Museum curator explores secrets of ancient manuscripts


Dr. Adolfo Roitman, curator of the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scroll collection at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, speaks at the KIVA about the meaning of Dead Sea Scrolls for Judaism and Christianity Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. Photo by Yolanda Li.

Sydney Baltrusaitis

Members of the Kent State community packed the Kiva Thursday evening to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the written origins of two major world religions.

Dr. Adolfo Roitman, museum curator for the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, spoke with an audience of approximately 400 Kent State students, faculty and community.

“When you know about the significance of the scrolls, you know about the content, the historical setting, and about the people behind the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Roitman said. “Then Christians and Jews, you know why we are brothers.”

The Shrine of the Book holds ancient Jewish manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956 and were written about 2,000 years prior to then, according to the museums website.

Roitman said the scrolls shed light on religious history.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls became a crucial discovery for the study of ancient Judaism and the origin of the Church,” Roitman said.

The scrolls got their name because they were found by Bedouins in caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea Scrolls help scholars understand early Jewish literature and history.

What is now called “Cave 1” contained the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls. Roitman said these seven scrolls were the most well-preserved, and perhaps among the most significant of the scrolls discovered.

Roitman said all seven of the first scrolls were written on animal skin. Some scrolls were written on papyrus.

“We read not from a plasma screen,” Roitman said. “We read from a scroll, a very ancient technology.”

After the first seven scrolls were discovered in Cave 1, Roitman said Bedouins excavated more caves along the Dead Sea. Roitman said “Cave 4” was the richest of the caves.

“Only in this cave, 15,000 fragments of manuscript were discovered,” Roitman said.

Roitman said 90 percent of the scrolls were written in Hebrew. Thousands of fragments had to be reconstructed with missing pieces.

“One scholar called the discovery the largest puzzle on earth,” Roitman said.

Connor Brennan, freshman English major said he enjoyed the lecture.

“Prior to coming here, I knew nothing what so ever about the Dead Sea Scrolls, where they come from. I knew they had important meanings to the roots of Judaism and Christianity but I didn’t know how deep they went,” Brennan said.

Elizabeth Sanderson, senior health service administrator major, said she found the lecture to be enlightening.

“I come from a very different religious background,” Sanderson said. “I find it really interesting.”

More recently, Roitman said five out of the eight scrolls in the collection at the Shrine were made digital and can be viewed on the museum website,

The event was sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and Department of Philosophy.

Contact Sydney Baltrusaitis at [email protected].