Dead Sea Scrolls opens in Akron

There was an unusual mixture of government and religion at Akron City Hall. Rare and priceless bibles were on display to promote an exhibition of artifacts that trace the history of the Judeo-Christian holy books that opens in Akron March 16 and runs through April 18.

This one-of-a-kind exhibit, known officially as From The Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book, contains fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, including
portions of Genesis and Isaiah, and numerous Bibles including a manuscript Wyclif Bible from the 15th Century, the first translation of the Holy Book into English.

Other rare items include several 5,000-year-old pictographic clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia, the earliest form of writing in history, and a 2,600-year-old scroll containing the oldest known Hebrew writing and the earliest known written example of the Hebrew name for God, Elohim.

This awe-inspiring collection of artifacts, manuscripts, and Bibles from around the world comes together for a first-time exhibit to tell a unique story seldom told—the complete history of the Bible, focusing on the Bible in English.

In England in the early 1500s, it was deemed heresy to translate the Bible from Latin into less- pure English. That didn't stop people such as William Tyndale, who thought it important to bring the Bible to the English-speaking masses. After Tyndale had the New Testament printed in English in Germany in 1526, he was imprisoned and eventually burned at the stake.

John Wycliffe earlier had pushed for an English translation, and survived long enough to die a natural death in 1384. But religious leaders of the day held a grudge, and 31 years after his death, Wycliffe was dug up and his bones were burned as a sort of posthumous punishment.

"In order to understand English history, you need to know the history of the Bible," said Lee Biondi, co- director of "From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book" at the John S. Knight Center in Akron.

The two-room exhibition offers a chronological collection of Bibles-under-glass, including a page from the first handwritten English Bible from 1390.

There is also a sample from the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455. By 1568, Queen Elizabeth I succumbed to the notion of allowing a Bible to be printed in English, and an example of that government-authorized work is also on display.
Other notable Bibles include a sample from the first batch of Bibles ever printed in the United States in English.

Also featured are a 1795 letter with religious references from Thomas Jefferson, blackened fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a Bible on microfilm that was taken to the moon aboard the Apollo 14 spacecraft.

This is the exhibition's only stop in Ohio. Biondi said the exhibition came to Akron because of the urging of FirstMerit Bank and Bruce Ferrini, an Akron collector of religious artifacts who has supplied some of the displays.