NOBTS artifacts to complement display of Dead Sea Scrolls

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--When the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit opens in Mobile this month, the famous biblical scrolls will be the stars of the show. However, ancient artifacts and rare documents from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will play a supporting role.

The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Ala., will host the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit Jan. 20 to April 24. The exhibit showcases 12 authentic Dead Sea scrolls on loan from the Israeli Antiquities Authority. NOBTS is one of the sponsors helping bring the exhibit to the Southeast.

The exhibit includes seven 2,000-year-old biblical scrolls and five sectarian documents found at the Qumran site in Israel. The biblical scrolls contain the oldest surviving text of Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah. One of 29 Deuteronomy fragments found at Qumran, the one that will be displayed in Mobile, is the only one to include all Ten Commandments.

Ellen Herron, curator of the exhibit, visited NOBTS in December to select items to help place the Dead Sea Scrolls in their historical context.

“What I really wanted to do was show people that you don’t have to go to Israel or London or even Washington, D.C., to see significant archaeological artifacts and rare books,” Herron said. “[NOBTS] has some lovely things, I was pleasantly surprised.”

At the exhibit, a timeline display places the Dead Sea Scrolls in context with significant historical figures from the Mediterranean region. The timeline includes Egyptian pharaoh Khufu, who built the great pyramids, Abraham, David, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Constantine and Muhammad.

Herron said the timeline utilizes a number of pieces from the seminary’s Bible Lands Museum at the Center for Archaeological Research. Fourth millennium B.C. pottery cups, Egyptian bronze statues, cuneiform tablets, mosaic fragments, clay figurines and a piece of Roman pottery from NOBTS are in the display.

Herron designed another portion of the exhibit to address the history of biblical translation. She said many people today do not have a clear understanding of how the Bible has been preserved and passed down through the centuries.

“I wanted to give people an idea of the history of this text that is so central to the lives of so many people,” she said. “I wanted to show some significant translations of the Bible through history. I can take what people have just learned about the scrolls and say, ‘Here is how that carried forward after the scrolls.’”

During her trip to NOBTS, Herron selected several historical texts from the library’s Rare Books Collection. The John T. Christian Library will loan manuscript leaves from a 12th-century Psalter, Guttenberg Bible leaf and several early English translations.

“This is an honor for the seminary to loan some of our collection to this exhibit,” said Steven Ortiz, director of the Center for Archaeological Research at NOBTS. “It highlights the work of the seminary by displaying portions of our unique collections.”

Ortiz is excited about the opportunity to display the NOBTS pieces that are kept in storage due to a shortage of space at the seminary. He said that the NOBTS collection offers a unique look into the everyday life of ancient near eastern people and provides insight into the biblical text.

The Exploreum is a nonprofit science museum located in downtown Mobile. Founded in 1998, the museum occupies a $21 million facility complete with interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater.

Tickets for the exhibit are $17 for adults, $15 for senior adults (60 and older) and youth ages 13-18. Admission for children is $12. Additional information about the Exploreum and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit is available at

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