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Rev Robert Fuller

Ancient Text Supports Early Origin of the Bible

  •                   An ancient text, discovered recently near the Elah Valley in Israel, is the oldest Hebrew text thus far found and supports the notion that the Bible, and specifically certain key books of the Old Testament, were indeed written during the reign of King David and possibly earlier.

              The text, contained on a pottery shard, was discovered last year. Originally it was not recognized as Hebrew--but Professor Gershon Galil at the University of Haifa now says that the words used are in fact ancient Hebrew words, written in an alphabet, or alephbet, far older than the earliest uniquely Hebrew script.

              In fact, the text is written in the middle-Semitic script. The formation of the letters dates it to the eleventh century BC, the century of the formation of the original Kingdom of Israel and the reigns of Kings Saul (1095-55 BC), David (1055-15 BC), and Solomon (1015-975 BC). And according to Galil, the letters spell out words used far more commonly in ancient Hebrew than in other languages spoken in the region contemporary to the Kingdom of Israel.

               The content of the text appears to be the first written admonitions in favor of equal justice under law, and non-prejudicial legal and social treatment of less-fortunate persons in society. As such it is quite similar to selected verses from Psalms (mostly attributed to King David) and Exodus (attributed, of course, to Moses). In fact, most of the text appears to come from, or have formed the basis of, Isaiah 1:17. (Isaiah was a contemporary of King Hezekiah of Judah.)

               Previously, the oldest known Hebrew manuscript was the Nash papyrus dated to the second century AD, prior to any of the manuscripts of the Masoretic Text. Then in 1947 the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, including the oldest known copy of the Book of Isaiah; these manuscripts, written primarily on parchment, and dating to 250 BC. Most Biblical scholars had always considered that the Bible must have been first written down in the sixth century BC, because Hebrew was not thought to have existed as a written language before then.

              But the Elah Valley fragment now indicates that Hebrew was definitely written in the middle Semitic script, if not an earlier script. It is therefore the strongest secular evidence that Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, existed as a written language at least since the first Kingdom of Israel.

              Of course, the Bible itself provides ample testimony that it was written, in some form or another, at least since the Exodus of Israel from Egypt (1491 BC). The Ten Commandments are the most obvious example, though they, of course, have not been found. But Moses speaks often of "genealogical annals" of the twelve tribes of Israel, especially in the last chapters of Genesis and the first and sixth chapters of Exodus.

              More tellingly, the development of Semitic scripts from the early period (dating to 1500 BC and earlier) to the modern Hebrew alephbet is already well-established. No one can know whether another Hebrew manuscript, written in that earliest Semitic script, is waiting to be found, if not in modern Israel than perhaps in the Sinai desert, along the route of the Exodus

1 comment
  • Jeff Austin
    Jeff Austin As time goes by, it seems so many ancient 'history' whether biblical, Greek or otherwise are being proven out, at least in the major points and outline (Finding Troy, one of the most notable and largest) The scrolls of Nag Hammadi, being another, similar ...  more
    January 31, 2010