Words From the World’s Oldest Biblical Texts Finally Revealed After Experts Analyze 25 Dead Sea Scroll Fragments (Pictures and Video)

This scroll fragment preserves parts of the Book of Leviticus. Credit: copyright The Schøyen Collection, Oslo and London, MS 4611

This scroll fragment preserves parts of the Book of Leviticus. Credit: copyright The Schøyen Collection, Oslo and London, MS 4611

Michael Holmes, executive director of the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative, warns that as exciting as the latest publications are, scientists are still conducting tests on the fragments in question to make sure they are not forgeries.

“The results will be incorporated in our future museum exhibits, inviting visitors to grasp and engage with issues involved with assessing authenticity,” Holmes said.

The fragment belonging to the Book of Nehemiah contains text from Nehemiah 2:13-16:

13 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. 14 Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. 15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. 16 And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. (KJV).

According to the findings, the fragment tells of a man named Nehemiah who lived during the fifth century B.C., at a time after Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Persian Empire had taken over Babylon’s territory and the Jews, who had been forced to leave Israel by the Babylonians, were allowed to return home.

The fragment records Nehemiah’s visit to a ruined Jerusalem, finding that its gates had been “consumed by fire.” According to the fragment text, he inspects the remains of the walls before starting work on rebuilding them.

Scholars have noted in previous studies that archaeologists hadn’t found any copies of the Book of Nehemiah in the Qumran caves. How this fragment came to America is unknown, and scholars say they can’t be sure it’s from Qumran.

“It is assumed to come from Cave 4 [at Qumran], but in the final analysis it must be said that the provenance of the fragment remains unknown,” wrote Martin G. Abegg Jr., a professor at Trinity Western University who led the team that analyzed the fragment, in the book “Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum.

The Schøyen Collection reveals a fragment containing part of the Book of  Leviticus 26:3-9.  In the fragment text, God promises that if the Sabbath is observed and the Ten Commandments are obeyed, the people of Israel will be rewarded.

Parts of the fragment reads

“If you walk according to my laws, and keep my commandments and implement them, then I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit, “I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; and I will exterminate vicious beasts from the land, and no sword shall cross your land,” “I will look with favour upon you, and make you fertile and multiply you.” ( translation by Torleif Elgvin).

History Behind the 25 Scroll Fragments

The 25 newly published scroll fragments were purchased by two separate collectors- Steve Green and Martin Schøyen.

According to Live Science, Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, purchased 13 of the fragments between 2009 and 2014. Green then donated the fragments, along with thousands of other artifacts, to the Museum of the Bible. Green is helping to fund the construction of the museum, which is slated to open in Washington, D.C., next fall.

“Some of these fragments must have come from Qumran, probably Cave 4, while the others may have derived from other sites in the Judean Desert,” wrote Emanuel Tov, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in the book volume. “Unfortunately, little is known about the provenance of these fragments because most sellers did not provide such information at the time of the sale.” (Source:  Live Science)

Martin Schøyen, a collector from Norway, who has been collecting biblical manuscripts since 1986, owns the other batch of the recently revealed Dead Sea Scrolls. The texts from those fragments are detailed in the book “Gleanings from the Caves: Dead Sea Scrolls and Artefacts from The Schøyen Collection” (Bloomsbury, 2016). Also detailed in the book are other artifacts related to the scrolls, including a linen wrapper in which one of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found.

dead-sea-scroll-fragments

Dead Sea Scrolls of the Recent 25 Fragments. Photo Credit: Live Science

 “The ultimate challenge had become to acquire a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls with a biblical text,” Schøyen wrote in the book. “It was for me a ‘Mission: Impossible.'”

Schøyens perseverance of pursuing the missing fragments paid off, as he was able to track down and buy scroll fragments from a variety of sources.

“The quest that started as a ‘Mission: Impossible’ in 1986, gradually proceeded to become a collection of [about] 115 fragments from around 27 different scrolls,”  Schøyen said. He added that some of the fragments in his collection come from caves 1, 4 and 11 at Qumran, while some come from other caves in the Judean Desert.

Schøyen published a note from William Kando saying that the Leviticus scroll fragment was once owned by his father who got it from Bedouin in 1952 or 1953 and it was sold, along with other fragments, to a customer in Zurich in 1956.

Anticipation for  70 Newly Discovered Fragments

“Some of these fragments must have come from Qumran, probably Cave 4, while the others may have derived from other sites in the Judean Desert,”wrote Emanuel Tov, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in the book volume. “Unfortunately, little is known about the provenance of these fragments because most sellers did not provide such information at the time of the sale.”

When God said he would preserve his word, he certainly meant it!

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. – Isaiah 40:8 (KJV).

History of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a massive collection of nearly 1,000 different ancient texts which were found in eleven Qumran Caves in the Judean Desert, located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea (known today as West Bank).

The first set of scrolls were accidentally discovered approximately 70 years ago, (around late 1946 or early 1947)  by a group of young Bedouin shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep near the ancient settlement of Qumran.  As the story goes, one of the young shepherds hurled a rock into the opening of one of the caves (known as the Qumran Caves) and “was surprised to hear a shattering sound.” The curious Shepherds entered the cave and found a number of large clay jars, seven of which contained leather and papyrus scrolls.

Qumran cave 4 in the Judean Desert, where 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls were found in August 1952. Photo Credit: Wikipedia, public domain

What the shepherd’s accidentally discovered was an ancient collection of biblical texts, including the oldest known biblical manuscript that was later dated to be 2,000 years old by the antique collector who bought the collection from the young shepherds. Collectively, the scrolls and the fragments of scrolls and texts are known as “the Dead Sea Scrolls,” and the discovery went down in history as “the greatest archaeological find of the 20th Century.”

As news spread of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery, archaeologists and treasure hunters descended upon the Judean Desert and would spend the next decade digging through eleven nearby caves, unearthing thousands of scroll fragments that when put together make up nearly 1,000 manuscripts.

qumran_pottery

Two examples of the pottery that held some of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents found at Qumran. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Theories abound as to why the scrolls were placed in these caves, the Christian perspective is that in approximately 68 BCE the scrolls were placed in the caves to protect them from the destruction of the Roman Army.

Since the discovery, years and years of research and time have been a mass effort of archaeologists, scholars and researchers; each group contributing to piece the fragments together and verify their authenticity. To date, researchers have yet to identify all of the scroll fragments.

Back in 2011, through a combined effort by Israel’s national museum and Google,  digital copies of the scrolls were made public and searchable at the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls website.

The initial set of Dead Sea Scrolls (found by the Shepherds) are fragments of every book of the Old Testament with the exception of the Book of Esther. The book of Esther was not found, leaving scholars wondering if Esther was even a part of the original canon, or perhaps fragments had yet to be unearthed. The only completed book preserved among the ancient texts was Isaiah (Known as the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa); this copy is dated to the first century B.C., and is considered the earliest Old Testament manuscript in existence today. Along with biblical texts, the scrolls include documents about sectarian regulations, such as the Community Rule, and religious writings that do not appear in the Old Testament.

The Dead Sea Scrolls offer a deep religious and historical significance. To believers they confirm not only the already known belief that God exists, but that his prophecies and promises are being unveiled. The texts reveal historical accounts of the emergence of Christianity, Judaism, and the relations between early Christians and Jews.  They cover a vast time span from third century B.C. to the first century A.D, accounting for the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. The scrolls have also been used in reconstructing “Palestinian” history as far back as the fourth century B.C. and enabled scholars to push back the date of the Hebrew Bible to no later than A.D. 70.

The majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in the Hebrew, with some written in ancient paleo-Hebrew, which is thought to have fallen out of use in the fifth century B.C. Other texts appear in Aramaic, the language spoken by many Jews—including, Jesus—between the sixth century B.C. and the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In addition, several texts feature translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which some Jews used instead of or in addition to Hebrew at the time of the scrolls’ creation. (Source: History.com).

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. -Romans 8:3-4 (KJV).

In the Faithful Service of Jesus Christ,

Lisa Muhar

Join us at:  He Is Coming -Are You Ready?

Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, and rose again for the sole purpose of saving us from our sins.  Are you saved?  The bible declares that “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13 (KJV). Salvation is turning your life over to Jesus Christ, believing that Jesus is the son of God, and renewing your mind with his spirit, that is done through repentance of sin, and following JESUS with all your heart, mind and soul. JESUS transforms lives, if you are ready for this life saving step, call upon your savior TODAY! Learn more here.

PROPHECY:

 “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” – Daniel 12:4 (KJV).  

For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof – Psalm 102:14 (KJV).

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. -Isaiah 45:3 (KJV). 

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