Recent Archeological Findings Regarding the Bible

THERE IS NO doubt in the Christian world that the Bible is truly the Word of God. All professed Christians have so viewed it from the time of Jesus’ First Advent until the nineteenth century, when higher critics and the theory of evolution came upon the scene. To the higher critics most of the historical records of the Old Testament have no basis in fact, but are merely allegories, myths, and fables. According to the theory of human evolution, God did not create Adam and Eve, and there never was a Garden of Eden; but instead, man is said to have evolved from lower forms of animals.

FABLED CITY DISCOVERED

Higher criticism and the theory of human evolution have been as frontal attacks on the validity of the Holy Scriptures. However, in the minds of honest and thinking people this trend toward unbelief in the infallibility of the Bible is gradually being reversed. This is being brought about by the findings of the archeologists, which began just before the middle of the nineteenth century and continue to our day. In recent time, among the findings confirming the Bible were those known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. But more recently, and just a few months ago, an international team of archeologists announced that they are convinced that they have found the city, Urkesh, after eight years of excavation. It is believed to be a city of the Hurrians, an obscure people, also known as Horites, who are mentioned briefly in the Old Testament, and on a clay tablet belonging to Pharaoh Amenemhet IV, Egypt’s ruler in 2000 B.C.

The Horites are mentioned in Genesis 14:6 as occupying Mt. Seir, a mountainous range in southern Israel. Later, when Esau came upon the scene, his family took over this region and it became the land of Edom. Genesis 36:20-29 gives the genealogy of the Horites who were living in this area before Esau inhabited it. The Edomites displaced the Horites from this land, and no historical record is available to indicate in which direction they moved. However, Genesis 36:24, Rotherham Emphasized Bible, says that ‘warm springs’ were found in the wilderness by Anah, the youngest son of Seir, the Horite. He did not find ‘mules’ as expressed in the Authorized Version of the Bible, which is a mistranslation. Such warm springs exist east of the Dead Sea. So it is believed that the Horites moved in a northeasterly direction as they were displaced by Esau’s progeny. The city of Urkesh, with its ancient civilization, believed to be part of the Horite culture, was found in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

This latest’ of archeological discoveries concerns the existence of an ancient people, through the excavations and findings of a bygone city reputed to be the capital of a fabled kingdom, and the most sacred religious center of the Hurrians—Horites—is important to confirming the Bible’s veracity. These people were contemporaries of the Sumerians in the south, and the Semites to the west. A date of 2300 to 2200 B.C. has been estimated for artifacts found in the city, based in part on radio-carbon tests. This corresponds roughly with the estimated times that the Horites are mentioned in the Bible, and when they most likely lived after being displaced from Edom.

DEAD SEA SCROLLS—EARLY FINDS

Beginning in 1946, a collection of manuscript material was discovered in various isolated caves near the Dead Sea, about 8 miles south of Jericho and 10 miles east of Jerusalem. The site was at the edge of the Judean desert, where the barren limestone cliffs meet the shore of the sea, in an area once described as “the most terrifyingly bleak landscape on the face of the earth.” It was here at Qumran, in the almost inaccessible caves of the cliffs, that the library of an ancient religious community was hidden in three-foot-tall clay jars. Most experts think it was the work of the Essenes, a Jewish’ sect that broke away from mainline Judaism about 170 B.C., and endured until the Roman destruction of the group about A.D. 70.

News of the Dead Sea Scrolls spread rapidly and excited both scholars and laymen alike. The renowned archeologist, William Albright of John Hopkins University, said of the earliest finds that they were among “the greatest manuscript discoveries of modern times … absolutely incredible.” His assessment was to be confirmed in ensuing years, as ten other Qumran caves yielded many additional treasures. Altogether, they consisted of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, as well as numerous other religious documents and fragments, mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic.

One of the most impressive early finds was a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah that dated back to around 100 B.C. Previous to this discovery, no manuscripts of the Old Testament had been found that were older than about the 9th or 10th century A.D. This left a gap of more than a thousand years from the time the last of the Old Testament books had been written, to the date of the existing manuscript copies. Understandably, this was very disquieting, since over such a span of time, many mistakes in copying could have crept in, corrupting the accuracy of the text.

A careful study of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah revealed almost unbelievable agreement in. its wording with that of the traditional Jewish Masoretic text of later copies. The Masoretic Hebrew text is the basis for all of our Old Testament versions of the Bible, except the’ Septuagint. Hence, this meant that our current copies of the Hebrew Bible were amazingly accurate, showing no important changes all the way back to 100 B.C. Thus, in one stroke, the textual evidence for the Hebrew Bible was advanced by a thousand years! How strengthening this is to the faith of all Bible believers, in realizing that the Lord has caused his written Word to be preserved through the centuries with such scrupulous care and concern. Truly the providences of our great God are clearly shown here.

The Christian world did not know that these early findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls were probably the most important and significant from the standpoint of confirming the truthfulness of the Word of God. What was to happen later was to cause confusion, doubt, and despair, because of the way scholars behaved who were involved in studying, interpreting, and making known the contents of later findings. The first discoveries of the scrolls whetted the appetite for more, and a thorough search for more scrolls was initiated.

In the 1950’s, extensive archeological digs under the direction of Pere de Vaux of the Dominican Ecole Biblique in East Jerusalem—then under Jordanian control—and surreptitious searches by the Bedouins uncovered thousands of additional scrolls and fragments. Most of these were deposited in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. The original seven manuscripts of the earlier discoveries eventually reached safe haven at the Israel Museum in the Shrine of the Book, following a circuitous path of clandestine buying and selling by antiquities dealers, church authorities, and private investors.

PUBLISHING DELAYS

From that point of time and on, the newfound scrolls became a mysterious entity. Scholars wanted to know the contents, but nothing was published. With the whole world waiting impatiently for further revelations, the pace of publication, instead of accelerating, actually slowed to a crawl, prompting cries of outrage from scholars everywhere. In the period from 1968 to 1977, only one official volume on the scrolls was published. The events involved in the entire period of this waiting were so bizarre that they are hard to believe. A complete history of these events has been compiled and given to The Dawn, and for those who are interested, we will make them available.*

(* Write to: The Dawn, 199 Railroad Avenue, East Rutherford, NJ 07073, or call (800) 234-DAWN, for “The Dead Sea Scrolls” brochure.)

Finally, in the last few years, contents of the scrolls were made available. It is important for people to know that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not all manuscripts dealing with the Bible. The manuscript discoveries fall into three basic categories. First are all the books of the Old Testament, except Esther. Then there are several books of the Apocrypha. The apocryphal books were seven in number, were never recognized by the Jews as part of their inspired Old Testament canon, and are not included in most Protestant Bibles. And, finally, there are the original compositions of the Qumran sect. These reflect their beliefs, as well as their ritual and communal life.

The Biblical scrolls provide much data regarding the history of the transmission of the Hebrew text. Some of the manuscripts diverge from the Masoretic text, but, as mentioned earlier, the intact scroll of the Book of Isaiah showed amazing correspondency to the later traditional text of the Middle Ages. This strongly attests to the fidelity by which Jewish scribes copied the Biblical text over many centuries, as well as reveals God’s providences in preserving his Word for us today. The apocryphal books are of interest because they show that they were in circulation at the time, even though not part of the sacred canon. They also provide Hebrew and Aramaic originals of works which previously were found primarily in Greek and Latin.

What appears to fascinate many scholars and the public is the original writings and commentaries of the Qumranites found in these scrolls. Perhaps it is to satisfy curiosity about the beliefs, practices, and mode of Biblical interpretation of this small group. One of these original writings and commentaries was recently published and the caption on the printed reconstructed text was, “For this You Waited Thirty-five Years.” There was a tone of disappointment in the review of this manuscript, and such words as ‘hypothetical’, ‘inadequate’, ‘probability’, and ‘seems’ appeared, revealing uncertainty as to the meaning. One commentator said, “Simply reading this text will probably make little sense. The challenge is to understand what the reconstructed text consists of, and then to tease out its implications.” This situation would not prevail if the manuscript were a part of the original Word of God.

How glad we are that the Bible’s message is sure, and that which has been written by Divine inspiration has endured to our day. It is stimulating to our faith to realize that events, places, and writings of the Bible are confirmed by the spade and pick of the archeologist. The same is true with respect to personalities of the Bible. We know that when we read the story of Abraham and his life that it is not fiction, but a true statement of events that took place in the ancient time in which he lived.

This firm establishment of faith in the genuineness of the Bible’s records and its people should, in turn, lead us to a closer study of the message God has in his Word for us—the plan of redemption and salvation for all mankind which it reveals. There is little purpose in knowing that the Bible is true unless we take note of what God is saying to us throughout its pages concerning his plans and purposes for the deliverance and eternal blessing of his dying creatures on earth.

Just as Satan deceived mother Eve in the Garden of Eden when he uttered that first lie, “Thou shalt not surely die,” so also he has not ceased in his endeavors to introduce false impressions and general confusion in the archeological work being done to establish the integrity and veracity of the Bible. This is particularly evident in the way the Dead Sea Scrolls have been handled. It is providential that all the earlier findings of Old Testament books in these scrolls escaped the manipulations of the committee that was later appointed to deal with the other scrolls. There is nothing stored in the ancient Qumran library that can ever undermine the foundation truths of the Bible that we hold to be so precious.

As we look forward to the fulfillment of God’s plan in the establishment of his kingdom upon earth, we see that this plan calls for the ancient prophets and other faithful ones of ages past to be restored to life as humans first. These will come forth in “a better resurrection” as described in the Bible, and will be perfect humans from the start. (Heb. 11:35,40) These will be the human representatives of the Divine Christ as “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) As the restitution work continues it will eventually reach out to bless “all the families of the earth,” even as God promised to Abraham. (Gen. 12:3) Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the prophets, will be on the scene to direct the affairs of the kingdom. The findings of the archeologists will not then be needed to verify the records of the Bible, for the ones who made those records will be personally present to vouch for them.

The people of the whole world will then know that these ancient men of renown, these faithful servants of God, were not myths, not imaginary people in fairy tales, but real men and women of God who willingly died in his service, and they will be used by God to bless all the families of the earth.

This future joy of mankind will be very literal! There will be plenty of time for those ‘princes in all the earth’ not only to direct the affairs of the kingdom, but also, if they choose, to relate some of their past experiences in serving the Lord. Who would not like to hear Noah tell of some of his experiences in building the ark? Or of Samson and his experiences with the Philistines? Or of Daniel in the lion’s den? And the many exciting experiences of all of these heroes of faith?

We can only surmise the details of joy which may be experienced in that new day. But we can be sure that they will be more wonderful than any or all of our dreams; for God, who so loved his human creatures as to give his Son in death that all might have an opportunity to live again, will see to it that his promises to bless all mankind are carried out in full measure. Nothing will be lacking, for he will open his hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing!

And what will the reaction of the people be? Isaiah wrote, “It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa. 25:9



Dawn Bible Students Association
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