A significant new visual resource that we developed for the Photo Companion to the Bible is images of old and ancient scrolls of Old Testament books. This is particularly useful in illustrating the Gospels because of the abundance of quotations and allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures.
For instance, when Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy three times in his temptation, we provide photographs from an old Torah scroll of the verses he quoted. When he gives the Sermon on the Mount and contrasts God’s intended meaning of the Law with the Pharisaic misinterpretation, we have photographs of the relevant verses in the Pentateuch. When some of Jesus’s listeners declare that “Surely this man is the Prophet,” the reader needs to understand that this is an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:18.
One time the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife (Matt 19:1-6). Jesus responded by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Having a photograph of these verses reminds us that Jesus knew the Scriptures, believed the Scriptures, and insisted that they were still authoritative. The Torah scroll we have used for many of the photographs is of Yemenite origin and was copied about 400 years ago. The Hebrew script, without the vowel pointings or chapter numbers, is similar to what Jesus would have used.
The Photo Companion to the Bible also includes images from the Great Isaiah Scroll. The entire scroll is available through Wikipedia, and we have spent considerable time in identifying the relevant portions to go with the Gospels and creating high-quality close-up shots with the verses marked.
A favorite portion of the Isaiah scroll in Jesus’s ministry is the beginning of Isaiah 61 which Jesus quoted when he spoke in the synagogue of Nazareth. It’s amazing to think that this very scroll existed at the time when Jesus read these words!
There’s something else too that I love to point out to my students. The Great Isaiah Scroll was written in the 2nd century BC. That means that we have a document describing the Messiah before the birth of Jesus. There is no doubt that Isaiah spoke of a virgin giving birth and a Servant-King being killed and resurrected long before Jesus came. I think there is a powerful testimony in being able to see with our own eyes the text of Isaiah 53 written more than 100 years before Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, just as Isaiah predicted!
The Photo Companion to the Bible provides valuable images that increase your understanding and save you time. In the case of Isaiah 53, you will find photographs of portions quoted or alluded to in many places, including Matthew 2:23, 8:17, 26:63, 27:12, Mark 9:12, 14:61, Luke 22:37, 23:33-34, 24:27, and John 1:29, 12:38.