April 12, 2016

Bible Breakthrough Found In Israel


In 586BC the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem and laid waste to it as only an Old Testament tyrant can. 

Virgins were raped, princes were strung up by their thumbs and the city was razed before 10,000 survivors were clapped in irons and hauled off into exile.

The destruction was so thorough that scholars are still divided over a fundamental question: before it was wiped off the map, did the Ancient Jewish kingdom actually get around to writing down any of the Bible?

Historians in Israel claim to have found the first strong evidence that reading and writing were widespread before the sack of Jerusalem, which they say suggests that a large chunk of the Old Testament could have taken shape and been circulated decades before the Jews were taken to Babylon.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have examined scraps of inscribed pottery, known as ostraca, found in Tel Arad, a fortress on the border, with the kingdom of Edom to the south. 

The writing itself, dating to about 600BC, is nothing spectacular — requests to take oil, wine and flour out of stockpiles, lists of names and a few broken military commands — but what is extraordinary, they say, is that computer analysis shows that the messages were written by at least six people, from a general to a junior servant.

“In other words, the entire army apparatus, from high-ranking officials to humble vice-quartermasters of small desert outposts, was literate,” the academics wrote in the journal PNAS. “To support this bureaucratic apparatus, an appropriate education system must have existed in Judah at the end of the first Temple period [before 586BC].”

This, in turn, means that much of the Bible could have been put together in a brief golden age of literacy that would not exist again in the area for centuries, according to the researchers. This purple patch could include most of the books describing the history of Ancient Israel before the Babylonian devastation of Jerusalem, including Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Kings.

James Aitken, lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament studies at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the work, said it was possible that large tracts of Genesis, Proverbs and Psalms also could have been assembled in this period. “It’s a step forward in our understanding of literacy at the time,” he said.

By Oliver Moody

With many thanks to The Australian

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