Ten Commandments on display at ROM

  • October 19, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - As the Royal Ontario Museum unveiled the second half of its six-month exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Words That Changed The World, the exhibit had already welcomed more than 160,000 people — about 50,000 more than museum officials had anticipated for the July to October period.

Kicking off the second three-month installment was a rare fragment of the largest and best preserved parchment of the Ten Commandments, on display for just 80 hours between Oct. 10 and 18.

“It’s an exhibit about ideas and about values,” said ROM director and CEO William Thorsell.

While church and school group attendance has been important, the higher-than-expected turnout has been driven by individual adults who come to the museum with great seriousness and spend long periods not just with the scrolls but also the background material and scholarly context, Thorsell told The Catholic Register.

The ROM’s first big success since opening the controversial Michael Lee Chin Crystal addition to the downtown Toronto museum, the exhibition of sacred writings from the Bible has appealed to Muslims, Jews and Christians, Thorsell said.

“We’ll have 1,300 people here on a Tuesday in September when it’s normally 600,” he said.

Thorsell said he was impressed by the seriousness people bring to the exhibit.

“They’re not just going through for a thrill,” he said.

An exhibition of sacred writings in Toronto, with its large Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, is a great way of sparking interreligious dialogue about values and identity, said Thorsell.

Part two of the exhibit includes a fragment of the Book of Deuteronomy, parts of 51 different Psalms, a fragment of Isaiah and a 1,900-year-old lease agreement for a piece of farmland which mentions Simon Bar Kosiba, leader of the Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 134.

The Ten Commandments text on display is a fragment from the Deuteronomy 5 version of the decalogue, as opposed to the version found in Exodus 20. The display points out that more than a legal code, the Ten Commandments were in the form of a treaty between God and His people which set out the conditions for belonging to the people of Israel.

The scrolls exhibit closes Jan. 3, 2010.

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