World’s Oldest and Best-Preserved Parchment of The Ten Commandments Coming to Cincinnati for 17 Days Only

. March 27, 2013

Special Gift from Great American Insurance Group brings treasured 2,100-year-old-scroll to Cincinnati Museum Center from Good Friday (March 29) to April 14

CINCINNATI – The oldest and best-preserved parchment manuscript containing the Ten Commandments -the pillars of morality and law in the Western world and which 3,500 years later were written into the civil and criminal codes of 12 of the original 13 U.S. colonies – will be on view in Cincinnati Museum Center’s blockbuster exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times.

Written in Hebrew between 50 BCE – 1 BCE on a parchment scroll measuring just over 18 inches by 3 inches, the Ten Commandments Scroll will be on view from Friday, March 29 to Sunday, April 14, when the exhibition closes. The text, from the biblical book of Deuteronomy, encapsulates and defines how ancient Israelite men and women should work and live with one another and outlines their relationship with their god.

Only two ancient manuscripts of the Ten Commandments have been discovered to date: the Ten Commandments Scroll, and the Nash Papyrus, an incomplete papyrus text currently housed in the Cambridge University Library, and dating to 150 -100 BCE. The next earliest version of the Ten Commandments text is over 1,000 years later.

A special gift from Great American Insurance Group enabled Museum Center to bring this treasure to Cincinnati.

“It is a privilege to support Cincinnati Museum Center in their extraordinary efforts to provide our community with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness one of the most esteemed religious artifacts known to man,” said S. Craig Lindner, co-president and co-CEO, Great American Insurance Group. “Great American Insurance Group is honored to sponsor this remarkable exhibition.”

The scroll contains text from Deuteronomy 5 and is among the trove of ancient writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, a group of approximately 900+ ancient writings discovered in 11 caves in the Judean desert and dating from 250 BCE to 68 CE.

“The Ten Commandments are the most well-known texts in biblical literature. They also are among the oldest,” said Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University. “These words have served to elevate humankind and to define how we can aspire to live in relationship to the Divine and to each other. To be in the presence of this scroll is to almost see the finger of the Divine Author.”

The 17-day exhibition period of the Ten Commandments Scroll is the longest that the Israel Antiquities Authority has allowed outside Israel since 2007 because of the scroll’s universal importance, its fragility and its age. Following the exhibition, the Ten Commandments scroll will be returned to Israel.

The Ten Commandments Scroll will be on view from March 29 (Good Friday) to April 14, and joins ten additional scrolls in the exhibition. Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times closes April 14 and will then proceed, without the Ten Commandments Scroll, to The Museum of Science in Boston, MA.

Of all the laws presented in the Hebrew Bible, the most famous are the Ten Commandments,” said Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, a professor at San Diego State University and exhibition co-curator. “These precepts have influenced Judaism and Christianity for centuries, and comprise some of the most famous religious and ethical rules in the western world.”

In addition to the Ten Commandments Scroll, exhibition highlights include more than 600 artifacts from the Biblical to Byzantine Period in Israel. The artifacts and scrolls combine to provide a captivating and intriguing look at one of the most influential periods in history when Judaism arose, the Roman Empire’s dominance was soon to ebb, and the seeds of Christianity were sown.

Many objects in the exhibition have never been on public view. Highlights include exquisite mosaics, stone carvings, and household items such as jewelry and ceramics. In addition, the exhibition features a scale recreation of a section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall — complete with an authentic three-ton stone from the Wall.

And now, beginning March 29, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition includes the best-preserved early record of the Ten Commandments.

The exhibition is open daily at 10 a.m. Last entry on Monday through Thursday is 5 p.m. Extended hours on Friday and Saturday with the last entry at 8 p.m., and Sunday until 6 p.m. Advance reservations are strongly encouraged by calling (513) 287-7001 or visiting

Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times is created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from the collections of the Israel National Treasures, and produced by Discovery Times Square and The Franklin Institute. Local community partners include Presenting Sponsor: The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and Associate Sponsors: the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Diocese of Southern Ohio, SC Ministry Foundation, Office of the Provost, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University, among others. Special Exhibit Partner: Hebrew Union College.

Category: Museum News

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