Pre-Christian story of Noah and other figures on public display for first time

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By Associated Press
A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls
A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls   -  Copyright  AP

The only copy of an ancient script telling the story of Noah, Abraham and other biblical characters in the first person, has gone on display in public for the first time.

The Genesis Apocryphon was written by a Jewish sect in the 1st century BCE and discovered in desert caves in the West Bank around 80 years ago. It expands on stories found in the Book of Genesis.

It forms part of a series of works known as the Dead Sea Scrolls which contain parts of the Bible as long as additional material.

The manuscripts are fragile and need to be viewed through special glass to protect them from the damaging effects of light.

The badly-damaged section of the story going on display describes how Noah's alighted on the peaks of Mount Ararat in his Ark. Told from Noah's perspective, the patriarch says he "atoned for all the earth in its entirety" by offering up animal sacrifices.

"In some way what we have are parallel stories that we don't have in the Hebrew Bible in which the patriarchs are presented in different ways than the ways we have today in the Pentateuch," says Adolfo Roitman, the curator of the exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The exhibition also features a recording of Muhammed edh-Dhib and Jum'a Muhammed explaining how they came across the texts as well as accounts of their decyphering.