Two days ago, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Modern Technology Unlocks Secrets of a Damaged Biblical Scroll.” The sum of the story is as follows.
Archaeologists found a badly damaged ancient scroll in En-Gedi around the Dead Sea in the 1970s. Until recently have been unable to read it due to its fragile condition. However, there is now a computer technology (spearheaded by the University of Kentucky) which allows this scroll (and others like it) to be read. This particular scroll has now been analyzed and contains the first two chapters of Leviticus.
What is most amazing about the find, however, is that the experts who examined the scroll claim it is an exact match with the Masoretic text. The Mastoretic text refers to the Hebrew manuscripts which certain scribes, called the Masoretes, copied from the 6th to the 11th centuries. In other words, this En-Gedi scroll verifies the text we have from the Masoretic time period, but it is a much earlier witness. In fact, as the article reports, Ada Yardeni and Emanuel Tov believe the scroll can be dated to the first century.
Major Take Away(s) from This Article
First of all, in an amazing technological advancement we are now able to examine scrolls that we previously would not have been able to read. This will be of tremendous benefit to Old Testament studies and archaeology. I am excited to see if this technology can produce more benefit.
Second, since this scroll is likely dated to the first century, we now have evidence of God’s Word being preserved over 1,000 years. The foremost scholar of OT textual criticism, Emanuel Tov, is quoted in the article as stating, “This is the earliest evidence of the exact form of the medieval text.” In other words, against what many opponents of Christianity may believe, it is possible for the Bible to exist in its textual form without change for at least a thousand years. This scroll gives us evidence of that fact.
Third, on a devotional note, it is comforting to know that we have access to the same Hebrew text that was around during or shorty after the time of Jesus. The same words which Jesus would have memorized and relied upon for daily strength are the words we can memorize and be strengthened by.
This really is a great article by the New York Times and I encourage you to read it. Their main emphasis is the technology which makes this textual reading possible, but we can’t help but note the significance of this En-Gedi scroll for biblical studies.