Unprecedented Studies

Students are studying the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls this semester at Oklahoma City University. Photo by J. Christopher Little.

 

The study of ancient texts is not often a hands-on experience for scholars. But one special class of Biblical Hebrew students at Oklahoma City University will be getting awfully close.

The Rev. Dr. Lisa M. Wolfe, religion professor at OCU, is leading a team of students studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. These manuscripts contain writings from the third through first centuries BCE, Wolfe explains. Because they are dated so much earlier than most known Hebrew Bible manuscripts, the discovery of these manuscripts was “nothing short of revolutionary,” she says.

Wolfe says that the class relies on photographic records of the scrolls that are assigned to them but had the opportunity to see the scrolls in person when the class took a field trip to Hobby Lobby Corporate Headquarters.

“The artifact we are studying is part of the Green Collection, which includes more than 40,000 Bible-related items amassed in recent years by the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby,” Wolfe says.

But this research is also extraordinary in another way. The OCU students granted this honor are undergraduates.

“We are all thrilled beyond belief. It is uncommon for a Ph.D. student to have the opportunity to work with an artifact like this. For undergraduates to get to do it is unprecedented,” Wolfe says.

Their work includes extrapolating as much information from the text as they can and looking for any uniqueness about the artifact.

“Since this artifact is extremely fragmentary, our first task was to determine what larger text it represented,” Wolfe says. “It is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle with only a few pieces.”

In addition to hopes of great scholastic findings, Wolfe says that the project might even affect the way Oklahoma is viewed.

“Oklahoma probably does not come to mind when people hear ‘Bible scholar,’ so it may well put us on the map for that,” Wolfe says.