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Monday, March 1, 2010
Accidental Discovery Pieces Together Ancient Biblical Manuscript
Two parts of an ancient biblical manuscript separated across centuries and continents were reunited for the first time in a joint display Friday, thanks to an accidental discovery that is helping illuminate a dark period in the history of the Hebrew Bible.
The 1,300-year-old fragments, which are among only a handful of Hebrew biblical manuscripts known to have survived the era in which they were written, existed separately and with their relationship unknown, until a news photograph of one's public unveiling in 2007 caught the attention of the scholars who would eventually link them.
Together, they make up the text of the Song of the Sea, sung by jubilant Israelites after fleeing slavery in Egypt and witnessing the destruction of the pharaoh's armies in the Red Sea.
"The enemy said: 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My lust shall be satisfied upon them, I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them,'" reads the song, which appears in the Book of Exodus. "Thou didst blow thy wind, the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters."
The manuscripts are "filling the gap," said Israel Museum curator Adolfo Roitman. "We can see we are dealing with a tradition that is still alive."