Digital Religion: Dead Sea Scrolls Now on Google

Michael Foley October 3, 2011 0
Digital Religion: Dead Sea Scrolls Now on Google

Digitization has infused itself into many aspects of our daily lives. And now, even into our religious lives. Last week, many people around the globe celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the 2-day period marking the New Year in the Jewish faith. It seems fitting then, that the New Year was rung in with a special gift from Google.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has partnered up with Google to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a breakthrough, a step towards merging our technological, internet driven lives, with the more traditional values represented in our religious beliefs.

First though, some history: The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves along the Dead Sea, hence the name. The scrolls, a collection of parchment and papyrus, consist of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible as well as some extra-biblical texts. The scrolls are written mostly in Hebrew but also include some texts written in Aramaic and Greek.  So fragile are the scrolls that even though they are on display at the Israel Museum, they need to be rotated every 3-4 months to minimize exposure. So suffice it to say that, reading these precious parchments, even once one has become fluent in Hebrew, is a bit of a pain.

But now, the scrolls and the stories they tell, are accessible to anyone with access to the web. Using the Google tool on the Israel Museum’s website, one can see all 972 texts in perfect clarity. The browser has the ability to zoom into the text as well as allow the user to read an English translation. You can access the scrolls here.

No matter your religious observance or affiliation, this should hold some special meaning. For the first time in history, a very sacred text that few have been able to see, is accessible to the masses. And with an English translation right there, gaining the knowledge from these texts made all the more simple. I imagine many more historic texts, like the Dead Seas scrolls, will be uploaded to Google. And now, as the scrolls lose their battle with time, the wisdom they contain will not fade.

Whether you are seeking religious epiphany, want to brush up on your ancient history, or just like tech stuff… the fact that you can read the Dead Sea scrolls online is remarkable. For all of time, technology has been moving our civilization forward. The age of the internet has sped that process up like never before and there has been this fear that we will lose our traditions, forget our history and lose a sense of who we are as a people. But with projects like this, we can and never will forget where we came from.

You can now view the Dead Sea Scrolls online through Google


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