The Penn Museum in University City holds a collection of nearly a million objects and is one of the world’s finest archaeological and anthropological museums. (Photo courtesy Penn Museum)
In anticipation of Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families 2015, the Penn Museum in conjunction with the Penn Libraries will host an impressive exhibition of Bible-era treasures from years, centuries and millennia past.
Opening August 15, Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World focuses on ancient Near East, Egypt and the Canaan and Ancient Israel galleries, transporting visitors to another time and place as they come face-to-face with ancient artifacts and art.
Drawn from its own collections, the museum will show selected artifacts while the Penn Libraries will add rare books and manuscripts to the exhibition.
The treasures to be displayed are awe-inspiring.
Dating back to the 3rd century CE, one of the world’s oldest fragments of the gospel of Saint Matthew, written in ancient Greek, is one of the must-sees. Containing the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, this significant section of the Bible details the lineage of Jesus before describing how Mary came to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
The collection will include the earliest transcribed version of the Mesopotamian flood story, dating back to roughly 1650 BCE, spelled out in Sumerian cuneiform on an ancient clay tablet. The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible’s Great Flood with Noah both draw from this tale, told on the artifact found where Nippur in Mesopotamia was once located.
The selection of Bibles on loan from the Penn Libraries’ collections are worth noting as well. The first authorized Roman Catholic translation of the New Testament Bible into English from 1582 will be viewable. Printed in Reims, France, this text came to be as a result of English Catholics in exile.
These artifacts and texts, along with many others, are mandatory viewing for the devout as well as those with archaeological and anthropological interests.
But please note, even with a University of Pennsylvania library card, none of the texts are available to check out!
Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World
When: August 15-November 7
Where: Penn Museum, 3260 South Street
Cost: Included with museum admission; $15, adults; $13, seniors (65 and above); $10, students (with college ID) and children (ages 6-17); $10, special summer admission for all through August; free to museum members, active U.S. military personnel and children (5 and under)
An ancient clay tablet in Sumerian cuneiform from the site of Nippur in Mesopotamia (now in Iraq), circa 1650 BCE, is one of ten pieces on short-term display in the special exhibition, Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World. (Photo courtesy Penn Museum)