Dead Sea Scrolls on display in Granite Bay

Bayside Church hosts an exhibit featuring the earliest-known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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When a pastor at a local church saw fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in person, he knew he had to bring this archaeological treasure to Granite Bay. So he did. Bayside Church is hosting the fragments as part of an exhibit called “From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America.” These earliest-known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century — or for Pastor Ray Johnston and many other Christians, of all time. The texts date back to around 150 B.C. “When I saw (the scrolls) for the first time, I got chills,” Johnston said. “I’m inches away from the real deal.” Now, exhibit visitors can also get close to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The exhibit will feature five scroll fragments and dozens of other biblical items, including parts of the oldest Greek New Testament papyri, a 17th century Hebrew Sefer Torah scroll, a 5,000-year-old cuneiform tablet, an original King James Bible from 1611 to 1640, the Eliot Indian Bible and the Bible that flew to the moon aboard Apollo 14 in 1971. A Gutenberg Bible leaf will also be on display. This was the first major book printed with movable type printing, making the Bible available to the mass population. Several other displayed artifacts highlight life in the region during the period when the scrolls were written. “It’s a chance to get up close and personal with thousands of years of history that forms the foundation of our faith,” Johnston said. Bayside Church renovated a building at its complex on Sierra College Boulevard to serve as a temporary museum. Visitors wander through a darkened cave-like setting, which depicts the caves of the northwest rim of the Dead Sea near Qumran, where a Bedouin shepherd boy found the scrolls in 1947. As shepherd boys looked for a lost sheep, one threw a stone into a cave and heard a clinking sound, soon discovering the artifacts. Archeologists unearthed roughly 15,000 fragments comprising 900 scrolls between 1947 and 1956. The scrolls were hidden in the caves when the Roman army invaded the ancient settlement of Qumran — east of Jerusalem — in 68 A.D. Bayside Church’s makeshift museum features about 25 stations and takes an hour to go through, said ministry development manager Denise Belden. She expects between 25,000 and 30,000 people to visit the exhibit before it closes in mid-May. “People will come for a couple of reasons,” Belden said. “They’ll come for the historical connection and they’ll come for the faith connection.” Bayside Church is hosting the exhibit in conjunction with Azusa Pacific University, which acquired the artifacts in August 2009. Johnston serves on the university’s board of trustees. During a board meeting following the acquisition of the scrolls, Johnston had a chance to see the manuscripts. He said the experience left him profoundly moved. At first, he didn’t think he could actually bring the fragments to his church. “I never thought it could happen,” Johnson said. “But that doesn’t stop us.” To supplement the exhibit, the church will host two guest lecturers from William Jessup University: Academic Dean Dr. David Nystrom and professor Dr. Merilyn Copland. Johnson hopes the exhibit and guest speakers will give his congregation and other visitors a reverence for Christian history and the Bible. Sena Christian can be reached at ---------- The “From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America” exhibit takes place Friday, April 9, to Saturday, May 15, at Bayside Church, 8191 Sierra College Blvd. in Granite Bay. Exhibit times are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available online, and cost $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children 5 years old and younger are free. For more information, visit Lecture Times: The Exciting Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls Dr. Merilyn Copeland April 14, Room B120, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. The Relationship between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament Dr. Merilyn Copeland April 21, Room B120, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. What’s In an Ancient Library: the Biblical and Non-Biblical Texts at Qumran Azusa Pacific Professor April 22, Room B222, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. The Roman Social Context and the Dead Sea Scrolls Dr. David Nystrom May 4, Room B222, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. How Our Bible Came to Us Dr. David Nystrom May 11, Room B222, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.