The display of material from the Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Museum Collection at the UMD Library for the second quarter of the year, April through June 1998, is on the original manuscripts of the Bible.
Of course, the UMD Library does not have any original Bible manuscripts,
but it has
items which illustrate the sources from which the Biblical texts come, and from which information can be derived which shows how we got our present Bible and what some of the problems are with respect to accurate translation and accurate information on which to base the interpretation of the translations which are being constantly made.
Shown are examples of the original Hebrew canon of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, both in manuscript and in print, the Aramaic Targum and the Greek Septuagint. A facsimile of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls is shown, with comments on the difference in interpretation which they have brought to Scriptural work.
Also included are the first printing of the Vulgate by Gutenberg, and examples of early Greek printing, as well as a listing of all the extant early Greek manuscripts from which modern efforts at translation are made.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The discovery of scrolls in caves at Qumran by the Dead Sea in the 1940's became a source of interest to the public and dispute among scholars over several issues. These scrolls were partly Biblical manuscripts, some of them 1,000 years older than any previously known. The more sensational reports, eagerly transmitted by the tabloid press, were that some of the documents were being suppressed (usually by the Vatican, it was reported) because they threw damaging light on the basis of Christianity. Some offered prophecies of the rise of Hitler, the end of the world, and so on.
In academic circles, aspects of personal animosity and academic jealousy held up the publication of assessment and translation, but when all was finally revealed, much valuable information developed. In particular it was shown that the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Canon was probably more accurate, or at least closer to the original, than the Masoretic version which was assembled as an "authorized" canon during the 1st century CE. Textual errors could thus be found and corrected in the Old Testament. There were also non-canonical documents among the finds which threw new light on the period from 100 BCE to 100 CE and gave us a better sense of religious developments and attitudes during the period of the formation of Christianity.