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October 07, 2008

The Dead Sea Scrolls Are in New York

Scrollspsan If you're planning a trip to New York before January 4, 2009, you may want to include a sightseeing tour to the Jewish Museum to view the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Before you go, you just might like to do a little preparatory reading. In 1991, historian Paul Johnson gave an excellent speech called "A Historian Looks At Jesus," discussing the historicity of Christianity and the archaeological findings that support it. 

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Mike Perry

I worked with this exhibition when it came to Seattle, and I'd strongly suggest that you "Go and Go Now." Don't delay, don't stall, and don't procrastinate.

The last two weeks we were open twelve hours a day, seven days a week operating at maximum capacity. People would call, desperate to go and willing to take any time slot. We had to tell them there were no openings for anyone at any time. The Pacific Science Center normally closes out the year about $500,000 in the red. Attendance at the exhibit was so great, it closed in the black for the first time in years. It expected about 180,000 people to attend. Attendance was over 225,000. The last few weeks, we couldn't have fited more people in.

That's because it's a marvelous exhibit. Just keep in mind that you'll barely be able to see the scrolls themselves. They have to be kept in special chambers in near darkness to protect them. What really made the exhibit great and had people calling friends to tell them to see it, were the marvelous cultural and historical background to the scrolls that the Israeli Antiquities Authority provides. Going will help you understand your Bible better.

And I wouldn't take too seriously the whining in the linked NY Times article about the exhibit being "not fully satisfying" because the exhibit doesn't "rehash the scandals and hypotheses that surround the scrolls." That's just the shallow, selectively scandal-mongering mindset at the NY Times, ever eager to get in a dig at some group they don't like. If you know who you hate, issues are simple and your focus on them obsessive. If you want to get a balanced understanding of the modern issues surrounding the scrolls, you won't get it from a NY Times-sized article or from two hours at an exhibit. You have to read many, many books. Israeli Antiquities did well to exclude controversies that couldn't be covered well in the limited space.

This exhibition at the Jewish Museum closes on January 4. Ours closed on January 6. If you live close to NYC, don't let the proximity of the holidays to the last two weeks lull you into thinking that'll be the best time to attend. That's what happened in Seattle. Many, many other people will be thinking the same thing. Go as soon as you can, perhaps with a group from your church to simplify transportation and parking. And if you have friends who'll be in town for the holidays, buy tickets for them now. If you wait until mid-to-late December, it may be too late and you'll be one of the frantic ones pleading, "But isn't there any time you have open?"

--Mike Perry, Seattle

View from Here

Mike Perry seems to have no knowledge of the criticism directed against the Seattle exhibit (which then went to San Diego) by University of Chicago historian Norman Golb and others. See, e.g., http://museum-ethics.blogspot.com/2007/06/chronology-of-dead-sea-scrolls.html

The Jewish Museum exhibit is of an entirely different sort than previous exhibits. See http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/dead-sea-scrolls-coming-new-york

and the Wall Street Journal and Jewish Week articles I have linked there in the comments.

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