by Gene Taylor
While recently visiting the Chicago area, I took the time to go to the Field Museum of Natural History. They had portions of fifteen of the Dead Sea Scrolls and many archaeological artifacts from the area around the Dead Sea where the scrolls were found on exhibit there and I wanted to see them.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Israel over 2,000 years ago. They were discovered in a series of caves in Qumran in 1947. Written on parchment and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, they contain the earliest known surviving copies of the books of the Old Testament as well as apocryphal writings, legal documents and writings that reveal the beliefs and customs of the people who created them, the Essenes.
The museum was very crowded on the day my friend and I went there. Most were there to see “Sue,” the reconstructed skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex which had debuted the day before. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was crowded, the overflow finding its way to it.
The exhibit rooms were darkened. Exposure to light causes further deterioration in the scrolls. Each scroll was placed in a glass case. A small, dim light, controlled by a sensor, went on as someone stepped in front of each case. On the wall across from the case was a copy of the scroll and a description of it.
Though I had visited Qumran and gone to the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display, I was still greatly enjoying looking at this exhibit. I found each scroll fascinating. While looking at one that contained a portion of the book of Hosea, I looked up to find my friend in order to share some information with him. While glancing around the room, I observed something interesting. My friend and I were the only ones in the entire room looking at the actual scrolls. The rest of the people were looking at the copies of them and reading the descriptions about them but were ignoring the scrolls themselves.
I continued to observe for a few minutes and my initial conclusion was born out. I thought, “How could these people prefer the copies and not be focusing on the genuine articles?” Then it hit me. That is what so many people do in religion. They prefer man-made copies to the genuine article — the blood bought, divinely built church which belongs to Jesus Christ.
Which do you prefer, the copy or the real thing?
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