JERUSALEM — The Israel Museum in Jerusalem launched its Dead Sea Scrolls Project Monday, placing five of the ancient texts on line for the general public to study, the museum announced.
The website — http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/ —was developed in partnership with Google and displays searchable, high-resolution images of the texts, as well as short explanatory videos and background information.
The five scrolls that have been so far digitized include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll.
The Great Isaiah Scroll, inscribed with the Book of Isaiah and dating from about 125 BC, is the only complete ancient copy of any biblical book in existence.
The War Scroll dates to the late first century BC or early first century AD and describes a confrontation between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness”, which would last 49 years, ending with the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of Temple practice according to their beliefs.
The Temple Scroll, from the early first century AD, claims to provide the details of God’s instructions for the construction and operation of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Community Rule sheds light on the community’s way of life, dealing with subjects such as the admission of new members, conduct at communal meals, prayer, cleansing rituals, and theological doctrines.
The Commentary on Habakkuk interprets the first two chapters of the biblical book of the prophet Habakkuk.
The scrolls, said Museum Director James S. Snyder, “are of paramount importance among the touchstones of monotheistic world heritage, and they represent unique highlights of our Museum’s encyclopedic holdings.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves at Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, following a chance discovery by a Bedouin shepherd boy.
Written between about 200 BC and 70 AD, they include the oldest Biblical texts ever discovered, and many historians regard them as one of the most important finds of the 20th Century.
Most of the manuscripts were written around the time of Christ’s birth, in what Israeli historians label as the period of the Second Jewish Biblical Temple, which was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD — a formative time for both Judaism and Christianity.
The vast majority of the scrolls — written mostly in Hebrew with a smaller number in Aramaic or Greek — survived as fragments. Only a handful are intact, but scholars have managed to reconstruct a large part.
Israeli scholars say the scrolls’ discovery marked a turning point in the study of Jewish and Christian history.