The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible
Dead Sea scrolls are religious works that are categorized into Biblical and Non-Biblical conformations. The Biblical compositions are connoted to be manuscripts that are constituted in the Hebrew Bible, apart from the book of Esther, which was not represented among the found scrolls. The Non-Biblical texts are not constituted and not part of the contemporary Hebrew Bible e.g. Apocrypha, Pesher, Calendrical texts, Parabiblical, Historical, Legal and Exegetical texts among others. The paper objectifies to explore the three primary versions of the Old Testament and highlight some of the superior readings as found in the Biblical scrolls. It implies an assessment of the reliability of the Old Testament and some new scriptural texts as evidenced in the manuscripts. The investigation also extends to the identification of two Biblical books that were discovered among the Dead Sea manuscripts. Therefore, it begins with a brief history and general contents of the scrolls, versions of the Old Testament, some editions of Biblical books in the Dead Sea Scrolls, superior readings found in the Biblical scriptures and lastly, a subtle conclusion.
The 20th century is accredited for one of the most significant archaeological discoveries- The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) or the Qumran documents.Notably, the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) is attributed to the expansion of information and comprehension of Late Second Temple Judaism and the early Christian origins. It can be highlighted that their identification elicited major debates and concerns as regards their complexities, inconsistencies, origins and multiple personalities (the Masoretic family, Egyptian and Palestinian). Therefore, the manuscripts can be said to have revolutionized and destabilized the entire field of Biblical studies . The DSS were first foundby a shepherd (a young Arab) in the caves along the Western shorelines of the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert (Bible archaeology Staff 1). The Individual, in search of a lost goat, accidentally came across one of the caves from where some of the documents were found. Later, a multiplicity of fragments were discovered in ten other different caves in the region.
Versions of the Old Testament
The threeprimaryversions of the Old Testament constitute the Greek Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch and Masoretic Hebrew texts (Henze X).
The Greek Septuagint
The Greek Septuagint also denoted as (LXX) is the earliest form of translation of the Old Testament into Hellenistic Greek. The version was identified as the Septuagint or LXX because it was successfully translated by 72 Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt under the direction of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Flint 46). Floyd Jones highlights that this version of the Old Testament presumes certain conclusions due to the fact that it was the first translation dated between the years 285-250 B.C (Jones 8). It is assumed that this was the “Bible” utilized by Jesus and His apostles and thus, also sanctions the use of the Apocrypha that forms part of the Septuagint. It can be denoted that there exist three Old testament manuscripts and hence, the assumptions cannot be justified unless a comparison of the three texts is made.In addition, some anecdotal evidence can be utilized to denounce the claims.
Many individuals believe the Latin Vulgate to be similar to the Septuagint. However, the Vulgate is a translation of the Hebrew text into Greek by a single individual. The Greek Septuagint, from fables, is a translation attributed to many people and hence, divergent. It can be stated that its origins still remain obscure and are rendered as myths. It is due to the claim that the chosen seventy wrote their translations from different locations and times, all writing the same thing thatserved as proof of heavenly inspiration.
The argumentation that underlies the Septuagint being pre-Christian is evidenced by the Letter of Aristeas (Flint 47). From the letter and the names of the Greek scholars purported to have been involved in the translation, it can be concluded to be a hoax. Demetrius was claimed to be the librarian at the time, which was never the case, and the names of individuals highlighted to have been involved in writing the Septuagint translation were of Greek descent. The writer also momentarily forgets and alludes to the Ptolemy dynasty as a time in his past (Thackeray 1). He mentions an Egyptian naval victory which can be evidenced to have occurred long after the death of Demetrius (Thackeray 1).
Some scholars and believers are of the notion that there exist proofof the utilization of the Septuagint in the New Testament. The most highlighted traces of the LXX in the New testament is Luke 4: 18- 19 that states, “ Preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (KJV 1).” The verse is compared from LXX Isaiah 61: 1-2 that says, “ Proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind(Sir Brenton 1).” The Hebrew version as translated in the KJV (Isaiah 61: 1-2) denotes, “ Proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound (KJV 1).”
From the readings, it is evident that the LXX is somewhat similar to the new testament texts as concerns the clause, “ recovery of sight to the blind.” However, the Hebrew text has an extended acclamation that denotes, “the opening of the prison to them that are bound” that is not found in the LXX. The statement can be related to Luke 4:18, “ to set at liberty them that are bruised,” by linking the terms liberty with opening prisons and bruised, being bound. It can also be evidenced through Luke 24:44 that Jesus acclaimed the fact that all the things inscribed about Him in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and Psalms shall be fulfilled (KJV 1). It can be implied that since the Septuagint contains other books in the form of the Apocrypha which Jesus fails to mention, disqualifies the LXX as a pre-Christian publication and the presumption that it was utilized by Him and His apostles. Roman Catholics, still push for the acceptance of the Septuagint and are the only group to have included it in the Bible. Nonetheless, as evident, it can be implied to be ambivalent and to some extent a distortion due to the false claims and assumptions.
The discovery of the DSS as aforementioned evoked debate and destabilized the Biblical arena. The DSS can be said to give the Septuagint more ground as concerns its claim on pre-Christian existence. It is because, after the publication of all the Dead Sea fragments, the Septuagint prophesies the coming of a Messiah (1QSa=1Q28a) similar to “the Prophet Isaiah” manuscript (Vermes 200). Many scholars connote that the LXX can be deemed more akin to the Dead Sea scrolls than the Masoretic texts (Wiener 1)that were written about a thousand years after the death of Yahweh. Another challenge of the latter is evidenced in the Jeremiah texts. It can be highlighted that the Dead Sea fragment appears to be a shorter version of Jeremiah that remains similar to the one found in the Septuagint. From the facts, a lot can be implied about the translators of the Old testament versions. Therefore, revealing the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls. However, holding all other factors constant, it can be highlighted that the theme of the Bible remains standard proving Its divination and inspiration from God.
The Samaritan Pentateuch (Sam P)
Dufuor denotes that the Samaritan Pentateuch has many similarities to the Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls (Dufuor 1). The researcher continues to indicate that although the Sam P inherits an inferior position to the MT and the Septuagint, it shares over 6000 commonalities with the latter (Dufuor 1). The Pentateuch is part of the Torah a significant section of the Bible in the Jewish traditions. Therefore, the Samaritan Pentateuch contains the five books of Moses. The Samaritans restricted themselves to the canons constituted in the Pentateuch and adopted the version as their sacred scriptures. The Samaritans are an ethnic set of the Jewish society who claim to preserve the scribal tradition of copying manuscripts. The Bible mentions the Samaritans in the parable of the Good Samaritan man. The enormous parallels between the Septuagint and the Sam P can be concluded to mean it shares similarities with the Dead Sea scrolls. Therefore, it can be considered integral in making textual criticisms and establishing the reliability of the Bible.
Masoretic Text (MT)
Before the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, the Masoretic Text was the earliest existing Old Testament text dated about 1000 A.D- medieval era- in Hebrew. The MT-derived its name from the Masoretes, who were scribes and Torah scholars (Bible archaeology Staff 1). The Masoretes enhanced the Hebrew texts by adding vowels which was not common practice prior to the Hebrew middle ages. It can be highlighted that most academicians and the Biblical scholars maintained the notion that the Masoretic Text was the perfect representation of the Old Testament. However, the discovery of the Dead sea scrolls thwarted this idea suggesting diverse versions of the Old Testament. The MT can be denoted to be one of the versions similar to the Septuagint and the newly found Dead Sea scrolls. From the onset, it is denoted that the MT did not represent the originalform of the Old Testament but was fixed by the Jewish scholars and proclaimed the correct and only authoritative text. Therefore, the identification of the DSS an earlier version of the Hebrew text challenges the premise. However, the MT is still widely used today by the catholic and protestant believers. Probably, because of the meticulous and dedication the scribes (Masoretes) had in the codification of the text.
Being a younger version of the Old testament as compared to the Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls, it can be assumed that the MT utilized corrupted Hebrew texts. The Bible archaeology staff acclaim the fact that the Masoretes acknowledged the possibility of human error when decoding the Hebrew text(Bible archaeology Staff 1). The MT also did involve the addition of vowels and different alphabet that can be suggested to have changed or altered the original meanings and connotations of the Old testament. Therefore, the MT presents a version of the old testament that appears dissimilar and altered as compared to the two other primary versions of the Bible. However, inconsistencies are constant across the cross-section. For the MT, as aforementioned, the Septuagint progresses in any form of differences between the two, as regards the Dead Sea scrolls.
James Vanderkam highlights different textual variations between the MT and the fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls. For example, Isaiah 40:12 (Vanderkam 11)
MT (KJV): Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand.
1QSa: Measured the waters of the sea
From the text, it can be highlighted that the MT and the Dead Sea scrolls are in inconsistent. An individual arguing on the basis of originality can term the MT as omitting text or the Dead Sea scrolls adding to the original scriptures. The author continues to highlight the new and expanded editions of Biblical books from the Dead Sea Scrolls. At the end of Deuteronomy 5:15, he denotes one of the Qumran texts (4QDeutn) has additional words different from the MT (Vanderkam 24).
Additionaltexts can also be viewed in 1 Samuel 10 that gives the story of Nahash, King of the Ammonites. Therefore, the Masoretic Text can no longer be associated with accuracy and termed the actual representation of the Old Testament. Similar to the other versions of the Old Testament, it has its own share of contradictions and irregularities bringing into perspective the influence interpreters and translators might have had on the original text.
Editions of Biblical Books in the DSS
It can be highlighted that the discovery of the Book of Isaiah (1Qlsaa) among the Dead Sea manuscripts has inspired more confidence as concerns the Bible in both the secular and Christian worlds. The Isaiah scroll was a great discovery as it constituted the complete version of the Hebrew texts and conformed to the Masoretic texts codified during the medieval period. The textcontained66 chapters and credited as one of the oldest scrolls of the Hebrew Bible. The discrepancies that exist between the Aleppo codex and the Dead Sea Scrolls are mostly spellings accrued to Hebrew writings during the Second Temple Judaism period.
Similar to the Bible, the Isaiah DSS scroll can be suggested to be one of the most significant and valued Books of the Bible. It is evidenced by the fact that it is the only complete scroll among the Dead Sea manuscripts and was exceptionally well-preserved.In the book, the birth of Jesus (Messiah) by a virgin is well articulated and thus, proof of His existence, descent ( branch of David) and life as written in the New Testament. The prophecies of His crucifixion are also contained in the Book and highlights the humiliation Jesus was subjected to by the community that failed to recognize Him as the son of the Lord.
The Dead Sea Habbakuk scroll contains 13 columns of Hebrew writing. It is known to have commentaries on the Old Testament. It mostly a psalm and not a prophecy. However, the explanations suggest or give details on the ‘Righteous Teacher’persecuted by the wicked priest. The Pesher of Habakkuk, similar to the Isaiah scroll, is one of the nearly complete Old Testament Books to have been found in the Qumran caves. Therefore, it has been favorably utilized to prove the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. The Biblical Book highlights two main subjects- The oracle of God which the prophet Habakkuk saw (chapter one and two) and a prayer of prophet Habbakuk ( chapter three) (Bruce 6). The scrolls encompass the first two chapters of the book of Habbakuk and denote the religious politics in Jerusalem. According to Bruce, it is the primary source of the challenges of Qumran study- the identity of the Teacher of Righteousness and his relationship with the priesthood (Bruce 7).
Interesting Readings in the Biblical Scrolls
The Dead Sea scrolls feature many interesting Biblical readings with some being similar and others variant from the Bible.
4QGeng: Let the waters underneath the heavens be gathered together in one gathering and let dry land appear (VanderKam and Flint 105).
The reading appears similar in the Bible Genesis: 1-9 with variations only in the grammar utilized.
4QDeutq: Rejoice, O heavens, together with him, and bow to him all you divine beings, for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance to his enemies, and will recompense those who hate him, and will atone for the land of his people (Callaway 81).
Phillip Callaway denotes that the atonement occurred in the past in the MT and the Sam P (Callaway 81). The scripture appears similar in the King James Bible (Deut 32: 43) with differences occurring in the denotation “divine beings” where the KJV uses the word “servants.” However, the acclamation by the Lord to protect His own remains a constant theme in the two scriptures.
4QSama: Nahash, king of the Ammonites, oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh- Gilead (Callaway 82).
The reading is interesting because it is an omission from the book of Samuel and inspires more understanding of the Book. A similar omission exists in the Book of Deuteronomy.
(4QDeutn): To keep the Sabbath and hallow it. For in six days the LORDmade heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them and rested the seventh day; so the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and
Hallowed it (Vanderkam 24).
4Q2857: And there shall come forth a shoot fromthe stump of Jesse, the Branch of David and they will enter into judgment with and the Prince of the congregation, the Branch of David will kill Him by strokes and by wounds (Vermes 230).”
The above scripture serves as an interesting Biblical reading due to its Messianic connotations. It proves the point that Jesus Christ did exist and coincided with the prophecies of Isaiah
As earlier mentioned, it can be highlighted that the Dead Sea scrolls in the Qumran caves were a significant and meaningful discovery credited to the young shepherd. They presented a way in which the authenticity and the reliability of the Bible could be proved. Matthew Black denotes that the scrolls are significant to the Christiandoctrine, but there is a danger that their importance may be exaggerated and distorted (Black 2). It can be highlighted that all the books of the old testament were found in the caves with the exemption of the book of Esther (Bible Archaeology Staff 1). The versions of the Old testament as highlighted (Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch, and Masoretic texts) depict variances and similarities to the Dead Sea manuscripts. From the paper, it has been identified that the Septuagint shares more similarities to the Dead Sea scrolls as compared to the Masoretic text. The MT is the version of the Bible used by most Christians.
There are discrepancies and conflicts between the Christian Bible and the Dead Sea manuscripts. However, it can be denoted that the thematic message remains the same throughout. The Biblical inconsistencies present themselves in the form of mostly grammar and lexicology. There also exists additions or omissions to some of the Biblical chapters. It is plausible to acclaim the fact that the ambivalence of the three main versions of the Old testament can be ascribed to the translators and scribes. Some of the translators were biased and thus, perverting the original texts. Therefore, it can be concluded against all mythology and contradiction; the Bible represents an almost full account of the message of the Lord to His flock
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