Discovered in caves near the Dead Sea in 1946, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been hailed as the greatest archaeological discovery of modern times. Among these ancient documents were some of the oldest copies of biblical books known to exist in the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages. Also among the Dead Sea Scrolls were a number of other ancient Jewish texts that teach us much about the Bible and the origins of Christianity and Judaism. Southwestern Seminary is honored to possess the largest collection of Dead Sea Scrolls of any academic institution in the United States.
The Phillips Collection consists of fragments from eight biblical scrolls. These include a large piece from an ancient scroll of the book of Leviticus known as Paleo-Leviticus. Paleo-Leviticus receives its name from the fact that this copy of Leviticus is written in an ancient Hebrew script called “Paleo Hebrew.” This particular copy of Leviticus has been dated by scholars to around 100 B.C.
All but one of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Phillips Collection are made of parchment (that is, leather) and are written in Hebrew. One of the scroll fragments, from a copy of the book of Daniel dating to the first century B.C., however, is made of papyrus (paper) and is written in Aramaic. This fragment of Daniel includes lines from Daniel 6, the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, and Daniel 7, Daniel’s vision of the 4 beasts and the “son of man.”
In addition to the Dead Sea Scroll fragments, the Phillips Collection boasts of an ancient wooden bowl and a stylus (an ancient writing utensil) from the Dead Sea region. Visitors to the Phillips Library can also view on display several facsimiles (exact replicas) of some of the most famous Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is a nearly complete copy of the book of Isaiah nearly 23 feet in length, and a scroll composed by ancient the Dead Sea Scrolls sect called The Rule of the Community.