Bibles over the Centuries

Through May 24, 2014
Bible Lands Museum
Jerusalem, Israel

The best-selling book of all time, the Bible is the most important text for two major world religions: Judaism and Christianity. With rich content—and an equally rich transmission history—the Bible has captivated audiences for millennia, although the appearance of this text has certainly changed over the ages—from scrolls (above) to codices, manuscripts to printed books. The Book of Books exhibit in Jerusalem chronicles the history and development of Judaism and Christianity by focusing on some of the earliest copies of the Bible that have survived.

Beginning with the Second Temple Period, when Alexander the Great sought to conquer the known world and spread Hellenism, the exhibit walks through the historical background of the periods in which the Hebrew Scriptures were canonized, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and Jesus began his public ministry. The exhibit delves into the dissemination of the Bible to the world through Christian and Jewish emissaries and diasporas.

Exhibit highlights include facsimiles of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible with fragments dating as early as the third century B.C.; third–fourth-century copies of the Septuagint; a ninth–eleventh-century copy of the Syriac Bible, based on an earlier second-century manuscript; psalters and Christian lectionaries; a copy of Liber Chronicarum—The Book of History written by Dr. Hartmann Schedel to explain the history of the world from Biblical creation until the 15th century—with woodcut illustrations printed in Germany in 1493; medieval Jewish commentaries; and a leaf from the original Gutenberg Bible printed in the 1450s in Mainz, Germany. The exhibit also displays more recent documents, such as 19th-century translations of the Bible into Chinese and Japanese.
The exhibit features items from the Green Collection, founded by Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby, an American craft store chain. After the exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum closes, these rare documents will be on display at an exhibit titled Verbum Domini at the Vatican. Eventually this collection will become part of a Bible museum funded by Green that is planned to open in Washington, DC.

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