Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll to Be Displayed in Israel

Bible and archaeology news


The Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll, scroll 4Q41, will be on display at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: Dan Balilty/AP.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem will display a Dead Sea Scroll fragment containing one of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments, the Associated Press reports.*

The Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll, scroll 4Q41 (also known as the All Souls Deuteronomy), was discovered in 1952 in Cave 4 near the Dead Sea site of Qumran. The scroll dates to the first century B.C.E. and is written in Hebrew.

“A number of the Dead Sea Scrolls preserve parts of the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments], but 4Q41 (4QDeutn) is special because it is so beautifully preserved,” said Dead Sea Scroll specialist Dr. Shani Tzoref, Qumran Institute Fellow at the University of Göttingen and Professor of Bible and Biblical Exegesis at the Universities of Potsdam and Geiger College, in an email to Bible History Daily.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.


The most famous of the Qumran caves, Cave 4, was where more than 10,000 scroll fragments from more than 500 manuscripts were discovered. The Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll (scroll 4Q41) was found in this cave. Photo: Hershel Shanks.

Tzoref explained the significance of the Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll:

“One of its more interesting features is its ‘harmonization’ of the text of the Sabbath law: It combines the two different versions found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. It is identified as a copy of Deuteronomy, but it actually contains excerpts of the Biblical book and may have been written for use as a liturgical text. Other ancient copies of the Decalogue also point to liturgical uses: Some of the tefillin at Qumran include this passage, and the second-century ‘Nash Papyrus’ discovered in Egypt contained the Decalogue followed by the ‘Shema’ (Deut 6:4ff.: ‘Hear, O Israel … ’).”

Considered one of the greatest manuscript finds of all time, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain books from the Hebrew Bible as well as the religious writings—as most scholars believe—of the small group of Jews who lived in a settlement at Qumran. The scrolls were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and date between 250 B.C.E. and 68 C.E.

The display of the Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll will be part of the Israel Museum’s “A Brief History of Humankind” exhibit.

“For those who cannot make it to the Israel Museum,” Dr. Tzoref said, “you can get an up-close view from wherever you are on the IAA website: Advanced multi-spectral images have been uploaded to the Leon Levy Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Library.”

Check out high-resolution images of the Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll (scroll 4Q41) here: www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/manuscript/4Q41-1.

Visit the Dead Sea Scrolls study page in Bible History Daily for more on this priceless collection of ancient manuscripts.



* Although the AP reports that the Ten Commandments Dead Sea Scroll will be on display at the Israel Museum for two weeks, it appears that the duration of the display is unclear for now.


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