Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Like being back in Grad School

Yesterday afternoon I trekked down to Union Station to see the exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Parts of it made me panic; I felt like I was back in Grad School. What is the difference between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint? Between a text being pseudepigraphal and apocryphal? And how can you keep the Essenes and Sadducees straight?

I've always been more intrigued by the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt (from which we got Gnostic texts like the Gospel of Thomas) than the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves of Qumran (which gave us, among many other things, two-thousand year old Jewish sectarian literature.) My interest in the Gnostic texts is fueld mostly by the fact that I learned Coptic when I was 19. Had I learned Aramaic or Hebrew instead, the opposite would be true.

What was most interesting was seeing people from various faith communities - nuns in habit, Jews with yarmulkes, evangelicals in church T-shirts, etc. - intensely taking the tour of the exhibit. It will be interesting to see for whom this exhibit influences their faith and self-understanding.