Professors present research on Dead Sea Scroll fragments at SBL

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Old Testament scholars presented their research on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments during the 2011 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in San Francisco, Nov. 19-22.
 
Southwestern Seminary currently houses the largest collection of fragments owned by an institution of higher education within the United States. The seminary will host an exclusive exhibit of the scrolls from July 2, 2012, to Jan. 11, 2013. To learn more about Southwestern Seminary’s exclusive “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible” exhibit, visit seethescrolls.com.
 
At the annual SBL meeting, Southwestern Seminary professors introduced these scrolls to the academic community, displaying Southwestern’s commitment to contribute to the field of biblical scholarship. Faculty members who presented research include: George Klein, professor of Old Testament; Eric Mitchell, associate professor of Old Testament and Archaeology; Ishwaran Mudliar, assistant professor of Old Testament; Joshua Williams, assistant professor of Old Testament; and Ryan Stokes, assistant professor of Old Testament. Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds and director of the Tandy Institute for Archaeology, introduced this session of SBL.
 
“The presentation was received positively,” Stokes said. “Scholars were complimentary of the quality of our work and suggested some potentially fruitful avenues of investigation as our research moves forward.
 
“Southwestern’s scrolls contain readings of Old Testament passages that are nowhere else attested,” Stokes added. “We are just beginning to comprehend their importance for the field, but we expect them to shed light on how we came to have the Old Testament text that we have today.”
 
According to Ortiz, scholars at SBL were amazed by the contribution that Southwestern’s scroll fragments have for Dead Sea Scroll scholarship.
 
“The accumulation of data and how it was presented showed that these were some important fragments,” Ortiz said. He noted that Southwestern’s professors displayed an in-depth knowledge of the particular fragments they researched as well as the implications these fragments have for a broader field of research.
 
“With the initial announcement of Southwestern’s acquisition, all the emphasis was placed on the purchase of the scrolls,” Ortiz said. “So that is the only thing that people knew about Southwestern’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments.
 
“After this presentation, the perception has shifted, and now they’re seeing that Southwestern is serious about becoming a center for biblical research, as the Dead Sea Scrolls affect biblical scholarship.”
 
According to Ortiz, seminary professors will continue this contribution to biblical scholarship by placing Southwestern’s fragments within the larger corpus of the scrolls. They have also contacted scholars outside the seminary who are researching other unpublished scroll fragments. In time, the seminary will publish its scroll fragments in a major peer-reviewed journal on Dead Sea Scroll research.
 
During the SBL meeting, Southwestern also invited scholars from outside the seminary to present research. Ortiz noted that Southwestern was “very fortunate to have top scholars on the panel.” Bruce Zuckerman, director of the West Semitic Research Project and associate professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Southern California, led a team that photographed Southwestern’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments last September. During SBL, he discussed the imaging technology that allows scholars to publish ancient texts in high-definition as well as to read otherwise illegible texts.
 
Peter Flint, professor at Trinity Western University and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, and Sydnie White Crawford, professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, discussed the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relevance to biblical studies.
 
In particular, Flint argued that Southwestern’s scroll fragments, alongside others, have revealed which biblical texts were most widely read by the Jewish community that preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls and hid them in the caves near Qumran. As such, the scrolls not only illuminate the biblical text, but they also inform scholars about those who copied and read the scrolls 2,000 years ago, during Jesus’ lifetime.

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