Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 

mick-haupt-eQ2Z9ay9Wws-unsplash (1)Probably one of the most significant discoveries confirming the reliability of our Old Testament Scriptures is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1947, while throwing rocks into a cave, a herdsman in Qumran near the Dead Sea accidentally discovered hidden writings of the Essene community (an ancient Jewish sect). Since that time, thousands of fragments, which belonged to more than 800 manuscripts, have been discovered.

Before these scrolls were found, the earliest known manuscript of the Old Testament was dated at around AD 980, but The Dead Sea scrolls were estimated to date back to 150 BC! A thousand years earlier! Yet, the two sets of manuscripts are essentially the same with only a few minor variations. The scrolls include a well-preserved copy of the whole book of Isaiah and have proved to be word-for-word identical with our Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.

The remaining 5 percent is almost entirely due to spelling variations or slips of the pen. Larry Stone, author of The Story of the Bible (a fascinating book by the way—a must-have), writes, “The Dead Sea Scrolls provide astonishing confirmation that the Old Testament Scripture we have today is virtually the same as that being read a few centuries before Christ. The accuracy of the transmission is remarkable!”

Next week in our series of ‘How Did We Get the Bible,” we will look at how the New Testament came together.

This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month. Click Here for more details.  https://positivewomanconnection.com/books/#monthlyspecial

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Amazing Book

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The Bible has over 40 authors who were divinely inspired to write the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures themselves God-breathed, but we can see that God led the process by which the books were chosen. Knowing how the Bible came together offers beautiful evidence that God wants His people to know about His love, and He communicated His message of love through the Holy Scriptures.

Of course volumes could be written on the history of this amazing book, but in this blog we will deal specifically with the accuracy of the Old Testament manuscripts. We’ll look at the New Testament in the next few weeks as we continue this series on “How Did We Get the Bible”. One word we need to understand before we begin is the word canon which comes from a Greek word meaning “measuring stick” or “reed.” In other words, a canon was a measuring rod. The word eventually came to refer to those books that were “measured” and hence recognized as being God’s Word and part of the Holy Scriptures.

The Hebrew Scriptures (which we know as the Old Testament), were written from approximately 1400 BC to 400 BC. Most of the Old Testament was recorded in the Hebrew language (with several passages in Aramaic) and was passed down by the Jewish people from generation to generation. From the time of their writing, the Jewish people accepted them as the authentic, inspired Word of God. From 400 BC to Christ’s birth, several other books made their way into the popular culture of the Jewish people. These are known as the Apocrypha.[i] While most of the Jewish scholars did not accept the Apocrypha as Holy Scriptures, they valued them as good literature and as sources of history and spiritual insight. Some Roman Catholic Bibles still contain the writings of the Apocrypha.

Moses, the prophets, and the other Old Testament writers were recognized by the Jewish people as God’s messengers and accepted their work as inspired of God. The Old Testament canon was essentially established by the time of Jesus’ birth. Around 90 AD, Jewish elders met together at what is known as the council at Jamnia, and confirmed the Hebrew canon while rejecting the books of the Apocrypha.

Several years later, a Jewish historian and priest named Flavius Josephus recognized the Hebrew canon as the books that we now have in the Old Testament. Jesus quoted passages from the Old Testament, including Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah, knowing His listeners recognized these books as Scripture. By the mid-third century, the church was in almost complete agreement about the Hebrew canon of Scripture.

Skeptics often criticize the Bible, saying that a book claiming to be thousands of years old certainly has inaccuracies or errors, but recent archaeological evidence again and again supports that what we have today is reliable and accurate. Looking back at the Old Testament we know that the Israelites kept the copy of the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses) inside the ark of the covenant, stored in the temple. Despite the fact that the Babylonians destroyed the temple, the Scriptures were preserved. While in Babylonian captivity certain Levites (members of the priestly tribe of Levi) began copying the Scriptures and circulating them to other Israelites in captivity.

These Levites became known as scribes, and were respected for their attention to the Scripture and their accuracy in copying them. The scribes painstakingly transcribed each copy of the Law and developed a meticulous process to copying the manuscripts by hand, in order to prevent any errors. The scribes recognized that they were handling the very Word of God and wanted to handle each word, each letter with the utmost care. Some of the rules they followed were:

  • Parchments and all materials had to be made according to strict specifications and could only come from the skins of clean (kosher) animals.
  • The quills had to come from clean birds and the black ink had to be prepared to scribal specifications.
  • Even if the scribe had memorized it, no word or letter could be written from memory. The scribe was required to copy every word from an authentic copy of Scripture.
  • Before writing the name of God, a scribe was required to reverently wipe his pen and say, “I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name.”
  • Each letter had to have space around it. If one letter even touched another or if a letter was not written correctly or defective due to a hole, a tear, or a smudge causing it not to be read easily, the scroll was invalidated.
  • Within 30 days of completion, the manuscript would be reviewed by an editor who counted every letter and every word as a way of checking. The editor even made sure that the middle word of the copy matched the middle word of the original.
  • Up to three mistakes on any page could be corrected within 30 days, but if more mistakes were found or if they were not fixed in 30 days, the entire manuscript had to be buried (manuscripts containing the name of God could not be destroyed). If a single letter was added or left off, the manuscript had to be fixed or buried.[ii]

This careful and detailed process of copying the Hebrew Scriptures in ancient times is what has led to the accuracy of our Old Testament today.

 

Join me next week as we look at the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls in confirming the accuracy of the Old Testament.

 

This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month. Click Here for more details

[i] The books in the Apocrypha include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.

[ii] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), p. 21.

How Did we Get the Bible?    

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Throughout the centuries there have been skeptics and mockers of the Bible, and none so vehement as the French philosopher Voltaire. He applied his gift of writing in an attempt to demolish Christianity, believing that when people became enlightened they would no longer believe in God, or the Bible or their need for salvation through Jesus Christ. He is quoted as saying of Christ, “Curse the wretch!” Obviously Voltaire had some serious anger issues, not to mention a tad bit of arrogance. He boasted, “In twenty years, Christ will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.”

Voltaire died in 1778, and since his death, millions upon millions of Bibles have been printed and sold throughout the entire world. This man who said that he would expose the Bible and that it would be buried in obscurity is dead and gone, but the Word of God stands forever. Ironically, sometime after his death, Voltaire’s house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and was used as a warehouse for Bibles. The Holy Scriptures survived Voltaire, and they will continue to survive despite modern-day critics and outspoken atheists.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Peter described the Bible as “living and enduring” (1 Peter 1:23). Isaiah penned, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The Bible is an indestructible book. Many besides Voltaire have attempted to do away with it. In AD 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian issued an imperial decree that every Bible should be destroyed. Many Bibles were burned and Christians were put to death for having them in their possession, yet this holy book endured! Even in the Middle Ages, when the Bible was kept from the common people, men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale risked their lives to translate the Scriptures so that all could have access to reading it.

Modern-day critics of the Bible question its accuracy, and claim that it couldn’t possibly be the same document as the original manuscripts. Perhaps you have wondered how we can know that the Bible is true, accurate, and infallible. In this blog for next several weeks, we will investigate the process of how we got what we know today as the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. We will also look at the questions some people have about errors or contradictions. Why is it important for us to investigate the veracity of the Bible? Because it claims to be the very words of God, and if it is, then we must lean our whole life into it. It is our foundation, and we must be able to stand on it with confidence.

I hope you will join me for the next few weeks as we look at how the Bible came together and why we rely on it as the true word of God on which we find the foundation of our faith.

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This series is an excerpt from my book, Becoming a Woman of the Word – Knowing, Loving and Living the Bible. For the next few weeks I am offering the book as our $5 special for the month (while supplies last – limit 10 per customer). Click Here for more details. 

Open Hands, Open Heart

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Retail store checkout lines are dangerous for me. Yes, I’m one of those people who succumb to “last minute” purchases on items that are so conveniently located near the cash register. Case in point, recently I ran into Hobby Lobby to grab a few party decorations, and I came out with three new books – which of course, I didn’t really need.

Well actually, maybe I did need one of them.  It was a book by the owner of Hobby Lobby, David Green called Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again, The Way of Living Generously. It is the powerful story of how he started Hobby Lobby, but more importantly, it is about living with open hands and an open heart.

As I read his story, I began to think about the many things that I tend to hold a little too tightly to in my life. Things like my time, my plans, my money, my stuff, my opinions, my resentments.  Just like Jennifer Garner so eloquently says on the Capital One commercials,  “What’s in your wallet?” I suppose we could all ask ourselves, “What’s in my clenched fists?”

The interesting thing is, if we are going to reflect God’s attributes in our lives, we are compelled to be generous because He is generous. He is generous in love, in wisdom, in grace and in mercy. He is generous in giving us good gifts and blessings every day. Most important He is generous in salvation, giving His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Oh what a generous God we serve!

Here’s what’s truly beautiful – God is generous with His Spirit who enables us to live generously. Admittedly, I’m not so great at loving and giving in my own strength and will power, but God is! We can ask Him to open our hearts and our hands to living in a giving way.

Three practical and positive action points to ponder:

Realize: God is a generous God. His Spirit helps us to be generous. Realize that everything belongs to Him anyway.

Repent: Let’s begin to identify the things that we are holding with clenched fists (time, talent, treasures, unforgiveness, anger, opinions, plans, etc…). Confessing these things to God helps our heart begin to change.

Release: Finally, let’s open our hands and release those things. Let’s ask God to fill our hearts with generosity and  also ask Him to show us where to love, serve and give.

Make it a generous week this week!

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Engage Note:  There are many opportunities to give of your time, treasures and talents. If you would like to give to Engage Positive Parenting Initiative, reaching families in adverse circumstances with discussion-based parenting classes, you can click here to donate. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website at www.EngageParenting.com

 

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Living Your Purpose

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Could the word scattered define your life? Most of us feel as though we are pulled a gazillion different directions without a meaningful focus or a purposeful plan. How can we regroup and get back on the a road that leads us toward living out our purpose?  Let’s examine a few simple questions to help you develop a personal mission statement. Prayerfully ponder the following:

  • What gifts and talents has God given me? What fills my heart with joy?
  • Who are the people who can benefit or be blessed from my gifts?
  • How can I use my gifts to influence or affect the people around me?

Take some time to answer these questions and then begin to use the answers to create a mission statement.

The What – As you look at your gifts, talents and passions choose one or two verbs that describe what you do best. Think about the spiritual gifts God has given you (reflect on Romans 12) and consider what unique ways God has made you. You could use verbs such as: teach, inspire, help, serve, give, build, restore, share. For me, my verb is “encourage.” So my mission statement starts with:

My mission is to encourage…

The Who  –  Think about who you want to reach with your “What.” Could it be women across the nation? Could it be people who are caregivers? Or perhaps your desire is to help the hurting or the lost. Do you want to reach tens of thousands of people or do you want to touch a significant few? Examine your heart’s desire and add your descriptive “Who” phrase to the statement. For me, I wrote:

My mission is to encourage men and women around the world…

The How – Now it is time to consider the effect that you want to have on the people you reach. This may develop or change over time, but you can also paint a picture with some broad brush strokes of how you want to influence or help others. Maybe your How is: to strengthen people’s lives physically, to help people emotionally, to develop programs, to give financially, to encourage spiritual growth. Add this final piece to your mission statement. Here’s mine:

My mission is to encourage men and women around the world

to pursue their God-given passion

and use their gifts and talents in a positive and productive way.

 

Now take a moment to write your statement:

 

When we ponder our purpose, we live with a clearer direction of what to are able to do, as well as what we probably should not do. Without a focus, we tend to be distracted by every opportunity or activity that comes along our path. Ultimately, each of our greater purpose on this earth is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. My hope is that you will find your true joy and fulfillment in relationship with Him and following the direction He leads you.

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash