Teachers learn lessons from the Dead Sea Scrolls
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - "It's the thrill of a lifetime."
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Archbishop O'Hara High School teachers Mike Martin, Sharon Ma, Dawn Thomas, Margaret Herringer, Jessica Brookman and Kim England took a special tour for educators Feb. 15 of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit at Kansas City's Union Station.
That's how Mike Martin, Hebrew Scriptures teacher at Archbishop O'Hara High School, described his opportunity to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, on exhibit through May 13 at Kansas City's Union Station.
Martin and five colleagues from the Archbishop O'Hara faculty were among scores of educators who took advantage of a special tour for teachers on Feb. 15, one week after the exhibit opened.
The six teachers came from a variety of disciplines. Three are English teachers. One is an art teacher, with a special interest in the calligraphy and the pottery of the time that Jesus walked the earth.
And one - veteran teacher Margaret Herringer - is a Spanish teacher, although in her 40 years at Archbishop O'Hara, she has taught in virtually every department.
"I'd be here if I were a math teacher," Herringer said. "With all the background here for teachers of faith, I can't imagine any teacher not wanting to go."
Art teacher Dawn Thomas took special note of the parchment that the scrolls were written on, the meticulous lettering on the scrolls, and even the pottery jars in which they were stored for nearly two millennia until a Bedouin shepherd boy accidentally discovered the first of the scrolls in 1947 in a long-forgotten cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea in what was then Jordan.
Parchment, she noted, was painstakingly created by pounding sheepskin into thin layers.
"It was very precious," she said. "There were very few people who wrote or read up until the Middle Ages. To have someone scribe all of that, I believe it is some kind of labor of love."
The English teachers looked at the scroll fragments as examples of literature that changed the world.
"It monumentally changed the world," said Kim England. "I will use anything to expand our horizons and teach us about another culture."
Jessica Brookman said she shows her literature students a first-edition printing of a work by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
"At the moment they see that first edition, they become interested in the Hawthorne that they are reading," she said. "I hope they have the same kind of 'Ah ha!' experience here and it makes their faith more real."
Hebrew Scriptures teacher Martin said the Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest surviving manuscripts of Biblical texts.
"These documents back up everything as far as our Judeo-Christian roots," he said.
The Kansas City exhibit includes fragments from 10 scrolls, six of them never before on display in the United States. It also includes more than 100 artifacts from the community of Qumran, believed to be a central meeting place of the Essene sect of Judaism, whom scholars believe were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These artifacts include pottery, coins, sandals and a hair brush.
The Kansas City exhibit includes lessons in the geography of the Dead Sea region, in the science of dating the Scrolls to the Second Temple Era of Hebrew history, in the archeology of painstakingly reassembling and preserving hundreds of thousands of scroll fragments, and in language scholarship of translating the fragments from the original Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, and in the anthropology of learning about a human culture in the time of Jesus.
"Everything is here," said Herringer as she walked through the exhibit.
Because of the crowds expected to view the exhibit, advance reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets may be available on a walk-in basis, but availability cannot be guaranteed. Ticket information can be obtained by calling (816) 460-2020, or online at www.unionstation.org.
Tickets are $19.95 each, with discounts for school groups or groups of 15 or more with advance registration. Visitors must check their coats before entering the exhibit and security guards will check all bags and purses.