All John Trever intended to do was to study and photograph the plants of the Holy Land.

But a telephone call on February 18, 1948, changed the young Methodist scholar's life—and the course of biblical studies—forever. The next day Butrus Sowmy of St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Jerusalem brought Trever a scroll that the monastery had acquired. Could he identify the manuscript and determine its age?

"Laying the heavy document on my bed, slowly I began to open it. A sheet of leather, containing two columns of text, had become detached from the rest of the document. The linen thread used to bind the sheets together had disintegrated. On the left edge the text was badly blurred by someone who had attempted to re-ink many letters which had been worn away by handling. Obviously this was the end of the scroll. It had been rolled backwards, with the last column on the outside. I continued to unroll another six to eight columns.

"Here was not what I had expected! The script was puzzling to eyes more accustomed to Kittel's Biblia Hebraica in modern printed Hebrew and a few relatively modern Torah and Esther scrolls. I had expected the identification to be easy, but this scroll was different. It fired my imagination. …

"The form of the script was intriguing, and it was soon apparent that it was the only clue for dating the document. … I went over to my desk and found a box of 2" x 2" color slides on the history of the Bible text, and began to thumb through the section on the Hebrew text. . . . The British Museum Torah Codex, I recalled, had been considered one of the oldest extant Hebrew Bible manuscripts. A mere glance at the photograph of it in my magnifier was convincing enough that the manuscript on ...

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