FORT WORTH -- A model of Jerusalem, a replica of the Western Wall and one of the largest collections of Dead Sea Scroll fragments ever assembled in this country will be on display starting today at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.Mayor Betsy Price, a representative of the Israeli consulate and other dignitaries are expected for the opening of "Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bibles: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures" at the MacGorman Performing Arts Center. The exhibit runs through Jan. 11.Visitors will walk through a cavelike opening and come upon the scrolls, believed to be the oldest existing fragments of the Bible. The scrolls are considered one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century.Besides viewing the scrolls, visitors can take part in a simulated archaeological dig at a replica of ancient Qumran, where the scrolls were found in a cave in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd boy after he threw a rock.Through years of exploration of Qumran caves, fragments of portions of every book of the Bible except Esther were found. The fragments date to the time of Jesus and are at least 1,000 years older than the earliest known manuscripts used in creating the Bible, scholars say. Most of the fragments have remained in Israel and Jordan.Twenty-one fragments will be on display, including eight scrolls owned by Southwestern and others loaned from around the world.The seminary's collection of scrolls is the largest in the United States, according to Peter Finch, co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in Canada.All the scrolls owned by the seminary were purchased from the Kando family. Kahlil Escander Shahin, a Palestinian cobbler and antique dealer known as Kando, was among the first to see the scrolls in 1947. He purchased some from the shepherds who found them in Qumran.Seminary President Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy, often visited Kando, and they became friends. After Kando's death, son William Kando, who has an antiques shop in Bethlehem, offered the seminary some of the scrolls. Seminary donors helped fund the purchase."We have a magnificent copy of Genesis, one of the largest fragments available anywhere," Patterson said. The fragment was loaned by the Kando family in Bethlehem.During a preview Saturday, Patterson showed a replica of what Qumran looks like today. Archaeology students built the replica with tons of stones and buried 20,000 pounds of pottery shards there. The shards were taken from an Israeli dig and were donated by the Smithsonian Institution.Adults and children can take part in a simulated dig at the Qumran facsimile and take a piece of ancient pottery. Arabic coffee and other treats will be served under a Bedouin tent.At the replica of the Western Wall, a holy site believed to be a part of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, visitors can leave written prayers.For more on the scrolls: SeeTheScrolls.com
Dead Sea Scrolls
and the Bibles
MacGorman Performing Arts Center, 4616 Stanley Ave., Fort Worth.
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, 1 to 7 p.m.
$12 to $28. Tickets are available for purchase on-site or online.