World's Oldest Ten Commandments Scroll Comes to NYC for the Holidays

The oldest, best-preserved manuscript of the Ten Commandments will go on display in New York City beginning Friday, reminding people amid the hustle and bustle, of the real reason for the season.

Part of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times exhibition, the newly added artifact will be featured at Discovery Times Square for a special two-week event and is already expecting to draw tens of thousands of visitors.

 “The holiday season is a time for families and outings, and is one of the most religious times of the year for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike,” Kristin Romney, curatorial consultant for the Discovery Times Square told The Christian Post.

“The Ten Commandments, whose text is the root of western thought and religion, is one of the most important religious documents of our time and we are hoping that families will consider stopping by, and taking a few steps back in time to see a text that has influenced the world in such a large way.”

Dating back to 2,100 years ago, between 50 BCE and 1 BCE, the Ten Commandments scroll is one of two surviving texts of the Ten Commandments from before Christ’s time and is also the most complete.

The other text, The Nash Papyrus, retained at the Cambridge University Library, is less complete and in fragments, dating back to 150-100 BCE.

Discovered in 1952 near Khirbet, Qumran, the Ten Commandments scroll is “among the trove of ancient writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls,” which were found initially by Bedouin shepherds between 1947 and 1956 in a series of caves near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, according to a press release.

Approximately 900 manuscripts were said to have been found in the caves.

Made of animal skin, the Ten Commandments parchment manuscript measures 18 inches long by 3 inches tall and is written in Hebrew.

The identity of the scribe still remains unknown, although many scholars believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Ten Commandments one, were written by members of a sect who broke away from mainstream Judaism and lived in the desert from the 3rd century BCE until 68 CE before the Romans destroyed their community.

The scroll contains text from Deuteronomy 5, the fifth book of the Old Testament, where Moses explains to the Israelites God’s covenant with his people, reminding the younger generation who were to enter into the promise land of God’s commands, which began with “You shall have no others gods before me.”

The 15-day exhibition period of the Ten Commandments is one of the longest that The Israel Antiquities Authority has allowed outside Israel because of the scroll’s universal importance, fragility and age. Promptly following the exhibition, the scroll will be returned back to Israel.

“One of the main mandates of the lender, The Israel Antiquities Authority, is to educate people about the past and about their collection,” Romney described to CP. “So although the piece is fragile, it is important to give people a chance to see it up close and in person.”

Because of the fragility, however, no one will be allowed to touch the scroll, which is sensitive to humidity, light, and variations in temperature.

The scroll is already gathering much interest in the city, with a majority of the presale tickets sold.

“Ever since we put the presale notice for the tickets, we are almost booked,” Romney said. “We’re already at capacity for much of the weekend. So the response has been incredible just with the presale.”

The last time the piece was on display three years ago in Canada, people waited in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the scroll, the consultant revealed. “It would be wonderful to see the same response in New York.”

“The Ten Commandments is something that really resonates across all three monotheistic religions of the west which is Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Romney stated. “This is a very holy time of the year for all three religions so bringing the Ten Commandments to New York at this time really felt like it was the right. If there was any great time to put this on display, it is this holiday season.”

While many are caught up in the material aspect of the holiday season, the museum wants people “to take a second and reflect about the true meaning of the holiday season” with something as impressive as the earliest manuscript of the Ten Commandments.

In addition to the Ten Commandments scroll, exhibition highlights will include more than 500 artifacts from the biblical to the Byzantine period in Israel. The artifacts and scrolls combine to provide “a captivating and intriguing look at one of the most influential periods in history when Judaism arose, the Roman Empire’s dominance was soon to ebb, and the seeds of Christianity emerged.”

Never before seen objects including mosaics, stone carvings, and household items such as jewelry and ceramics will also be displayed for visitors to witness.

Lastly, the exhibition will feature a scale recreation of a section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, which will include an authentic three-ton stone from the wall in the historic city.

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