran finds tell the story, Eshel said, of a people-the Essenes-who left Jerusalem to live in the nearby desert. Eshel discussed the findings in two lectures at Teague Special Events Center Monday.
Among the finds, Eshel’s team discovered 15,000 fragments of 530 scrolls. Eight additional fragments that were in private hands are being publicly displayed for the first time in the Dallas exhibit.
Noah, who debuted the exhibit in April in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said the exhibit includes a Texas-related artifact: the first-ever Bible brought into space, which came from Texas and was flown on Apollo 14.
“I wanted to tell the story through artifacts,” said the physician, who lives outside of Nashville. Noah invited Eshel to come to Dallas; he also invited ACU to put its name on the cosponsor list, said Jim Holmans, executive assistant to President Royce Money.
“We thought it would be a benefit” for students to see the exhibit, Holmans said. Noah brought portions of the exhibits to campus for Money and several professors in the College of Biblical Studies to view, Holmans said.
Eshel, meanwhile, continues searching for “Cave 12,” which would be the name of the cave should more scrolls be unearthed around the Dead Sea. Of the 11 caves found with ancient artifacts, Eshel said, three have yielded thousands of scrolls, documents and fragments, including copies of Genesis, Isaiah and Job.
Thus far, the Qumran excavations have been unhampered by unrest in the region, even though the site is in the West Bank, which is occupied by Israel and claimed by the Palestinians.
“I’m dealing with the past, so it’s very hard to talk about the future,” Eshel said, noting that while the site has captured the
site of Jews and Christians, Muslims have little interest. “The Palestinians, I think, will want Qumran back” because of its value as a tourist destination, he said.
Tickets for the Dallas Bible exhibit cost $21 for adults, $13 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 years old are admitted free.