Today in history: First photos of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Talia Meadows

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On February 19th, 1948, a remarkable event occurred in the Judean Wilderness. Father Butrus Sowmy conveyed the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls to American John Trever. The day before, Trever had contacted Father Butrus and was granted permission to photograph them. This marked an important milestone in the history of archaeological research, as the Dead Sea Scrolls had only been discovered two years prior, and their value was yet to be determined.

Trever was so eager to discover the secrets behind the ancient manuscripts that he sent photographs of them immediately to William Albright, a highly respected archaeologist of his time. With the help of Albright’s expertise, Trever was able to confirm the value of these manuscripts. He determined that they had been written between the third century BCE and the first century CE and contained original copies of scriptures from the Hebrew Bible, commentaries on those scriptures, and other Jewish documents.

The discovery of these valuable scrolls shed light on many aspects of ancient Judaism. It provided insights into the origins of Jewish religious thought and helped resolve disagreements among scholars about the development of Judaism in the Second Temple period. Moreover, it allowed researchers to gain a greater understanding of how Jews lived during that time period.

In addition to its significance within archaeology and theology, the Dead Sea Scroll discovery was also important for its role in bringing international attention to the region. While most of them are now located in Israeli museums, many scholars worldwide have had an opportunity to study and research them, allowing for a greater appreciation of Jewish culture and history.

Father Butrus Sowmy’s transfer of the Dead Sea Scrolls to John Trever was a pivotal moment in understanding ancient Jewish history and culture. The photographs that Trever sent to William Albright helped to confirm their value, leading to many years of significant research and discoveries. Thanks to these events, scholars, archaeologists, and theologians from all over the world have been able to gain a better understanding of Judaism during the Second Temple period.

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