Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In the Beginning: Exhibit at the Sackler Gallery

The first thing I did at the SBL conference in Washington DC from Nov 18-21 was to see the fabulous exhibit "In the Beginning: Bibles Before the year 1000" at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian.

Highlights of our tour led by a docent included:-

* Leaves from three of the six oldest surviving Hebrew codices.
* The oldest known manuscripts of the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
* The opening page of the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas from the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
* The oldest dated parchment biblical codex in the world from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.
* A page from Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest Bible from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai.

The exhibit opens with a dramatic photograph of Solomon Schechter in the bowels of Cambridge U Library surrounded by fragments of the Cairo Genizah. It appears to have been staged as the docent assured us that no one went near the fragments to work on them without a mask. Its not a photograph that entices one to consider a career in manuscript identification or paleography. But it does visualize the discipline and dedication required to work in the field.

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