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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ink & Blood in St. Petersburg, FL (Part I)

Today I went to the Florida International Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, and visited its Ink & Blood exhibit.

Ink & Blood features "Sacred Treasures of the Bible," ranging from the Dead Sea Scrolls to America's first Bible. Yet it is more than that, the exhibit also demonstrates the history of written text in the Western world.

Ironically enough, that history (and some believe history itself) begins in ancient Mesopotamia, otherwise known as Iraq, where the oldest known form of writing is found. This form of writing called Proto Cuneiform was done on clay tablets, and consisted mainly of photographic writing approximately 5000 years ago. The first example in the exhibit is dated from Baghdad circa 3100 B.C.

The photo above shows a later version of pictographic writing, called Cuneiform script, used by the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians. These tables are dated around 2000 B.C.

I wonder what the first thing ever written said? It was probably, "you owe me money".

This photo here (above) is the Marzeah Papyrus, dated Seventh Century B.C. and found in Egypt. Many believe this is the world's oldest known example of Hebrew / Moabitic writing, and the first mention of the phrase "Elohim," a name for God in the Old Testament. However, this is not universally recognized by academics. Some are making the case that this is a forgery.

I don't think it is. Why? Because I want to think I saw the real deal. It's all about faith anyway, right?

This one is definitely about someone owing money to somebody.

Chronologically, we get to the main event of the exhibit, the Dead Sea Scrolls. The exhibit quickly points out what you can easily see above, the title "scrolls" is a misnomer. The artifacts are mostly fragments; they are a puzzle that archeologists are still dealing with today.

This particular one, from Isaiah 24:16-17, from the 2nd-1st Century B.C. If your curious, if it were all together it would read:
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One.
But I say, I pine away,
I pine away. Woe is me!
For the treacherous deal treacherously,
the treacherous deal very treacherously.

Terror, and the pit, and the snare
are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
Now I need an old Jewish person to explain to me what "pine away" means.

The exhibit featured a number of the scroll fragments from different parts of the Old Testament.

One of the best preserved, or at least largest of the earliest documents is this Torah scroll fragment, which is dated at 1200-1300 A.D. and credited to Egypt. What you see here above is parts of Genesis written on parchment.

Ink & Blood notes that the document, written in Masoretic text, is significant in that it shows very little differences from documents found in Cave 1 at Qumran (dated at 200 B.C.) with the Isaiah text from the Ben Asher codex (dated 895 A.D.).

This proves a great deal of preservation of the book of Isaiah over a 1000 year period. A nearby sign postulates that Jewish leaders may have noticed "textual differences" by the late 1st century (due to scribal error, possibly) between different versions of the Torah, and Rabbis formed a process to abate it.

The exhibit's information promotes the notion that this took place at the Council of Jamnia (c. 90 A.D.). This, like almost everything relating to the Bible, seems to be a matter of dispute. Regardless of when this happened, members of the Jewish faith (and Christians too) can take great pride in the accuracy of these texts.

In this time period, the idea of a codex was developed, which is the format that most closely resembles the books we buy today (we don't use scrolls very much). Ink & Blood suggests that it was developed by members of the persecuted early Christian movement in the 2nd Century, in an effort to conceal their sacred texts. This method of collecting the written word soon became popular with other groups (long before Christianity did). If the codex had not been developed, it's unlikely that the Bible as we know it today would exist.

That was the first of many advancements for producing books that was on display. In future posts, I'll cover early New Testament writings and the advancement of mass produced books.


I know.