Sixty-four years after their discovery, The Dead Sea Scrolls are now being made accessible online...free...to the public. Well, at least, some of them. Amongst them are The Great Isaiah Scroll, The War Scroll, and the Temple Scroll. I bet the Qumran community never imagined that their hastily hidden scrolls would eventually be accessible to 7 billion people all over the world!
For a nerd like me, this is excellent news! In a large way, it parallels Dan Wallace's project with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts to make the historical papyrus and manuscript texts accessible to those in the present. What is the importance you might ask? Well, it signifies that the intellectualists are starting to realize that they are, in fact, not the only ones interested in the past! For some time now, much of the history of the Bible, including the process of origins and composition, has been relegated to the university chairs. Things are changing.
For example, Bart Ehrman's popular book Misquoting Jesus had the effect of revealing, if nothing else, that the public was in fact interested in those little textual variants that have a significance on our reading of the Bible. Who would've thought textual criticism would become a public question. Now, the Church is having to re-thread its lines by having to relegate to the trash the assumption that individuals are only interested in the end-product and not the actual production.
Now, of course, this does not mean that the majority of those accessing these images (or the CSNTM images) are interested in studying them intently anymore than readers of Ehrman's book went out to actually pick of a Nestle-Aland Greek NT so they could read the textual footnotes. Indeed, it's quite unlikely that this will go beyond being a BBC new article. But it does go to show something. It goes to show that these things carry some amount of significance for religious folk. We want to know our history and where we've come from, even if it doesn't take us deep into the realm of scholarship. It's simply intriguing to realize that this thing we call "Christianity" has a past rooted in ancient history.