May 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Oldest Known Copy of Ten Commandments on Display

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Heading to Israel in the next week? Swing by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to see the oldest surviving copy of the Ten Commandments, dating to somewhere between 30 and 1 BC.  

The fragile 2,000-year-old manuscript is very rarely allowed on public display. It was loaned to the Israel Museum from the Israel Antiquities Authority for a simple and powerful exhibition called "A Brief History of Humankind," which displays fourteen pivotal objects in the evolution of humanity.  The exhibition is part of the museum's celebrations for its 50th anniversary.

The manuscript was found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery in the mid 20th century when Khirbet Qumran was excavated.

"When you are thinking about universal law, the universal principle of ethics, ... this is the first law that comes to your mind," exhibit curator Tania Coen-Uzzielli said in a press release.

The manuscript of the Ten Commandments will only be on loan for two weeks - and we are one week in already - so if you are interested in seeing it, you better jump on the next jet to Jerusalem. After the loan period expires, the manuscript will return to its hyper-secure and hyper-controlled storage environment in complete darkness.

A facsimile will replace it.

[Image from the Israel Museum]