Canada makes archeological history and TWU professors the ones with the scoop

Langley, B.C.—For the first time in archeological history, the Dead Sea Scrolls have come to Canada—and two TWU professors have the scoop. From June until April, the public will be able to view the ancient Scrolls—the Isaiah Scroll, the War Scroll, and the Community Rule Scroll—exhibited first in Montreal and then Ottawa.

Remarkably, of all the scrolls that could have been brought to Canada, it’s the ones edited by Canadian experts that were selected. Trinity Western University professors Martin Abegg, PhD and Peter Flint, PhD are part of an elite group of 70 international Scrolls Editors who have each specialized in editing a specific Scroll. Abegg and Flint are two of only three Canadians representing this prestigious group.

Flint, Co-Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute and professor of Biblical Studies at TWU is the authority and world expert on the Isaiah scroll from Cave One, a manuscript that has never before left Israel.

“It’s my specialty,” says Flint, who has been working with the scrolls for fourteen years. “Together with Professor Eugene Ulrich (University of Notre Dame), I am preparing to publish the official edition of the Isaiah scrolls from Cave One for Oxford University Press.” Flint is also co-author of the recently released book, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls a popular publication that recently received an award for the best book in Biblical Studies for 2002, from the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington, D.C.

Also teaching at TWU is Martin Abegg, PhD, co-author of The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Director of the MA in Biblical Studies at TWU and one of the world’s experts on the War Scroll. This Scroll, also know as the War on the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, has never left Israel either. And the third Scroll, the Community Rule, only left the country once, in 1954, when it was purchased by an American collector.

Both professors will speak at the Ottawa Exhibition and are excited that their life’s work will be displayed in their own country.

From June 17 till November 2, 2003, the exhibition ‘Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls’ takes place at the Museum of Archaeology and History at Point-a-Calliere in the Old Port Area of Montreal. After that time, the Scrolls, along with 100 ancient Israeli-area artefacts—including an ivory carving from King Solomon’s temple—will be transferred to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa until April 12, 2004. Both Abegg and Flint with be speaking in Ottawa in February and may set up further tours in conjunction with TWU’s Laurentian Leadership Centre in Ottawa.

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” says Flint, originally a South African who attained Canadian citizenship this spring. “When will we have the Dead Sea Scrolls in Canada again? This is really an unusual and rare opportunity with all the politics and security involved.” Ever since the Scrolls were discovered east of Jerusalem in 1947, they have caused quite a political upheaval.

“For many years they were under wraps,” says Flint. “It was only in 1991 onwards that they became available to scholars.” Flint says that the very story of the publication is of the scrolls is fascinating.

“It’s a long story to do with scholarly intrigue, the fragile state of the Scrolls and the idea that some people didn’t want others to see them,” he explains. “There’s lies, there’s intrigue, there’s lawsuits there’s scandal.”

It’s actually TWU’s own Martin Abegg who played a major role in dismantling the monopoly over access to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Up until 1991, a group of eight men prevented Dead Sea Scholars and the public alike from having access to either the manuscripts or their concordance. They were the only ones who could view these precious manuscripts.

But with the aid of an exclusive concordance published in 1988, one lone graduate student figured out a way to reconstruct the transcripts with the use of his home computer. And though he’d realize an incredible accomplishment, in those days it was only the eight official scholars who could do any publishing. Despite the fact he would be most likely making a destructive career move, the student sided with ethics and freedom of study and agreed to publish the materials with the Biblical Archaeology Society.

This decision set the wheels in motion that allowed photographs of unpublished Scrolls and copies of unpublished scroll fragments to be made available to scholars. Despite the controversy surrounding him, the young graduate student did in fact get hired and we know him today, as Professor Martin Abegg, co-Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls institute at Trinity Western University.

His colleague, Peter Flint, tackles those issues in the first chapter of his most recent book, ‘The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls’ which he authored with Dr. James VanderKam. This book completes the triad including a trio of best-selling books published by Harper San Francisco that includes The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Introduction (1996, containing most of the non-Biblical scrolls), and The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (1999, containing the biblical scrolls) by Martin Abegg, Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping