Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Lifetime of Wisdom in the Dead Sea Scrolls

From UC News:

A Lifetime of Wisdom in Dead Sea Scrolls

Judaic Studies will collaborate with the Cincinnati Museum Center on its upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, and the department’s lecture series for this year will use the scrolls as its theme.

Date: 9/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Matthew Peyton, Cincinnati Museum Center

UC ingot   The Department of Judaic Studies hopes to prove this academic year there’s much to learn from the dead.

The department in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences is using the arrival of a massive exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Cincinnati Museum Center as educational inspiration for the 2012-13 Jennie L. and Jacob Lichter Lecture Series. Each year the department invites three renowned scholars to address the chosen theme of the series, and this year’s theme will be “Are the Dead Sea Scrolls Dead?” 
A fragment of text from the Book of War, part of the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls evoke a contemporary fascination that calls for reflection as well,” says Gila Safran Naveh, head of Judaic Studies. “By inviting three distinguished speakers intimately associated with the scrolls, the series will provide innovative information about one of the most dramatic discoveries of the last century.”

The traveling “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times” exhibit opens Nov. 16 and features a collection of the famous religious manuscripts and hundreds of related artifacts. The University of Cincinnati is an associate sponsor of the exhibit’s stop in Cincinnati. The fragile papers are inscribed with writings of profound religious and historical importance, including text from the Hebrew Bible. The first set of scrolls was discovered in 1947 after having remained hidden and well-preserved for 2,000 years in a system of caves in Qumran, in an area now known as the West Bank.

Judaic Studies students and faculty are collaborating with the museum on this project, but what really distinguishes the department’s efforts is how the lecture series will augment the meticulous display of the scrolls’ history at the exhibit. Naveh says the lectures advance the discussion of the scrolls beyond their origins and discovery, and look ahead at how lessons learned from the past 10 years of new research on the scrolls and further analysis will continue to shape the world’s spiritual and scholarly futures. Planned lectures include:

“Angels and Demons in the Dead Sea Scrolls” by Carol Newsom, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and recent president of the Society for Biblical Literature; Oct. 15 at the Cincinnati Museum Center

“What Do We Learn From the Dead Sea Scrolls?” by Hershel Shanks, president of the Biblical Archaeology Society, founder and editor of “Biblical Archaeology Review,” and author of numerous books; Nov. 12 at the Mayerson Jewish Community Center

“The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Popular Imagination” by Norman Golb, Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization at the University of Chicago; Nov. 19 at UC 
From left, Norman Golb, Carol Newsom and Hershel Shanks will give presentations during this year’s Lichter Lecture Series.

Steven Bowman, professor of Judaic Studies, and Matthew Kraus, director of undergraduate studies and assistant professor of Judaic studies, are helping coordinate the department’s partnership with the museum. Kraus calls the Dead Sea Scrolls a treasure because it’s rare to find written documents from one of the most important periods in the history of Judaism and Christianity.

“These documents existed in the time of Jesus and Paul, Hillel and Shammai, and early leaders of an emerging rabbinic Judaism,” Kraus says. "They are as close as we get to actually being there."

Judaic Studies students and faculty will be involved in the exhibit in a variety of ways throughout its roughly six-month run. In addition to the lecture series, the department is offering a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls in fall semester and is working together with the Classics Department to prepare podcasts. Judaic Studies also plans to host film screenings and book discussion groups for faculty, students and community members.

Judaic Studies’ uniquely qualified faculty – five of whom are actively engaged in Dead Sea Scrolls research and teach about them – will help train museum docents and develop some of the public programs to be offered as part of the exhibit. And not only will students receive incomparable experiential learning through attending the exhibit, they also will be involved in special family and educational programming held in conjunction with the event.

“We bring our expertise to enhance the community experience of the exhibit as a whole, and that helps the museum fulfill its mission of enriching and educating the public,” Kraus says. “It’s a mutually beneficial partnership.”

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