80 hour Ten Commandments display in Toronto starts this Saturday

Starting this Saturday, the second oldest copy of the Ten Commandments will go on display, at the Royal Ontario Museum, for 80 hours only. The exhibit will run from October 10 to October 18.

It runs concurrently with a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that is taking place at the museum.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been very cautious about how much light it gets exposed to which is the reason why it is only going to be put on display for 80 hours.

Damage due to light is accumulative and it just gets worse and worse, said Dan Rahimi, an archaeologist and Vice-President of Gallery Development for the Royal Ontario Musuem.

The museum is going to be displaying it under lighting that is equivalent to the light of a candle. You will still be able to see the text since the light outside the display case will be turned down so that the scroll will appear bright.

This scroll isthe oldest of the Ten Commandment texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It dates to somewhere between 30 BC 1 BC. According to Rahimi there is only one other copy of the 10 commandments that is older. It was written on a papyrus and is only older by a matter of years.

The text of the scroll,that will be displayed at themuseum,is quite a bit different from the versions you will see in the modern day Old Testament. Take a look at the translation below (courtesy Royal Ontario Museum).

English Translation
Column III
DEUT . 5:12

Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; you shall not do any work on it you, your son, your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass,

Column IV

or your cattle, the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the LORD your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day to consecrate it.

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

EXOD. 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

DEUT . 5:16 Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may long endure, and that you may fare well, in the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you.

17 You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

18 You shall not covet your neighbours wife. You shall not crave your neighbours house, or his field, or his male or female slave, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbours.

Notice something unusual? The scroll has both the Exodus and Deuteronomy versions of the Ten Commandments intertwined.

Why it is written like this is a mystery.

Rahimi said that there has been some suggestion that this is not meant as a copy of the canonical text of Deuteronomy. He added that it may have been used for study or prayer.

Its not unheard of for the Dead Sea Scrolls to have this sort of deviation.

Dead Sea Scroll scholar Geza Vermes says in his book The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, that thescrolls are remarkable in that the writing style and wording of the scrolls can vary from one copy of a scroll to another.

This is different than the medieval versions of the Hebrew bible, where the content became canonized and differences are frowned upon.

Ive been told that a photo of the scroll will not be released until the exhibit is underway, so unfortunately were going to have to wait a bit to see it on the internet.