For over four years, the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library project has been photographing and digitizing the tens of thousands of tiny remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scanning is finally completed and a preliminary analysis of previously illegible text has opened the scrolls to new interpretation, starting with a section that describes Noah’s Ark as being pyramid-shaped. Does someone need to notify the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter?
Dr. Alexey Yuditsky of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library project presented some of its findings at the recent Eighth International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira and Related Fields. The researchers used advanced imaging technology from MegaVision to take 28 photographs of each scroll fragment, varying the wavelengths and resolution. At the near-infrared wavelength level, the camera was able to read characters that had become invisible to the naked eye.
The findings on what the newly-found text said will surely cause controversy among biblical scholars and Noah’s Ark fans. Yuditsky says a previously illegible word having to do with “the ark’s tallness” is believed to be “ne’esefet,” which means “gathered.” He believes the writer was describing how the ark’s roof beams gathered or met at a point, forming a pyramid shape. While other writings have also painted the ark as a pyramid, this would be the earliest.
Another sure-to-be controversial fragment that is now readable describes how sins might be forgiven just like monetary debts are forgiven, leading researcher Chanan Ariel to believe it refers to paying money for forgiveness, an activity similar to the medieval practice of indulgence selling, one of the targets of the Protestant Reformation. Is this proof that it may have once been biblically approved?
The new analysis also helps clarify the meaning of vague words like “ptil.” In one of the many sex-related stories in the Old Testament, the book of Genesis tells the tale of Judah having sex with his daughter-in-law who is disguised as a prostitute. He paid her with his “ptil” and two now-legible fragments say that “ptil is his belt.” Now his wife finally knows why he came home smelling like cheap perfume with his pants falling down.
The project is ongoing as Dr. Yuditsky says only 80 percent of the fragments have been scanned for analysis and preservation.
Whatever your beliefs, analyzing and interpreting the 2,000-year-old puzzle that is the Dead Sea Scrolls can be a lot more fun and educational that arguing about whether a pyramid can float and how many dinosaurs it would hold.