Enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll makes rare show in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) — A fragment of an enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll has gone on public display at Jerusalem's Israel Museum for the first time since its discovery 70 years ago.

The Genesis Apocryphon, the sole copy of an ancient Jewish text elaborating on stories from the first book of the Bible, dates to the first century B.C. and was among the first seven scrolls found in the Judean Desert in 1947. The Associated Press previewed the exhibit today.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. They include the earliest known copies of biblical texts, documents outlining the beliefs of a little understood Jewish sect, as well as related texts like the Genesis Apocryphon.

"This is the only copy of this book on Earth," said Adolfo Roitman, curator of the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book, where the scrolls are housed.

The Genesis Apocryphon's Aramaic verses describe the lives of Noah, Abraham, Enoch and Lamech, characters in the book of Genesis, and are written in the first person. "In some way what we have are parallel stories that we don't have in the Hebrew Bible in which the patriarchs are presented in different ways than the ways we have today in the Pentateuch," he said.

The badly damaged snippet of the story going on display deals with Noah's Ark alighting on the peaks of Mount Ararat after the fabled flood. Noah tells how he "atoned for all the earth in its entirety" by offering up various animal sacrifices.

The Genesis Apocryphon scroll was already in a precarious state when it was first discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1947.

A rare recording of the shepherds, Muhammed edh-Dhib and Jum'a Muhammed, recounting their discovery is part of an accompanying exhibit about some of the characters involved in finding and unlocking the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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