Once available only to selected scholars, five of the fragile, 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, which include some of the world’s oldest known biblical manuscripts, are now available online.

One of the 2,000-year-old manuscripts

Anybody with an Internet connection can now browse the the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll through a cooperative effort between Google and the Israel Museum, where they are housed.

“Written between the first and third centuries B.C., the Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence,” writes Mark Johanson for the International Business Times. “They were hidden in 11 caves in the Judean desert along the shores of the Dead Sea in 68 B.C. as Roman armies approached. They remained hidden until 1947, when a Bedouin shepherd of the Ta’amra tribe threw a rock in a cave and realized that something was hidden inside.”

The Dead Seas Scrolls Digital Project, which went online Monday, allows users to examine the Second Temple-era manuscripts in high definition resolution. Details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through images with almost two hundred times the resolution of a standard photo.

“The Great Isaiah Scroll may be searched by column, chapter, and verse, and is accompanied by an English translation tool and by an option for users to submit translations of verses in their own languages,” reports Ecumenical News International:

“The Dead Sea Scrolls Project with the Israel Museum enriches and preserves an important part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet,” said Professor Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s research and development center in Israel. “Having been involved in similar projects in the past…we have seen how people around the world can enhance their knowledge and understanding of key historical events by accessing documents and collections online.”

  Here’s a video from the museum:



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