Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Parchments from books of Nahum and Zechariah added to Dead Sea Scrolls

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, March 19, 2021 (links in original):

For the first time in 60 years, archaeologists announced the recovery of ancient parchments adding to the Biblically significant trove of Dead Sea Scrolls.

The parchments were part of an effort to save artifacts from antiquity theft, a growing problem in the region. Among the finds were a cache of rare coins from the days of Bar-Kokhba, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child – likely female, wrapped in a cloth and mummified, and a large complete basket dating back 10,500 years, likely the oldest in the world.

But for the Biblically-minded, the parchments were of intense interest. Israel365News interviewed the researchers, Tanya Bitler, Dr. Oren Ableman and Beatriz Riestra of the Dead Sea Scrolls Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who focused on the parchments and asked several questions.

Though the artifacts came from many different sites, the parchments all came from a site called the Cave of Horror, officially cataloged as Cave 8, in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever, so named because the skeletons of 40 men, women, and children were discovered inside when researcher first investigated the site in 1960. The skeletons were the remains of Jewish refugees from the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 CE. At the top of the cliff were the ruins of a Roman camp used for the siege of the Jews hiding in the cave. The cave poses unique difficulties for the researchers as it is located roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges, and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.

“More than 80 pieces of parchment were unearthed in the present excavation, of them, more than 40 are written or bear some ink remains, the researchers said. “The fragments are quite small, the biggest being nine centimeters square.”

The parchments were radiocarbon-dated back to the second century CE. A 1961 excavation of the cave found previous parchment fragments but none have been found since then. The recent find includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets written in Greek, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The verses were Greek translations of the Hebrew text. The name of God appears in ancient Hebrew script, known from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The verse from Nahum:

The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein.Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, And rocks are shattered because of Him. Nahum 1:5–6

The verse from Zechariah:

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. Zechariah 8:16

The researchers concluded that the parchments were written by two different scribes.

“The new fragments are part of a manuscript already known which was discovered in the 1950’s by antiquities looters and which is kept today by the Israel Antiquities Authority,” the researchers said. “Both the previously known fragments and the new ones are written by two different hands which differ in the size and style of the letters. While hand 1 is smaller is more ornamented (meaning it carries hooks and half-serifs), hand 2 is bigger and less ornamented. However, the overall general dimensions of the column blocks are similar in both hands, as is the character of the translation. Thus, both hands are considered to be part of one single manuscript and not two different scrolls.”

They also concluded that both scribes copied the text towards the end of the 1st century BCE and the fragments were part of a larger scroll.

“​All of the newly discovered fragments belong to a manuscript known as ‘8HevXII gr’ or ‘the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll’,” they responded. “This is the largest Greek manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

All of the fragments can be viewed on the Dead Sea Scrolls website.

Despite being written 1,900 years ago, there are precious few discrepancies.

“​For the most part, the text is identical,” the researchers noted. “However, there are minor differences that can be found. Among the new fragments, the most notable textual difference is that at the end of Zechariah 8:16 there is the word ‘streets’ instead of the word ‘gates’ that appears in all other manuscripts.”

In an interview with Israel365, Rabbi Barnea Selavan noted that this small difference has much larger implications.

“The gates were where business was done,” Rabbi Selavan explained. “As a result, the courts were also at the gates in order to be on hand to adjudicate and disputes. Writing streets is very different.”

Rabbi Selavan suggested that the scribe may have mistranslated the original text.

“The prophet Zechariah lived around 520 BCE,” Rabbi Selavan noted. “This means the parchment was written about 400 years after the prophet lived. This means the text was written close to the subject matter. It is like someone today writing about Napoleon.”

“This seems to indicate that perhaps the text of the Bible was a bit more fluid than it is today. Minor textual variations between manuscripts were not necessarily perceived as a problem.”

The method of writing the name of God was significant.

“The name of God, what we cal the Tetragrammaton, was written in the ancient Hebrew script. This script was rarely used even in Hebrew manuscripts at the time. However, the use of the ancient Hebrew script specifically for writing the names of God is well documented in several different manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This phenomenon is also documented in some Greek fragments discovered in Egypt.”

They noted that it was not unusual for Jews to have Greek translations of the Biblical text.

“Greek was the international language of the time, much like English is today. As such, there were Jewish communities around the world that were primarily Greek-speaking. Most notable among these was the very large Jewish community of Egypt. In Judea, Jews tended to speak Hebrew and Aramaic, but many seem to have been familiar with Greek as well.”
Sections of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll discovered in the Judean Desert expedition as they were found (Ofer Sion, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Part of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll, written in Greek (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority)





Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Latest discoveries in Judean Desert include 6,000-year-old mummified girl, fragments of scroll from minor prophets

As reported by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz of Israel365 News, March 16, 2021:

Dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll from the Bar Kokhba period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child, and the oldest complete basket in the world were found by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve. This marks the first time in approximately 60 years that archaeological excavations uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll.

The scroll, which was written in Greek, includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The IAA operation was aimed at preventing the looting of antiquities in the Judean Desert.

Verses from Zechariah written in Greek were discovered on dozens of parchment fragments found in a cave where Jewish refugees hid almost 1900 years ago.


These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate—declares Hashem Zechariah 8:16-17


In addition to the scroll fragments, the operation uncovered additional extraordinary finds from various periods: a cache of rare coins from the days of Bar-Kokhba, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child – likely female, wrapped in a cloth and mummified, and a large complete basket dating back 10,500 years, likely the oldest in the world.

The discoveries were retrieved from the “Cave of Horror” in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever. The cave, roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.

Additional finds left behind by the Jewish rebels who fled to the caves at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 136 CE include a cache of coins from the revolt bearing Jewish symbols such as a harp and a date palm, arrow- and spear-heads, woven fabric, sandals, and even lice combs.

Also identified, on another fragment, are verses from the Prophet Nahum.


The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein.Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, And rocks are shattered because of Him. Nahum 1:5–6


Another exciting aspect about this scroll is that despite most of the text being in Greek, the name of God appears in ancient Hebrew script, known from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Another astounding discovery was found near the rock wall inside the Cave of Horror: A 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child, wrapped in cloth. According to prehistorian Ronit Lupu of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “On moving two flat stones, we discovered a shallow pit intentionally dug beneath them, containing a skeleton of a child placed in a fetal position. It was covered with a cloth around its head and chest, like a small blanket, with its feet protruding from it. It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped him up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath him, just as a parent covers his child in a blanket. A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands. The child’s skeleton and the cloth wrapping were remarkably well preserved and because of the climatic conditions in the cave, a process of natural mummification had taken place; the skin, tendons, and even the hair were partially preserved, despite the passage of time”. A preliminary study of a CT scan of the child, carried out by Dr. Hila May from Tel Aviv University, suggests that this child was 6-12 years old.

Another find, currently unparalleled worldwide, was discovered by youths from the Nofei Prat pre-military leadership academy in one of the Muraba‘at Caves in the Nahal Darga Reserve: a huge intact basket with a lid that was also exceptionally well preserved due to the high temperatures and extreme aridity of the region. The basket dates to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, approximately 10,500 years ago. As far as we know, this is the oldest basket in the world that has been found completely intact and its importance is therefore immense. The basket had a capacity of 90–100 liters and was apparently used for storage. The basket provides fascinating new data on the storage of products some 1,000 years before the invention of pottery. The basket is woven from plant material and its method of weaving is unusual. When it was found it was empty, and only future research of a small amount of soil remaining inside it will help us discover what it was used for and what was placed in it.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Small church in Las Vegas becomes a Covid-19 casualty

Online church services are better than nothing, but they're not an acceptable substitute for in-person services; as reported by John Przybys of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 15, 2021 (updated February 16, 2021) (links in original, inserted by blogger):

A church that opened last year with plans to conduct a live Easter service during the COVID pandemic is closing.

The Rev. Joseph Guy said Open Arms Community Church’s last service will be a virtual service on Feb. 28.

Guy last year announced plans to open the new church with a live Easter service attended by 35 to 50 members. At the time, state mandates prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people.

Guy, the church’s lead pastor, eventually canceled the live service. Instead, the Easter service was livestreamed, and Guy said the church never was able to recover from the live service’s cancellation.

While an established church may be able to more easily transition from live to virtual services, “when it’s a new church, you’ve got to make that personal connection with people,” he said, and not being able to do that “was just too much to overcome.”

Church members gathered for their first live service on Father’s Day, Guy said, but “we just couldn’t generate the crowd that we expected because it had been so long from Easter to June.”

Other services, mostly virtual, followed, but Guy said participation never exceeded 50.

The church’s final service will begin at 11 a.m. Feb. 28, and can be seen on Open Arms Community Church’s YouTube channel.
See also my post Covid-19 provides opportunities for police state persecution of Christians (May 7, 2020).