Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Oldest Scriptures in Existence

I really find archaeology to be fascinating. Not so much that I'd like to do it, personally, but it's amazing and humbling how discoveries made in archaeology confirm the Biblical record. I've posted previously about the discovery of the Pool of Siloam and about the confirmation of Edom's existence in David and Solomon's time, and since people seem to find these interesting, I thought I'd present another discovery that I noticed earlier this year.

In 1979, tiny silver scrolls were found in Jerusalem during an archaeological dig. At the time, the technology to fully analyze these artifacts didn't exist yet. Well, it does now, and last October Israeli and American researchers used a new photographic technique to reveal Hebrew inscriptions on the scrolls. The complete story can be found at the Discovery Channel website, at VOA News, and some really nice pictures can be seen here.

One of the scrolls records the Priestly Benediction from Numbers 6:24-26: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." The other scroll's inscription reads "May he/she be blessed by Yahweh, the warrior/helper, and the rebuker of Evil."

This find caused a great deal of excitement in the Biblical studies community. Why?

A quick history lesson (bear with me)...

The books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew (and some Aramaic), over a period between 1700 BC and 400 BC. However, prior to this find, the earliest complete Hebrew copy of the Old Testament dated from around AD 930. The earliest complete Old Testament in existence for the longest time was a Greek translation done shortly before Christ's birth. Earlier manuscripts include the Hebrew Dead Sea Scrolls which, although incomplete, date from between 300 to 200 BC.

See the problem? If the first five books of the OT were written around 1700 BC, there is a gap of at least 1400 years between that time and the earliest Hebrew manuscripts. Now, normally this wouldn't pose a problem for historians; the earliest surviving copies of Aristotle, for instance, were written 1400 years after his death, and no one doubts that they're legitimate. But the implications, if the Bible is accurate, are far more uncomfortable for many, of course.

And so secular historians have been very skeptical of the traditional Biblical dates. Some German critics in the last century even suggested that the Old Testament was written after the period of the Captivity in Babylon, and so around or after 500 BC - thus denying that Moses, or David, or Joshua actually wrote the books attributed to them and implying that the OT is a collection of fiction and folklore. This theory became very popular.

Well, these scrolls date from 600 BC, the time of King Josiah and the prophet Jeremiah - during the First Temple period, and before the Babylonian captivity. These scrolls are older than Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and most of the 12 minor prophets! While not proving that the Penteteuch - first five books of the Bible - was written in 1700, it strongly suggests that they were already complete and widely known in the pre-Babylonian era.

Bottom line: These scrolls are the oldest copies of Scripture in existence.

And another secular theory sustains a mortal wound...


Anonymous Bethany said...

ahaha, thats what ya get.

Its true, though, archaeology, especially that which pertains to the Bible and Biblical times, is very interesting.

12:12 PM  

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