The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem is opening an exclusive exhibit showcasing
the connections between Judaism and Christianity.
The exhibit, “Book of
Books,” juxtaposes Jewish and Christian biblical texts from thousands of years
ago, beginning with fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, through to 19th century
“We’ve never had an exhibition that shows the powerful link
between Judaism and Christianity on this level,” said director of the Bible
Lands Museum Amanda Weiss.
She expects the exhibit will be a popular
attraction for Christians from all over the world, but says it is also important
for the Jewish and Israeli public.
“We see a very powerful narrative that
is not often told [in Israel,]” she says. “Most people are very sensitive to
showing anything Christian in Jerusalem.”
However, Filip Vukosovavic, the
museum’s curator, emphasizes that Christianity and Judaism are “so
interconnected, they cannot be separated.” They share a theological source and
“come from the same geographical point, which is the land of
Vukosovavic says the “juxtaposition” in this exhibition of the
two religions is “very deliberate,” because it “looks at Judaism as the roots
for Christianity, and how they coexisted at different points.”
“Book of Books” with the first archaeological evidence of the Bible, fragments
of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are from the Second Temple period, well over 2,000
years ago, and are the earliest known existing manuscripts of material later
included in the Bible.
On the wallpaper in front of you is the Dead Sea
from the point of view of the cave in Qumran where this artifact was
Following this are two copies of the Septuagint from Egypt.
The Septuagint is one of the earliest translations of the Bible from
According to legend, explains Vukosovavic, King Ptolemy II in the
third century BCE ordered approximately 70 Jewish scholars to translate the
Bible from Hebrew to Greek.
After 70 days, each scholar independently
produced the same translation. It was a “miracle,” says Vukosovavic.
Septuagint was translated for the Hellenized Jewish population in Egypt that
didn’t know Hebrew. It later became the official bible of the early Christian
As you continue further along, the showcases split, Judaism on
one side, Christianity on the other.
“Another powerful piece,” says
Vukosovavic, is the Codex Climaci Rescriptus. It includes parts of the Old and
New Testament in Aramaic and Greek. Its oldest portion was written in Jerusalem
in the sixth century. Another section was written in a Catholic monastery in the
Later, in the ninth century, two additional theological
treatises were to be added to the codex. But there wasn’t enough
The authors’ solution was to erase some text and rewrite over
it. You can actually see this process.
Next to the display case is an
accompanying iPad with pictures of the current codex in Greek. By pressing your
finger to the iPad, you bring up an infrared image that shows the original,
erased version in Aramaic.
Vukosavovic stresses how significant this is
for the scholarly world. Because it also includes the underlying text, this
codex shows how an original Aramaic text was deciphered and then interpreted
into a later Greek version.
Across from the Codex Climaci Rescriptus is
just as important a collection: the Cairo Geniza. This is a compilation of
biblical, Talmudic and later rabbinic texts and secular documents that outline
Jewish Middle Eastern and North African history over a 1,000-year
Continuing along, you walk on to Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Armenia,
Greece and Italy.
You reach a vitrine that Vukosovavic says is
“metaphorical,” representing the entire exhibition. In it is a codex, which
traces assorted popes and kings’ ancestry from Adam to Jesus, and the first
illuminated Megillah, with illustrations of midrashim above the
Both manuscripts are from medieval Italy.
Because they are
too long to be displayed in their entirety (the codex alone is five meters
long), you can scroll through them on iPads alongside the vitrine. You can even
zoom in to see an Ottoman Haman.
Vukosovavic stresses how this vitrine is
representative of “Book of Books.” He explains how interaction between Jewish
and Christian artists in the Middle Ages was “extremely important” to the
progression of these two religions. While Christianity and Judaism are distinct
religions, he says, they are connected in so many ways.
stressed this theme at the grand opening of the exhibition on the night of
October 23. She told approximately 300 guests that Steve Green, the leading
patron of “Book of Books,” is uniting “us [Jews and Christians] under a book we
all love [the Bible].”
Green, a devout Baptist, is president of Hobby
Lobby, the national craft-store chain his father founded. Hobby Lobby was
recently under fire after a blogger, Ken Berwitz, accused a Hobby Lobby employee
Green has also assembled the Green collection, a
compilation of over 40,000 biblical antiquities a curatorial team from Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma, oversees. This curatorial team collaborated with the Bible Lands
Museum to put together “Book of Books.”
“Book of Books” will eventually
be permanently part of a Bible museum Green is establishing in Washington, DC,
that will be committed to the historicity of the Bible.
“Book of Books”
will be at the Bible Lands Museum until May 24. Afterwards it will be on display
at the Vatican as “Verbum Domini.”
Weiss admitted it was a challenge to
come up with a narrative that was a balance between Jewish history and early
But “this is an exhibit for everyone,” she says. “Everybody
should come and see it. All walks of life. No matter what their religious
perspective or belief may be.”