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When was the Bible written? Biblical text on potter newly-discovered potter shards...


smac97

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When Was the Bible Really Written?

Oldest_Hebrew_Ever_norm2_259x146.jpg

A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written.

By decoding the inscription on a 3,000-year-old piece of pottery, an Israeli professor has concluded that parts of the bible were written hundreds of years earlier than suspected.

The pottery shard was discovered at excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley in Israel -- about 18 miles west of Jerusalem. Carbon-dating places it in the 10th century BC, making the shard about 1,000 years older than the Dead Sea scrolls.

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa deciphered the ancient writing, basing his interpretation on the use of verbs and content particular to the Hebrew language. It turned out to be "a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans," Galil explained in a statement from the University.

The inscription is the earliest example of Hebrew writing found, which stands in opposition to the dating of the composition of the Bible in current research; prior to this discovery, it was not believed that the Bible or parts of it could have been written this long ago.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, current theory holds that the Bible could not have been written before the 6th century B.C.E., because Hebrew writing did not exist until then.

English translation of the deciphered text:

1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

More here:

Deciphered etching sheds new light on Bible's origin

By Fadi Eyadat, Haaretz Correspondent

Did the writing of the Bible begin as far back as the 10th century B.C.E., during the time of King David? That is four centuries earlier than Biblical scholars currently believe - but an inscription recently deciphered by a scholar at Haifa University indicates that for at least some books of the Bible, the answer may be yes.

The inscription, written in ink on clay, is the earliest yet found in Hebrew. It was discovered about 18 months ago in a dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near Emek Ha'ela. While it was quickly dated, its language remained uncertain until Prof. Gershon Galil was able to demonstrate that it was an early form of Hebrew - containing roots commonly found in Hebrew, but which are very rare in other Semitic languages.

The content, Galil said, "which relates to slaves, widows and orphans," is typical of the Biblical text, but reflects ideas virtually unheard of in the surrounding cultures.

Galil said this discovery disproves the current theory, which holds that the Bible could not have been written before the 6th century B.C.E., because Hebrew writing did not exist until then.

Moreover, he added, the inscription was found in what was then a minor, outlying community - so if scribes existed even there, Hebrew writing was probably sufficiently well developed to handle a complex text like the Bible.

Does anyone know what biblical passage correlates with the translated excerpt above ("you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]...")?

Thanks,

Smac

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I think the excerpted passage is from Deuteronomy. Here is the translation of the pottery fragment:

1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

And here is Deuteronomy 24:16-18:

16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his down sin.

17 Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow

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I don't think this has anything to do with any scriptural passages. It's certainly doesn't seem to be dependent on any. In fact, this site has an alternate transcription which is quite different, and that doesn't' reference an Israelite king.

1 Do not do [anything bad?], and serve [personal name?]

2 ruler of [geographical name?] . . . ruler . . .

3 [geographical names?] . . .

4 [unclear] and wreak judgment on YSD king of Gath . . .

5 seren of G[aza? . . .] [unclear] . . .

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The press release is quite sensationalistic, and Gilal's comments and translation are also a little bizarre. The language was asserted to be Hebrew when the news of its discovery was first published in 2008, and there's no reason at all to think the ostracon bears on the question of the composition of the Hebrew Bible. The text has already been published by a couple different people, as well, and Gilal's transcription is by far the most speculative.

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The press release is quite sensationalistic, and Gilal's comments and translation are also a little bizarre. The language was asserted to be Hebrew when the news of its discovery was first published in 2008, and there's no reason at all to think the ostracon bears on the question of the composition of the Hebrew Bible. The text has already been published by a couple different people, as well, and Gilal's transcription is by far the most speculative.

Pushing back the time frame when Hebrew was a written language is important in and of itself to me.

Glenn

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...and there's no reason at all to think the ostracon bears on the question of the composition of the Hebrew Bible.

Agreed. That's likely because article headlines, like post titles, sometimes gild the lily to sound more interesting/confrontational - just to get people to read them.

And as part of that marketing, the person writing the headline is sometimes different from the person who wrote the article. ...Which can further widen the gap between the title and the content.

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I do think the parralels between the ostraca and the Deut text are fascinating, it shows how 'secular' formulas were adapted for man's relationship to God, or, perhaps, vice-versa.

I'm hesitant to accept Galil's transcription. Not only is it a significant departure from the other published versions, but it seems way too convenient to have it pretty literally quote sections of biblical texts from Isaiah and Deuteronomic literature. I'm working on my own transcription, but I'd like to see the high quality photos they've taken of the ostracon.

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I'm hesitant to accept Galil's transcription. Not only is it a significant departure from the other published versions, but it seems way too convenient to have it pretty literally quote sections of biblical texts from Isaiah and Deuteronomic literature. I'm working on my own transcription, but I'd like to see the high quality photos they've taken of the ostracon.

Definitely need the photos. from the drawing the first line looks like: ????? ?????

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This is the best I can do up to this point:

Qeiyafa_Ostracon_photo_by_G._Laro.JPG

You can save the image as a JPEG and then rotate and zoom in, but it's not that great, and seems pretty close to what Galil has for the first couple lines. They always obscure the majority of the text with someone's hand just so no one else can beat them to the punch.

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Pushing back the time frame when Hebrew was a written language is important in and of itself to me.

I sympathize with the sentiment, and share it, but...

Were earlier versions of the scriptures actually written in hebrew? What is the chance that the brass plates Laban had were in egyptian, and that Moses and Joseph before him wrote in egyptian? What about the 10 commandments? Were the originals in hebrew, a pre-cursor to hebrew, or in egyptian, which Moses would have been fluent in? At what point, if earlier stuff was not in hebrew, did the scriptures get translated to hebrew?

Just wondering...

Q

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A helpful update on the Qeiyafa Inscription is available on this blog. Of greatest importance is the update from the official website, which contains photos and line drawings of the ostracon, and two previously published transcriptions. Some important cautions are also given by another scholar preparing a publication on the text. Dr. Misgav's reading:

?? ???[ ] ???? ?[?]

??? ????? [ ]???

???? ?????

?[ ]? ???? ??/?? ??? ?[?]?

??? ?[ ...] ??/???

And Dr. Yardeni's reading:

?????[?] : ?????[?] :

??? [?]?[?] ????[?] ??? ?.

[?]??[?]????...?[?]??

?[?]?.?????????

???[?].??.???

Fig2.jpg

Fig3.jpg

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A helpful update on the Qeiyafa Inscription is available on this blog. Of greatest importance is the update from the official website, which contains photos and line drawings of the ostracon, and two previously published transcriptions. Some important cautions are also given by another scholar preparing a publication on the text. Dr. Misgav's reading:

And Dr. Yardeni's reading:

Fig2.jpg

Fig3.jpg

Thanks, those are much better. I am just an amateur, but why are they reading it left-to-right?

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Thanks, those are much better. I am just an amateur, but why are they reading it left-to-right?

This far back there were three main ways to read proto-Semitic script (which was developed from Egyptian, which could be read in almost any direction): right to left, left to right, or what's called Boustrophedon (go one way and then turn around and go the other for the next line). When Phoenician supplanted proto-Semitic it replaced these with just right to left. Here's an example of the earliest proto-Semitic that shows the Egyptian roots and multiple directions:

protosi1.jpg

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This far back there were three main ways to read proto-Semitic script (which was developed from Egyptian, which could be read in almost any direction): right to left, left to right, or what's called Boustrophedon (go one way and then turn around and go the other for the next line). When Phoenician supplanted proto-Semitic it replaced these with just right to left. Here's an example of the earliest proto-Semitic that shows the Egyptian roots and multiple directions:

protosi1.jpg

You are right, thank you. I had thought (from somewhere, probably poorly remembered Naveh) that 10th century Hebrew script was post Phoenician and so rarely dextrograde.

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