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An Ancient Scroll “Unwrapped”

An Ancient Scroll “Unwrapped”

The charred Ein Gedi fragment was unreadable since its discovery in 1970. A 3-D scan has revealed that this scroll contains a portion of Leviticus, including God’s personal name

IN 1970, archaeologists unearthed a charred scroll at Ein Gedi, Israel, near the western shore of the Dead Sea. They found the scroll while excavating a synagogue, which was burned when the village was destroyed, likely in the sixth century C.E. The condition of the scroll had made it illegible; it could not even be unrolled without damaging it. However, thanks to a 3-D scanning technique, the scroll was “unwrapped.” And with the aid of new digital imaging software, its contents can be read.

What has the scan revealed? The scroll is a Biblical text. What is left of it bears some verses from the opening part of the book of Leviticus. These verses include God’s personal name in Hebrew, using the Tetragrammaton. The find seems to date to between the second half of the first century C.E. and the fourth century C.E., making it the oldest Hebrew Bible scroll to be discovered since the Qumran manuscripts. “Until the virtual unrolling of the Ein Gedi fragment of Leviticus,” writes Gil Zohar in The Jerusalem Post, “there had been a millennium-long gap between the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls dating from the late Second Temple period and the medieval Aleppo Codex written in the 10th century CE.” According to experts, this scroll that was unwrapped virtually shows that the Masoretic text of the Torah “has been faithfully preserved over the millennia, and that copyists’ mistakes have not crept in.”