Dead Sea Scrolls coming to KC
KANSAS CITY – The Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to Kansas City’s Union Station early next year, and representatives from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) are helping to promote the only Midwest stop for the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.
Both Stephen J. Andrews, director of the Morton-Seats Institute of Archaeology at the seminary, and R. Philip Roberts, MBTS president, are on the programming committee for the exhibit, which is recognized by archaeologists as the most important find of the 20th century.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves along the western shore of the sea from 1947-1956 and date back to a period ranging from approximately 250 B.C. to 135 A.D. Before their discovery, the oldest existing manuscripts from parts of the Hebrew Bible came from about 800-1000 A.D.
The Kansas City exhibit of six original scroll fragments and four replicas will be on display from Feb. 8 to May 13.
Andrews said the masterful touch of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is bringing more than 100 artifacts discovered at the ancient site of Qumran near the Dead Sea, will create a memorable setting for the Scrolls.
“The videos and the display will tell the story of their discovery and the meaning for the Dead Sea Scrolls today, so I think it’s going to be kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the people here in the Midwest—Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri,” Andrews said. “Churches ought to consider bringing a busload of people to come and see the Scrolls and the display, and hear about their discovery and their significance.
“I know that people carry their Bibles and go through and sit down in that last section there and as they see the fragments of the Scrolls just basically cry. They are so overwhelmed with emotion in seeing actual texts that are as old as they are copied and transmitted to us of the Word of God, and how faithful those transmitters were, that they are just overwhelmed with amazement at how valuable the Bible is. I’m excited about this. I possibly could just cry with joy over seeing some of these things. After all, this is the Word of God and it should be something we meditate on and take joy in and treasure.”
Raymond Shubinski, curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Union Station and director of Science City & Attractions, said an estimated 200,000 people will visit the exhibit.
“This is probably the most important exhibition we have ever hosted,” Shubinski said.
Andrews noted that through the seminary, two collections of historical significance are being offered to the officials who are coordinating the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. The Morton Collection of Biblical Artifacts and The Rawlings Foundation Collection of Older Bibles are being lined up as accessories to the Scrolls. William H. Morton is honored with one-half of the name of the institute that Andrews now directs, and Harold Rawlings was honored recently with the seminary’s presidential medallion which is the highest honor awarded by the seminary to individuals who have made a significant impact on Midwestern and Christian higher education.
Shubinski added that the Rawlings collection of early King James and Geneva Bibles is “highly significant,” mentioning the 1541 edition of Martin Luther’s German Bible as another precious possession of Rawlings.
Midwestern is offering a one-day workshop in early February to discuss the Scrolls. Plans are also being made to offer an Introduction to the Scrolls class on campus, and seminary students are being made aware of the opportunity to serve as volunteers for the exhibit.
Roberts said the Midwestern faculty would be happy to do presentations on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Missouri Baptist churches or associations in the months leading up to the start of the exhibit. Contact Andrews at (816) 414-3773 to arrange a speaker.