BY LOREN PANKRATZ
The Bridge Community
CENTERVILLE – A selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and an amazing display of ancient Israelite artifacts are currently on display at The Leonardo museum in Salt Lake City.
The DSS have been called the most significant archeological find of the last century.
This brief article aims to help folks understand the significance of this amazing discovery.
The Qumran settlement was destroyed around 68 AD. The Romans fought to put down a Jewish revolt in the area from 66-70 AD, and Qumran likely found itself in the crosshairs of the Roman war machine.
It appears that, sensing a Roman conflict was immanent; the Qumran community hid their religious and political texts in caves near the Qumran settlement. These texts, finally discovered in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, lay undisturbed for nearly 2000 years; preserved in jars or under the dry desert ground. “Why is this so remarkable?” you ask. Allow me to explain.
In the 19th and early 20th century, many suspected that, over time, the Bible had been corrupted, changed, or altered.
This claim was accepted by many because in the 1800’s and first half of the 1900’s, the oldest Hebrew Old Testament text available was from around 1000 AD.
That meant that there was a 1000-year gap from the time of Jesus and the Apostles to the oldest copy of the Old Testament.
Some people believed that either in the ancient world or during the millennia that we endearingly call “The Dark Ages,” the Bible had undergone some revision (much like a phrase that begins a game of “telephone’ almost always seems to get changed by the time it reaches the end of the line).
Many people concluded that sometime after Jesus’ and the Apostles’ deaths the Bible became corrupted. In fact, several new religions in the 19th and 20th century capitalized on this notion in order to start religious movements, claiming to “restore” the Bible to its original form.
Until 1945, the Christian had little to stand on when claiming the Bible had not been corrupted over the years, as it could not be demonstrated with any certainty that the Hebrew text from 1000 AD was faithful to the Hebrew Bible texts Jesus and his disciples knew and quoted from as authoritative. All the Christian could do was quote Jesus, who said, “scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).”
That all changed in 1947 with the discovery of the DSS, which contained Hebrew texts of the Bible 1000 years older than the oldest copy available at the time.
The DSS is a vast collection of Hebrew manuscripts that predate Jesus, his disciples, and the origin of Christianity by over 100 years.
This discovery allows us to compare the text of the Old Testament we use today to the texts that predate Jesus and his disciples.
Having these documents to check against our current Old Testament texts is like playing the game of telephone, but being the person at the end of the line and walking up to the first person and asking her if you have the phrase right.
Remarkably, what we found is that other than a few differences in punctuation and the spelling of a few names, the DSS texts remained identical to the texts from 1000 AD (and thus, to our current Hebrew text of Old Testament).
What this means is that we can now conclusively say that the Old Testament we use today is the same uncorrupted Hebrew Bible Jesus and the Apostles used.
Further, the DSS gives us a way to check any person or group’s claim to have “fixed/restored” the Bible.
In fact, it shows that any “restoration” movement that added to the Old Testament, or took portions of it away, are themselves guilty of corrupting the text.
Prior to the DSS discovery, one may have been able to convince folks the Bible had been corrupted and thus needed to be restored.
However, I am grateful that God, in His providence, has provided ample evidence that demonstrates the fidelity of the transmission of the Bible, and thus the truthfulness of His word that scripture cannot be broken.
The Rev. Loren Pankratz is pastor of the Bridge Community that meets in Centerville