The Dead Sea Scrolls online
As this Reuters article announced the Dead Sea Scrolls will be available online in high-resolution images. The New York Times coverage has more details about the history a of the scrolls and the technical aspects of the project of putting them online. Neither piece mentions when will the images be available (although NYT mentions the possibility of matter or months) and whether access to them will be free or not. This is an important step in democratizing access. From the many function the internet can play in religious life widening the circle who has access to information, or in the case of religion founding texts, is an important one. However it would be misleading to think that the circle of people who will actually read the Scrolls in their original will be growing exponentially. The process is similar how the "digital divide" concept changed over the years. Originally it was about simple question of access: the two sides of the divide were compared on whether they could access the internet or not. Rural vs urban, young vs old people, affluent vs poor, males vs females... These were some of the categories we used to think of. Nowadays that the technical access is cheap and pervasive, digital divide experts ask questions about how people are using their access and what defines their effective use of the available information. The issue became primarily a question of skills and the obstacles to attain them. Similarly, religious scholars and clergy have been fighting for decades to gain access to the Dead Sea Scrolls. As the result of decisions often based on politics the circle of people who could study them remained relatively small. Now the circle, presumably, will be extended to everybody. Does it mean that every person will be able to read, understand, and analyze the text? No, you still have to be steeped into the language it was written in, familiar with the script to be able to recognize the differences between that version of the Bible and other ones in order to draw any conclusion. Theoretically the role interpretation of the text can be taken out of the hands of the high priests of science, but more realistically speaking only those who can read the text and have the necessary background knowledge will be able to conduct meaningful analysis. But they will no longer control the access.