Digitized Dead Sea Scrolls to be available online
October 19th, 2010
02:03 PM ET

Digitized Dead Sea Scrolls to be available online

Editor's Note: CNN's Kevin Flower brings us this story from Jerusalem.

In an ambitious application of 21st century technology to a first century wonder, the Israel Antiquities Authority and internet search giant Google announced a plan Tuesday to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls and make the entire collection available to the public online.

The authority's general director, Shuka Dorfman, called the project a milestone that will enhance the field of biblical studies and people's understanding of Judaism and early Christianity.

"We have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivaled cultural heritage treasure, which belongs to all of us, so that the public with a click of the mouse will be able to access history in its fullest glamour"

Made up of 30,000 fragments from 900 manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many historians to be one of the most important archaeological finds ever made.

The ancient manuscripts, made of leather, papyrus and copper, were first discovered in 1947 by a nomadic shepherd in a cave near the Dead Sea. In the years that followed, more scroll fragments were located.

Dating back over 2,000 years, the scrolls reveal details about the development of Judaism during the Hellenistic period and shed light on the relationship between early Christian and Jewish religious traditions.

The project will employ the latest in spectral and infrared imaging technology to scan the thousands of scroll fragments into one large database.

"This is the ultimate image of the scroll you can get," explained project manager Pnina Shor as she showed reporters an example of the imaging. "It presents an authentic copy of the scroll that, once online, there is no need to expose the scrolls anymore"

Conservation of the ancient manuscripts is a major concern for the Israel Antiquities Authority, which recently began limiting photography of them. Flawed preservation and display practices in decades past had, in some cases, "catastrophic" consequences, Shor said, and the authority decided it needed to create a new active image record that would spare the manuscripts from further degradation.

The entire collection of Dead Sea Scrolls was photographed in 1950s, but access to the photos and the documents themselves has been limited. Only four conservationists are allowed to handle the scroll fragments and scholars are limited in how much time they can spend studying them in person.

Google, with its high-powered search and translation services, will help catalog the mass of material, but the internet heavyweight says the project is not for profit and not exclusive.

"I can envision scholars or other companies contributing their own technologies so as to get some additional value over the data " said Yossi Matias, Google's head of research and development center in Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has raised $3.5 million to fund the project, and project managers say the first images could be online within months.

Matias said it is too early to detail how the scrolls will be displayed online, but he assured that "the idea is an open platform and an open approach"

See more images of the scrolls here.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Israel • Israel • Judaism • Middle East

soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. LiberateUs

    Atheists fail to disprove religion

    October 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • Amunaka

      If their is a god it will take science to prove it....

      October 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • Zeit-Geist

      these texts utterly fail to prove Jesus is a god or even existed

      October 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Truthspeak

      Wow, Amunakas' ego is way up there. He thinks God can only exist if he can proove it? How could a far from perfect created being show or even recognize any "proof" of a perfect infinite God? Gravity cannot be proven, only it's effects can be studied. Electromagnetism cannot be proven, only it's effects can be studied. The strong and weak nuclear forces cannot be proven . . . Yet every atheist takes ALL if those as fact. Those who look for God find him. We know of his existance because we feel him and see his effects.

      October 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Truthspeak: Your inability to grasp physics notwithstanding, your argument has a serious flaw that I would ask you to expand on. You said that these theories (gravity, electromagnitism....) cannot be proven, only their effects can be studied. It is not their effects that are studied, it is evidence of their effects that is studied. When evidence is studied and tested by others with repeated and consistant results, the evidence to support a theory becomes verifiable evidence and is demonstrative. I would challenge you to produce any evidence that your god exists that will withstand the scrutiny and vefification process that the theories you mentioned have endured and ultimately withstood. I, and all other members of humanity await your evidence with great anticipation.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • Raison

      @Eric G.
      Very well said. Thanks! 😛

      October 19, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Truthspeak

      @Eric. Lol. Your inability to read should be the subject. The point was no one knows the cause of gravity, electromagnetism...etc. The point of my post you completely ignored. The FACT that humans can't prove Gods existance in NO WAY disproves God. But typical with you egotists all you do is distract ppl from the truth with technical sounding but misleading facts that don't even apply. Your grasping at air. All you have proven is that your ego controls your reasoning process

      October 20, 2010 at 7:33 am |
    • Peace2All


      Respectfully..... It appears to me from reading your response up above.. then reading Eric G's, then your last post, that 'you' have and unquestioned presupposition or assumption that there is a God. You seem to be assuming 'belief' as FACTS. When in this context, beliefs are not = Facts.

      I guess...being neutral here, it seems that you are 'already' starting out your assertion or argument, as if it is a *fact* that there is a God.

      Maybe you may want to re-think that.

      I am sincerely curious about these matters...


      October 20, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  2. 1RingyDingy

    Yawn..... .... ...... ?

    October 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  3. Zeit-Geist

    CNN is owned by the Illuminati just like all the other mainstream media
    you wont find any truth here

    October 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  4. StAug73

    I printed a translation of the scrolls, from a website, back in '96. I wish I could remember the site name.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  5. david


    October 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • LiberateUs

      PRINT THIS: Kiss my rump, nutjob

      October 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • Raison


      "moderation" problems? The word filter is automatic. Please check out my new list of tips on how to submit without worrying too much about the "moderation" filter@:


      Hope this helps! Most of us have struggled with the filter for a long time....good luck! 😀

      October 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  6. lordAllmighty

    we should keep them safe from terrorist.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  7. phillip

    some of the dead sea scrolls came to Dallas at the biblical museum,it was well worth the trip, i enjoyed every moment.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  8. angela berries

    I am excited for this, but I hope that the scrolls that are provided to the public are truly authentic and complete. History proves that people tend to suppress the truth when it comes to religion. the bible was changed over time to accommodate new historical or scientific finds and in my words "christianize" them. Basically twisting history to fit their beliefs. We will never know how Jesus truly lived. All we have are the stories that survived.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • sss-666

      @angelaBerriers.. REally??? u think Jesus was all made up.. you are really lost in this world.. read the all testament and will find Jesus on every Paragraph..

      October 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  9. John Muller

    Truth in all things need to be revealed so it will touch a space in us and we will know what is real. The truth will set us free and that is the vibration we all have to respond to. When we are "free" only then can we know love.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  10. Ending123

    "The ancient manuscripts, made of leather, papyrus and copper, were first discovered in 1947 by a nomadic shepherd in a cave near the Dead Sea. In the years that followed, more scroll fragments were located."

    October 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • Truth Giver

      Another large and very noteworthy collection was found in Egypt. The Nag Hammadi scrolls contain many "lost" books about Jesus. The Gospel of Mary, the book of Thomas and many others that the church had left out of the Bible were hidden away before they were destroyed. Very interesting accounts of what they knew

      October 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  11. Ending123

    @ Mayar huela: they didn't just discover them!

    October 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  12. ChuckM


    October 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  13. Mayar huela

    This is a hoax, fabricated scrolls recovered deliberately with the full coverage of the media. this scrolls simply cannot be genuine.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  14. EleanorSearching

    Read Misquoting Jesus and other books by Bart D. Ehrman who came to an interesting conclusion.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • Some_Truth


      Yes! Some of Professor Ehrman's lectures are even on youtube. Quite enlightening.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Jason

    1985, my dad took my sisters and I in my Junior year of high school, to Gettysburg, and D.C. . I can tell you from the experience, there is nothing like having the words in front of you IRL style. This digitized movement only goes so far.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    Dating back over 2,000 years, the scrolls reveal ONE OF MANY DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW ABOUT the development of Judaism during the Hellenistic period and shed light on SOME OF the relationships between early Christian and Jewish religious traditions.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  17. Trucido

    I'm not religious at all, but this is really cool. Hopefully they start a trend.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • Steven P

      Absolutely cool.

      I too do not subscribe to religion. That doesn't mean that I can't enjoy this...

      December 1, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  18. Lesley

    As Jesus said If people could just have the faith as small as a mustard seed they would be able to say to that mountain be ye removed and cast into the sea and it would be done. I Pray that in all the opening and digitizing of the scrolls will help to build the non-existent faith into the smallest seeds that will bloom into something beautiful spiritually. To bring about a dedicated relationship in everyones heart with GOD and his ARM JESUS CHRIST. I pray that doubt will find itself cast into the sea and that the inner and outward true righteous praise of GOD will flurish. The things of faith shouldn't need a scroll to prove out ibut if the mass exposure of these scrolls can teach and shed light on Historical Judaism and it's radical sect of Christianity ALL GOOD.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Shifty303

      "faith as small as a mustard seed they would be able to say to that mountain be ye removed and cast into the sea and it would be done"

      Well would ye be so kind to remove poverty, sickness, death, and natural disaters?

      October 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  19. Tyler F. Long

    This is one of the great things that we can say came from the internet. With all of the bad associated with it, its about time this technology was used for something so...RIGHT!

    Tyler F. Long
    Dunwoody Norcross GA

    October 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  20. JayBGood


    October 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • HeisGod

      You didn't had to come hear and waste your time with us. Go on to another news article or something.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • Ruby Long

      How pathetic. How dark the world of paranoia must be.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.