A little over a week ago I went to the Leonardo in downtown Salt Lake to see their exhibit, the Dead Sea Scrolls. I was excited for the show but put it off until January because I wanted to avoid what I thought might be a Holiday rush. I’ve always liked learning about the history of the Scrolls and probably read my first book on them when I was still in high-school. Seems like I’ve also always been a geek about archaeology, anthropology, and art history. My interest in the Scrolls has never really faded, and since those younger days I’ve gone on and read a number of different books about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, and other Gnostic Gospels. I guess I probably started with reading the work of Elaine Pagels, but then went on to read a lot more, including individual books like the Book of Enoch, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Judas, The Thunder Perfect Mind, and more. I’ve probably mentioned here on ArtDuh before that I am not religious, but there is something about this history and Gnostic teachings that really interests and speaks to me. As a general rule, these books interest me a whole lot more than scripture that was approved by the Council of Nicaea.
The show itself was put together very well and I am glad I went. I guess it’ll probably sound like a slight criticism, but there was a whole lot more pottery than there were parchments. Still, I know that the pottery itself plays a huge role in the Dead Sea Scroll’s history, because the pottery was filled with these documents and then hidden in caves. And I guess if it weren’t for that pottery the Scrolls would never have been discovered, because it was the sound of a breaking pot that attracted a shepherd’s interest after he threw a rock into one of those caves.
Maybe a little off topic, although somewhat related (at least in my own mind), but if you’re interested in this subject I would strongly recommend learning about the Nag Hammadi find as well. Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi were discovered around the same time, but the Nag Hammadi writings were discovered inside a sealed jar in Upper Egypt in 1945. It is just so interesting to see what made it into the “official” Bible, and what what suppressed (often violently) by the Holy Roman Church. It makes me wonder why some of these beautiful apocryphal books were excluded… although I can make a good guess.
Also off topic, but I would definitely recommend that everybody become familiar with the myth of Sophia because it central to a lot of Gnostic thought. It is also one of my favorite myths. Something about the story speaks to me and is so beautiful. There are probably quite a few books written about it, but two of my favorite would be “Not In His Image” by John Lamb Lash, and also the “Corpus Gnostica” by Brent Paris. Corpus Gnostica is a modern and fictional retelling of the story, but I really liked it!
Also, if you have any interest in Gnosticism, you might like the Aeon Byte podcast.