Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls Were Discovered

December 21, 2016

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are undoubtedly the most important discovery found in Israel in the field of the Bible and history of Judaism and Christianity.”¹ Fragments of about 900 scrolls from the 2nd Temple period (some dating as early as 3rd century BC) were found in the Qumran caves (NW shore of Dead Sea), between 1947 and 1956. Every book of the Old Testament (except Esther) were represented in the finds, including one complete copy of Isaiah.

I had opportunity along with my group to visit this important archaeological site last month and photograph the caves.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I remember when studying archaeology under the late Dr. James Hodges that he said the main value of the Dead Sea Scrolls was in the discipline of apologetics. The scrolls were about 1,000 years older (!) than the previously available manuscripts with which translators had to work. The huge find of fragments provided abundant samples with which to compare our Hebrew manuscripts. The result was:

it may now be more confidently asserted than ever before that the modern Hebrew text faithfully represents the Hebrew text as originally written by the authors of the Old Testament. Dead Sea discoveries have enabled us to answer this question with much greater assurance than was possible before 1948.²

Dr. Hodges pointed out that no new translations had to be made as a result of the discovery of the scrolls; they confirmed the accuracy of transmission of what we already have.

Another contribution:

“As a result of Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, it is no longer possible to date portions or entire Old Testament books as late as some scholars used to do. It is impossible to date any biblical work or any extensive part of one later than the early second century B.C. Fragments of the Pentateuch and the prophets date from the second century B.C. Ecclesiastes, sometimes believed to have been composed in the second or first century B.C., appears in a Cave 4 manuscript dating from 175 to 150 B.C. A second-century B.C. Copy of the Psalms indicates that the collection of Psalms was fixed by Maccabean times. A manuscript of Daniel dating about 120 B.C. brings into question the alleged Maccabean date of its composition. Moreover, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not support the existence of a deutero- or trito-Isaiah, at least during the second century B.C. The complete Isaiah and the long fragment of Isaiah from Cave 1 (second century B.C.) treat the book as a unit.”³

Click photo for larger view.

(This post makes use of previous material I wrote for this blog last Dec. 2015).

Sources Quoted:

1 Yigael Yadin quoted by Hanan Eshel in Qumran: Scrolls∙Caves∙History (p.7)

2 See F. B. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (pp.61-69)

3 Bible and Spade (1978), 7(1), pp.12–14.


The Johns Rylands Fragment P52

January 23, 2014

One of the most significant biblical manuscripts is but a fragment measuring only 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches, and containing only a few verses from John (18:31-33, 37-38). It is the oldest known copy of any portion of the New Testament, dating back to Hadrian’s reign (AD 117-138). Biblical scholar and textual expert Bruce M. Metzger (deceased, 2007) wrote:

Although it had been acquired in Egypt by Bernard P. Grenfell as long ago as 1920, it remained unnoticed among hundreds of similar shreds of papyri until 1934. In that year C. H. Roberts, Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, while sorting over the unpublished papyri belonging to the John Rylands Library at Manchester, recognized that this scrap preserves several sentences from John’s Gospel. Without waiting to edit the fragment along with others of a miscellaneous nature, he immediately published a booklet setting forth a description of the fragment,its text, and a discussion of its significance.

On the basis of the style of the script, Roberts dated the fragment in the first half of the second century. Though not all scholars are convinced that it can be dated within so narrow a range, such eminent palaeographers as Sir Frederic G Kenyon, W. Schubart, Sir Harold I. Bell, Adolf Deissmann, Ulrich Wilcken, and W. H. P. Hatch have expressed themselves as being in agreement with Roberts’s judgment.

Although the extent of the verses preserved is so slight, in one respect this tiny scrap of papyrus possesses quite as much evidential value as would be the complete codes. Just as Robinson Crusoe, seeing but a single footprint in the sand, concluded that another human being, with two feet, was present on the island with him, so p52 proves the existence and use of the fourth Gospel during the first half of the second century in a provincial town along the Nile, far removed from its traditional place of composition (Ephesus in Asia Minor). Had this little fragment been known during the middle of the past century, that school of New Testament criticism which was inspired by the brilliant Tubingen professor, Ferdinand Christian Baur, could not have argued that the Fourth Gospel was not composed until about the year 160. (The Text of the New Testament, 3rd edition, pp. 38-39).

As stated above, the fragment p52 is in Manchester, England, encased in a climate controlled cabinet.

John Rylands Papyrus p52. Photo by wikimedia-commons.

John Rylands Papyrus p52. Photo by wikimedia-commons.

 


Nuzi Tablets and the Patriarchs

March 5, 2011

Many in the scholarly world are dismissive about the historicity of the patriarchs. One source that is helpful in understanding the world of the biblical patriarchs is that of the Nuzi Tablets.

Nuzi was a Hurrian administrative center not far from the Hurrian capital at Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The Hurrians are equivalent to the Horites in the Old Testament, also called Hivites and Jebusites. Excavations were carried out at Nuzi by American teams from 1925 to 1933. The major find was more than 5,000 family and administrative archives spanning six generations, ca. 1450–1350 BC. They deal with the social, economic, religious and legal institutions of the Hurrians. (Bible and Spade 18:32).

Nuzi Tablet. Semitic Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The tablets tell of practices similar to those in Genesis such as adoption for childless couples (Gn 15:2–3), children by proxy (Gn 16; 21:1–21), inheritance rights (Gn 25:29–34), marriage arrangements (Gn 28–31) and levirate marriage (Gn 38; Dt 25:5–10). They also demonstrate the significance of the deathbed blessing (Gn 27; 48–49) and household gods (Gn 31:14–19, 30–35). Some Nuzi tablets, called “tablets of sistership,” have agreements in which a man adopted a woman as a sister. In the society of the Hurrians, a wife enjoyed both greater protection and a superior position when she also had the legal status of a sister. In such a case, two separate documents were drawn up, one for marriage and the other for sistership. This may explain why both Abraham (Gn 12:10–13; 20:1–2) and Isaac (Gn 26:7) said their wives were their sisters. It is possible that they had previously adopted them to give them higher status, in accordance with the custom of the day.

Family records were highly valued at Nuzi, being passed down from father to son for as many as six generations. Nowhere else in the ancient Near East is this kind of reverence for family documents illustrated, except in the Old Testament. Indirectly, the practice at Nuzi supports the position that Genesis and the other books of history in the Old Testament are grounded in actual family, clan and tribal records carefully passed from generation to generation.

As with Mari, the Nuzi records demonstrate that the cultural practices recorded in the book of Genesis are authentic. The accounts are not fictional stories written at a much later time, as some critics claim, since the customs were unknown in later periods (ibid.).

 

Also, and ultimately, it is important to remember that Jesus endorsed and taught the historicity of the patriarchs! cf. Matt. 8:11; 22:32, etc.

Click on image for higher resolution.


The Fullness of the Time

September 24, 2010

Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…”

The appropriate time determined by God that Jesus would become flesh is called the fullness of the time. A careful reading of the Old Testament Scriptures necessitates the conclusion that all was anticipatory of the coming of Christ.  To read the Old Testament with understanding, is to witness the unfolding of God’s plan to bring Christ into the world.  The only hope of all humanity is the redemption that is in Jesus.

There are many passages that demonstrate this; some are more plain and direct than others. Texts such as Isa. 53 clearly speak of Christ and His suffering, death, and resurrection. But even in places such as Gen. 5, and Gen. 11, when you come to those long lists of names, they are there for a purpose.  No effort is made to list everybody, but the generations are traced from Adam through Seth down to Noah (Gen. 5).  Then we continue from Noah through Shem down to Terah the father of Abram (Abraham (Gen. 11).  We want to bear in mind when we read such passages that we are working toward the fullness of the time.

Our God is sovereign.  He rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17). Following the purging of idolatry from His people through the Babylonian captivity, there was the emergence of the synagogue. During the Medo-Perisan period, it was only a remnant of the Jews who returned to the land of Israel.  The rest remained in the areas where they had been dispersed.

Medo-Persian Empire. Geographical setting as OT revelation concluded. Map ©Scott Richardson.

Where was the first place the Apostle Paul would preach as he entered a city?  The synagogue!  For centuries at such locations scattered throughout the world there had been the reading and teaching of the Law.  Paul’s job was to tell them the good news, that their Scriptures had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ!  But God had been preparing them (the Jews) for that point in time throughout their history.  The fullness of the time had come!

With the fall of Persia and the rise of Greece the hand of God continued to be seen.  With the advance of Grecian culture by Alexander the Great, the Greek language became universal.  Though the Hebrew language was becoming largely unspoken (a dead language), during the Grecian period the Scriptures were translated into Greek (this translation was called the Septuagint). So anyone who could read Greek could read the OT Scriptures!  Most all of the quotations by Jesus and the NT writers were from this Greek translation.  Then when it was time to preach the good news of salvation in the name of Jesus, beginning in Acts 2, there was a universal language by which the Gospel would be proclaimed–Greek.  When the NT Scriptures were written, they were written in Koine (common) Greek!  The fullness of the time had come!

Grecian Empire. Greek became the universal language. Map ©Scott Richardson.

Next in history there was the rise of the Roman Empire.  Rome put an end to piracy at sea, and built roads and bridges such as the world had never seen.  Never before was it possible to safely and efficiently travel such great distances by land and sea, as was the case by the 1st century, just in time for the Gospel to be preached “to every creature” (Mk. 16:16; Col. 1:23).

Roman Empire. Setting for the Gospel preaching in 1st century AD. Map ©Scott Richardson.

So you see, even working through the kingdoms of men (without their knowledge), God was making all things ready for the coming of His Son.  Our God is an awesome God.

A resource I would recommend for your further study is The Theme of the Bible, by Ferrell Jenkins. It is available at the Florida College Bookstore at

http://bookstore.floridacollege.edu/store/

Maps in today’s post are by my friend Scott Richardson. You may view & order his biblical study supplies at http://SpiritualServiceSupply.com


Camels in the Times of the Patriarchs, Pt. 2

September 20, 2010

Unbelievers tirelessly charge that the Bible is inaccurate in its references to the camel in the days of the patriarchs (see our previous post).  Accordingly, the twenty-three occurrences of the word camel in Genesis are dismissed as anachronisms. While this is not surprising on the part of skeptics/atheists, it is disturbing when otherwise good reference books, such as Reader’s Digest’s The Bible Through The Ages takes the same position. Likewise the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, copyright 1986 by G.G. The Jerusalem Publishing House LTD.

Consider this response from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, edited by Merrill Unger:

This idea seems to be presumptuous in the light of such evidence as camel statuettes, bones, and other references that appear in archaeological materials beginning about 3,000 B.C. (cf. J.P.Free, “Abraham’s Camels,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies [July 1944]:: 187-93). Free’s research concerned the use of camels in Egypt. In recent years numerous indications of the domestication and use of camels in Mesopotamia and Syria during the patriarchal period have come to light.

Since wild camels were known from earliest times, there is no credible reason why such an indispensable animal in desert and semi-arid lands should not have been sporadically domesticated in patriarchal times and even earlier.  Large scale domestication after the twelfth century B.C., however, greatly expanded desert trade as a result of the advantages of camel nomadism over donkey nomadism, enabling camel traders to travel much greater distances on this animal specially adapted to desert conditions (p.67).

Nomad girl with camel, near Lystra in Turkey. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Further, consider this response to the skeptics by Staff and Lyons, of Apologetics Press:

What makes their claims even more disturbing is that several pieces of evidence do exist (and have existed for some time) that prove camels were domesticated during (and even before) the time of Abraham (roughly 2,000 B.C.). In an article that appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies a half-century ago, professor Joseph Free listed several instances of Egyptian archaeological finds supporting the domestication of camels [NOTE: The dates given for the Egyptian dynasties are from Clayton, 2001, pp.14-68]. The earliest evidence comes from a pottery camel’s head and a terra cotta tablet with men riding on and leading camels. According to Free, these are both from predynastic Egypt (1944, pp. 189-190), which according to Clayton is roughly before 3150 B.C. Free also listed three clay camel heads and a limestone vessel in the form of camel lying down—all dated at the First Dynasty of Egypt (3050-2890 B.C.). He then mentioned several models of camels from the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2498 B.C.), and a petroglyph depicting a camel and a man dated at the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2184 B.C.). Such evidence has led one respected Egyptologist to conclude that “the extant evidence clearly indicates that the domestic camel was known [in Egypt—EL] by 3,000 B.C.”—long before Abraham’s time (Kitchen, 1980, 1:228).

Perhaps the most convincing find in support of the early domestication of camels in Egypt is a rope made of camel’s hair found in the Fayum (an oasis area southwest of modern-day Cairo). The two-strand twist of hair, measuring a little over three feet long, was found in the late 1920s, and was sent to the Natural History Museum where it was analyzed and compared to the hair of several different animals. After considerable testing, it was determined to be camel hair, dated (by analyzing the layer in which it was found) to the Third or Fourth Egyptian Dynasty (2686-2498 B.C.). In his article, Free also listed several other discoveries from around 2,000 B.C. and later, which showed camels as domestic animals (pp. 189-190). [Quote from Kitchen is from The Illustrated Bible Dictionary.]

So the archaeological evidence is there, for those willing to see it.  The Bible does not affirm that camels were widely used in the time of the Patriarchs; it affirms that Abraham (and others) had camels and used them.

But the greatest source of proof that the Genesis record is true is not archaeological data. The single greatest proof is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, believed, endorsed and taught it. Jesus affirmed the inspiration of Scripture. He affirmed the historicity of the patriarchs, for example in such texts as Matt. 22:31-32, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”  Jesus believed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were real persons, and what was recorded about them is real and historical. In short, if we accept the evidence that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, we must believe what He believed, and teach what He taught!

Camel on Mt. of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

In the earlier photo, the young lady with the camel was tending to seven camels.  She appeared to be about 15 years old.  She was part of a nomadic group.  The camel in the above photo at the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem was there for tourists to ride (for a fee).  I would recommend that you ride a camel in some place other than the Mt. of Olives 🙂

Click on photos for higher resolution.


Camels in the Times of the Patriarchs

September 17, 2010

Genesis 12:14-17 speaks of camels in Egypt; contextually, camels were among the gifts the Pharaoh gave to Abraham (Abram). Later, when it was time to procure a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s servant took 10 camels for that journey to Mesopotamia (Gen. 24:10; cf. vv. 11-63).  As Jacob labored for his father-in-law Laban, he acquired camels as part of his wages (Gen. 30:43). The caravan of Ishmaelite/Midianite traders passing through Canaan en route to Egypt had camels (Gen. 37:25).  Joseph‘s brothers sold him to these merchants, who then sold him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh (Gen. 37:36).

Camels in Sinai Desert. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I photographed the above camels in the Sinai.  They were pretty scrawny looking, and weren’t showing their best side.  But it brings to mind these numerous biblical references to camels, from the times of the patriarchs onward. The (healthier) camel below was in Turkey.

Camel in Turkey near biblical Lystra. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Skeptics/atheists say that all of the above Genesis references are anachronisms.  Typical is this statement from Paul Tobin, “Thus there could have been no domesticated camel during Abraham’s lifetime. It must be, then, that the above stories are later additions to the legend of Abraham.” Or this assertion from LIVIUS Articles on Ancient History: “The use of dromedaries (one-humped Arabian camel, LM) in the second millennium BCE by nomadic tribes, as implied in the Biblical book Genesis, is almost certainly unhistorical and shows that Genesis was composed at a later age.”

This is not only the position of skeptics, but also that of some so-called friends of the Bible, those who would profess to be believers.  For example, The Reader’s Digest publication, The Bible Through the Ages, in the chapter, “The World of the Patriarchs,” says, “Clans traveled on foot and by donkey (camels were not domesticated until about 1200 B.C.), and the need to stay close to water restricted the distances they were able to travel at any given time” (p.20).  So, in one sweep, this “biblical” reference book, written on the popular level, dismisses all of the Genesis references to the camel as being unhistorical!

Is there an answer? K.A. Kitchen, Professor Emeritus of the University of Liverpool’s School of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology states that the claim that references to camels “in the patriarchal narratives are anachronistic is flatly contradicted by the available evidence to the contrary.” Unfortunately such “available evidence” is conveniently ignored.

In my upcoming post I wanted to consider some of that evidence, as well as some other related considerations.