Chapter One.
The Old Testament Text


Thousands of years ago, God chose certain men—such as Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel—to receive his words and write them down. What they wrote became books, or sections, of the Old Testament.

God gave his words to these men in many different ways. Certain writers of the Old Testament received messages directly from God. Moses was given the Ten Commandments inscribed on a stone when he was in God's presence on Mount Sinai. When David was composing his psalms to God, he received divine inspiration to foretell certain events that would occur a thousand years later in the life of Jesus Christ. God told his prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—exactly what to say; therefore, when they gave a message, it was God's word, not their own. This is why many prophets often said, "Thus says the Lord." (This statement appears over two thousand times in the Old Testament.) God communicated his message to other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel, through visions and dreams. They recorded exactly what they saw, whether they understood it or not. And other writers, such as Samuel and Ezra, were directed by God to record events in the history of Israel.

Four hundred years after the last book of the Old Testament (Malachi) was written, God's Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth. In his talks, he affirmed the divine authorship of the Old Testament writings—even down to the very letter (see Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 16:17; John 10:35-36). Furthermore, Jesus often pointed to passages in the Old Testament as having predicted events in his life (see Luke 24:27, 44).

The New Testament writers also affirmed the divine inspiration of the Old Testament text. The apostle Paul was directed by God to write, "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Tim. 3:16, NLT). Quite specifically, he was speaking of the Old Testament. A translation of Paul's statement closer to the original language (Greek) would be, "All Scripture is God-breathed" (NIV). This tells us that every word of the Bible was breathed out from God. The words of the Bible came from God and were written by men. The apostle Peter affirmed this when he said, "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV).



Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. It was one of several Ganaanite dialects, which included Phoenician, Ugaritic, and Moabite. Such dialects were already present in the land of Canaan before its conquest by the Israelites.

Hebrew belongs to the Semitic family of languages; these languages were used from the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains east of the Euphrates River valley, and from Armenia (Turkey) in the north to the southern extremity of the Arabian Peninsula. Semitic languages are classified as Southern (Arabic and Ethiopic), Eastern (Akkadian), and Northwestern (Aramaic, Syriac, and Canaanite).

The Hebrew Alphabet

(Square Script)






ʾ (glottal stop)













































ʿ (smooth stop)









q (guttural k)










The Hebrew alphabet consists of twenty-two consonants; signs for vowels were devised and added late in the language's history.

The origin of the alphabet is unknown. The oldest examples of a Ganaanite alphabet were preserved in the Ugaritic Cuneiform alphabet of the fourteenth century B.C. The old style of writing the letters is called the Phoenician or paleo-Hebrew script. The script used in modern Hebrew Bibles (Aramaic or square script) came into vogue after Israel's exile into Babylon (sixth century B.C.). The older style was still used sporadically in the early Christian era on coins and for writing God's name, Yahweh, as the tetragrammaton YHWH (‏י-ה-ו-ה‎). Hebrew has always been written right to left.


A few sections of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic: Daniel 2:4b-7:28; and Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26. Aramaic phrases and expressions also appear in Genesis (31:47), Jeremiah (10:11), and the New Testament. Aramaic has perhaps the longest continuous living history of any language known. It was used during the Bible's patriarchal period and is still spoken by a few people today. Aramaic and its cognate, Syriac, evolved into many dialects in different places and periods. Characterized by simplicity, clarity, and precision, it adapted easily to the various needs of everyday life. It could serve equally well as a language for scholars, pupils, lawyers, or merchants. Some have described it as the Semitic equivalent of English.

The origin of Aramaic is unknown, but it seems to have been closely related to Amorite and possibly to other ancient Northwest Semitic dialects barely known to scholars. By the eighth century B.C., King Hezekiah's representatives requested the spokesmen of the Assyrian king Sennacherib to "speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it" (2 Kings 18:26, NIV). By the Persian period, Aramaic had become the language of international trade in the Mediterranean world.

The Jews probably adopted Aramaic during their captivity for the sake of convenience. They certainly used Aramaic in commerce, while Hebrew became confined to scholarly and religious use. After the Babylonian exile, Aramaic was widely used in the land of Palestine. Nehemiah complained that children from mixed marriages were unable to speak Hebrew (Neh. 13:24). The Jews seem to have continued using Aramaic widely during the Persian, Greek, and Roman periods. Jesus spoke in Aramaic: several of the Gospels, though written in Greek, retain some of Jesus' actual wording in Aramaic.

Eventually, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Aramaic paraphrases, called Targums, some of which have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.


The canon designates those books in the Jewish and Christian Bible that are considered to be Scripture and therefore authoritative in matters of faith and doctrine. The term canon comes from a Greek word (kainon) that means "a rule," or "measuring rod." A canon is a list to which other books are compared and by which they are measured. Only those writings that met the standard were accepted as "Scripture," the word of God, worthy of reading by God's people.

The criteria for selecting the books in the Old Testament canon are not known, but they clearly had to do with their worth in the religion of the Jewish nation. Jews call their thirty-nine books of Scripture the Tanakh—an acronym formed from the first letters of Torah (Law), Naviim (Prophets), and Kethubim (Writings). These are called the "Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" in Luke 24:44 (NIV) (the first book of the Writings in the Hebrew Bible is the Psalms).

Jewish religion existed for a millennium, from Moses to Malachi, without a closed canon, an exclusive list of authoritative books. Never in their history did the people of the Old Testament have the entire thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. The exact date for the closing of their canon is not known. Some scholars think it occurred at the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90, but others point out that we did not have our first list of thirty-nine books until A.D. 170, in a list produced by Melito of Sardis. That list included no books written after the time of Malachi (ca. 430 B.C.).

The thirty-nine books of the modern Old Testament were originally divided into only twenty-four according to the uniform testimony of early Hebrew tradition. The Talmud, rabbinic literature, and probably the book of 4 Esdras testify to this arrangement, which included five books of the Law, eight of the Prophets, and eleven of the Writings. Modern Hebrew Bibles reflect this tripartite arrangement that was used in the first three printed editions (Soncino, 1488; Naples, 1491-1493; Brescia, 1492-1494).

Of the three sections of the Hebrew Bible, the most important to the Israelites has always been the Law. Another name for the Law is the Pentateuch (literally, "five in a case"—referring to five scrolls in a case). The Pentateuch contains the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Pentateuch, said to be written by Moses, provided the Israelites with basic teachings and principles for personal, social, and spiritual life.

The second section, "the Prophets," comprises a very large segment of the Hebrew Bible. This includes four historical books (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings), the books of the three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), and the books of the twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). The prophetic books are a record of God's oracles to his people concerning past, present, and future events.

In the Hebrew Bible, the last section is "the Writings," which are of two kinds. The first kind is "Wisdom Writings"; this set includes Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. Most of these books are poetic in form and thought, and many of them, especially Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, purport "wisdom" as a central theme. The second kind of "Writings" includes historical books, specifically Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.


Traditionally, authorship of the Pentateuch has been ascribed to Moses. Several Old Testament writers considered him to be the author (2 Kings 14:6; Ezra 3:2; Dan. 9:11), as did Jesus (Luke 24:44) and Paul (1 Cor. 9:9). Traditionally, Joshua is thought to be the author of the book that bears his name, although the book itself does not say this. Judges is thought to have been written by Samuel on the basis that he was the last of the judges. He did not write 1 and 2 Samuel (originally one book) inasmuch as his death is recorded in 1 Samuel, making it impossible for him to record the events of 2 Samuel. The "Samuel" who wrote the books 1 and 2 Samuel is most likely Samuel the Prophet, whose writing is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 29:29The Record of Samuel the Seer. We do not know who wrote Ruth, Esther, or 1 and 2 Kings. The rest of the historical writings (1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah) were probably written by Ezra, a knowledgeable and well-trained scribe.

As for the poetic books, it is thought that Job was written by Job, but we do not know this with certainty. The Psalms were composed by a number of individuals, including Korah, Asaph, and David, whose names are mentioned in the titles to their psalms. Most of the proverbs probably came from Solomon, and a few were authored by Agur and Lemuel. The Song of Songs is said to be Solomon's (1:1). Solomon is usually credited with Ecclesiastes, but scholars are uncertain about this.

The authorship of the prophets is more certain because the prophet's name is specifically identified in each of the books—usually in the first verse.

The grouping and ordering of the books in the Hebrew Bible is different from what Christians have in their Bibles because the Christian Bible adopted the order in the Septua-gint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint, the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, was made in the third century B.C. by Jewish scribes versed in Hebrew and Greek. This translation became very popular among Jews in the first two centuries before Christ because many Jews in those days did not understand Hebrew. Their ancestors had left Israel centuries before, and succeeding generations gradually lost the ability to read the Scriptures in Hebrew. Many of the Jews in Jesus' day used the Septuagint as their Bible. Quite naturally, the early Christians, also used the Septuagint in their meetings and for personal reading; and many of the apostles quoted it when they wrote the Gospels and Epistles in Greek.

The Christian Old Testament can be divided into five sections, as follows:

The Old Testament Books and Their Authors

The Pentateuch (the Law)











Historical Writings




Samuel (?)



1 and 2 Samuel


1 and 2 Kings


1 and 2 Chronicles








Wisdom Literature / Poetry


Job (?)


Korah, Asaph, David, and others


Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel


Solomon (?)

Song of Songs

Solomon (?)

Major Prophets











Minor Prophets










Jonah (?)















The Text Of The Old Testament

The Scribes

In Old Testament times, professional scribes were employed as secretaries in Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Greco-Roman Empire. Court scribes would sometimes rise to positions of social prestige and considerable political influence, much as a secretary of state today. There were schools for the training of such scribes. To master the difficult art of writing on clay probably required as much time then as it takes students now to develop the ability to read and write. Would-be scribes could either enter a regular school or work as an apprentice under a private teacher, though most of them apparently followed the latter procedure. Scribes who were willing to teach could be found everywhere—even in the smaller towns. In fact, most scribes had at least one apprentice, who was treated like a son while learning the profession. Such students learned not only from private tutoring but also from the example of their teacher. This kind of education was sufficient to equip young scribes for the normal commercial branches of the craft. They were fully prepared to handle various kinds of legal and business documents, and they could easily take dictation for private correspondence.

For additional study and training, however, it was necessary to attend the regular schools. For example, only the schools adjacent to the temples had the proper facilities to teach the sciences (including mathematics) and literature, which the more advanced scribes had to master. There, a budding scribe could even study to become a priest. In the ruins of ancient cities, archaeologists have discovered "textbooks" used by pupils. Excavators have also uncovered schoolrooms with benches on which the students sat. Some of the ancient Near Eastern texts that have been unearthed are schoolboy exercises or student copies of originals. These copies are usually not as beautiful or as legible as the originals, which were written by master scribes.

When the teacher wanted to give the students an assignment, he had available in the temple school virtually every type of text imaginable. For elementary work he could have the students practice writing a list of cuneiform signs, much like our learning the letters of the alphabet—except that there were some six hundred signs! Another simple assignment would have been to copy dictionaries containing lists of stones, cities, animals, and gods. After such preparatory work, the students could then move to literary texts and, for example, accurately reproduce a portion of one of the great epics, a hymn, or a prayer. Through arduous study and a lengthy program of instruction and practice, a gifted student could become qualified for scribal service in almost any field.

The Jewish scribe undertook a wide range of writing tasks. Often the scribe sat at the gate of the city or in an open area undertaking numerous kinds of writing tasks for illiterate citizens, including correspondence and the writing of receipts and contracts. More officially, the scribe kept records and wrote annals. Religious scribes copied the Scriptures. Several of these men are mentioned in the Old Testament: Shebna (2 Kings 18:18, 37), Shaphan (2 Kings 22:8-12), Ezra (Ezra 7:6,11; Neh. 8:1, 9-13; 12:26,36), Baruch (Jer. 36:26,32), and Jonathan (Jer. 37:15, 20).

From the Old Testament itself, we learn of two exemplary scribes, Baruch and Ezra. Baruch was the scribe for the prophet Jeremiah. During the reign of King Jehoiakim of Ju-dah (605/604 B.C.), Baruch wrote down Jeremiah's prophecy of the judgment that God was going to bring upon Judah unless the nation repented (Jer. 36:1-4). Baruch read the words of Jeremiah's prophecy to the people and to the officials (Jer. 36:9-19). The message finally reached Jehoiakim, who destroyed the scroll and demanded Baruch's and Jeremiah's arrest (Jer. 36:21-26). As a fugitive, Baruch again wrote down Jeremiah's prediction of Judah's destruction (Jer. 36:27-32).

Ezra was called a priest and a scribe (Ezra 7:11-12; Neh. 8:9; 12:26). In the commission of the Persian king Artaxerxes to Ezra, the king described him as "scribe" (Ezra 7:6-11). But Ezra was not a mere copyist; he was a diligent and profound student of God's law (Ezra 7:11-12). It was Ezra who began the tradition of the scribe being a religious teacher, a "scholar." Scribes such as Ezra were qualified to teach and preach the Scriptures, as well as interpret them.


Writers used a stylus for writing cuneiform ("wedge-shaped" characters) on clay tablets. For writing on ostraca (potsherds, or pottery fragments), papyrus, and parchment, writers split or cut a reed to function as a brush. In Egypt, rushes were used to form a brush. Ink was usually a black carbon (charcoal) mixed with gum or oil for use on parchment or with a metallic substance for use on papyrus. It was kept in an inkhorn as a dried substance, in which the scribe would dip or rub his moistened pen.

The ancient Hebrews probably used leather and papyrus for writing materials. The Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, were sheets of leather sewed together with linen thread. Metal scrolls also existed (e.g., copper). Parchment, a refined leather made from sheep and goat skins, began to replace leather as early as the third century B.C. To prepare parchment, the hair was removed from the skins and the latter rubbed smooth.

The most common form of book for Old Testament documents was evidently a roll or scroll of papyrus, leather, or parchment. The average length of a scroll was about 30 feet, though the famous Harris Papyrus is 133 feet long. Scrolls were often stored in pottery jars (Jer. 32:14) and were frequently sealed.


Not one of the original writings (called the autographs) of any book in the Old Testament exists or is extant today. Fortunately, Jewish scribes throughout the ages have made copies of God's word. If a scroll wore out or if there was a need for copies in various synagogues, Jewish scribes would make additional copies. These scribes were usually the "readers" (or what is technically known as lectors) of Scripture in the meetings of the Jews. Thus, their task was to keep good copies of the Scriptures and to read them to the congregation on each Sabbath day.

Significant Masoretic Manuscripts

Beginning in the sixth century and continuing into the tenth century A.D., European Jewish scribes called the Masoretes worked carefully to preserve the Old Testament text as they transmitted it from copy to copy. The Hebrew word masora means "that which is transmitted," "that which is handed down"; hence, the name, Masoretes.

The Masoretes came from Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Their scholarly school flourished between A.D. 500 and 1000. They standardized the traditional consonantal text by adding vowel pointing and marginal notes. And they produced countless copies of the Old Testament Scriptures. Several of the manuscripts they produced still exist.

The Masoretic Text (denoted as MT) as it exists today owes much to the ben Asher family. For five or six generations, from the second half of the eighth century to the middle of the tenth century A.D., this family played a leading role in the Masoretic work at Tiberias. A faithful record of their work can be found in the oldest existing Masoretic manuscripts. The oldest dated Masoretic manuscript is Codex Gairensis (A.D. 895), which is attributed to Moses ben Asher. The other major surviving manuscript attributed to the ben Asher family is the Aleppo Codex (see below).

There are quite a number of less important manuscript codices that reflect the Masoretic tradition: the Petersburg Codex of the prophets and the Erfurt Codices. There are also a number of manuscripts that no longer exist but were used by scholars in the Masoretic period. One of the most prominent is Codex Hillel, traditionally attributed to Rabbi Hillel ben Moses ben Hillel about A.D. 600. This codex was said to be very accurate and was used for the revision of other manuscripts. Readings of this codex are cited repeatedly by the early medieval Masoretes.

Codex Muga, Codex Jericho, and Codex Jerushalmi, also no longer extant, were cited by the Masoretes. These manuscripts were likely prominent examples of unpointed texts that had become part of a standardizing consensus in the first centuries A.D. These laid the groundwork for the work of the Masoretes of Tiberias.

The Cairo Codex of the Prophets (Codex Cairensis) (ca. A.D. 895) This manuscript contained both the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets). The rest of the Old Testament is missing from this manuscript. It was probably written by Moses ben Asher for the Akraite Jew, Yabes ben Shelomo, in 895. Thereafter, it was well preserved by the Karaite Synagogue of Cairo.

The Aleppo Codex (tenth century A.D.) According to the manuscript's concluding note, Aaron ben Moses ben Asher was responsible for writing the Masoretic notes and pointing the text. This manuscript contains the entire Old Testament and dates from the first half of the tenth century A.D. It was reportedly destroyed in anti-Jewish riots in 1947, but this proved to be only partly true. A majority of the manuscript survived and has been used as the basis for a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible to be published by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Leningrad Codex (Codex Leningradensis) (A.D. 7008-1009) This manuscript originally contained the entire Old Testament, but a quarter of it is now missing. Presently stored in the Leningrad Public Library, this manuscript is of special importance as a witness to the ben Asher text. According to a note on the manuscript, it was copied in A.D. 1008 from texts written by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. Since the oldest complete Hebrew text of the Old Testament (the Aleppo Codex) was not available to scholars earlier in this century, Codex Leningradensis (as the Leningrad Codex is called in Latin) was used as the textual base for the popular Hebrew texts of today: Biblia Hebraica (1929-1937), edited by R. Kittel, and its revision, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1967-1977), edited by A. Alt, O. Eissfieldt, and P. Kahle.

The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets This codex, made in A.D. 916, contains the Major Prophets.

The British Museum Codex Oriental 4445 This ninth- or tenth-century codex, housed in the British Museum, contains a large portion of the Pentateuch in 186 folios. It appears that 129 of these folios reflect an early form of the text made by ben Asher around A.D. 895. The other 55 folios were added later, around 1540.

The Firkowitsch Codex This is the oldest complete codex of the Old Testament, dated A.D. 1010.

Other Significant Old Testament Manuscripts

The Nash Papyrus This papyrus was unearthed from Egypt at the beginning of the twentieth century. When it was compared with Aramaic papyri and ostraca (texts written in ink on pottery) from Egypt and with Herodian inscriptions, it was determined that the Nash Papyrus was written in the Maccabean period, about 100 B.C. This papyrus shows a striking similarity of script with the scrolls of the Qumran manuscripts of the Old Testament. It contains the Ten Commandments and the Jewish Shema (Deut. 6:4-5): "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (KJV). This manuscript was not a part of a parchment scroll but a separate leaf used in teaching. W. L. Nash acquired it in Egypt in 1902 and later donated it to the Cambridge University Library.

Cairo Genizah Fragments Near the end of the nineteenth century, many fragments from the sixth to the eighth centuries were found in an old synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, which had been Saint Michael's Church until A.D. 882. They were found there in a genizah, a storage room where worn or faulty manuscripts were hidden until they could be disposed of properly. This genizah had apparently been walled off and forgotten until its recent discovery. In this small room, as many as two hundred thousand fragments were preserved, including biblical texts in Hebrew and Aramaic. The fact that the biblical fragments date from the fifth century A.D. makes them invaluable for shedding light on the development of the Masoretic work prior to the standardization instituted by the great Masoretes of Tiberias.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947 and in 1948, the year Israel regained its national independence, there was a phenomenal discovery. A Bedouin shepherd boy found scrolls in a cave west of the Dead Sea. These scrolls, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, are dated between 100 B.C. and A.D. 100. They are nearly a thousand years earlier than any of the Masoretic manuscripts. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain significant portions of the Old Testament. Every book except Esther is represented. The largest portions come from the Pentateuch (especially Deuteronomy: twenty-five manuscripts), the major Prophets (especially Isaiah: eighteen manuscripts), and Psalms (twenty-seven manuscripts). The Dead Sea Scrolls also have portions of the Septuagint, the Targums (an Aramaic paraphrase of the Old Testament), some apocryphal fragments, and a commentary on Habakkuk. The scribes who made these scrolls were members of a community of ascetic Jews who lived in Qumran from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls Even though the Dead Sea Scrolls are nearly a thousand years older than the Masoretic manuscripts, there are not as many significant differences between the two groups of manuscripts as one might expect. Normally, a thousand years of copying would have generated thousands of differences in wording. But this is not the case when one compares most of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Masoretic manuscripts. This shows that Jewish scribes for over a millennium copied one form of the text with extreme fidelity.

The greatest importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls lies in the discovery of biblical manuscripts dating back to only about three hundred years after the close of the Old Testament canon. That makes them one thousand years earlier than the oldest manuscripts previously known to biblical scholars. The texts found at Wadi Qumran (as the area is called) were all completed before the Roman conquest of Palestine in A.D. 70, and many predate this event by quite some time. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Isaiah Scroll has received the most publicity, although the collection contains fragments of all the books in the Hebrew Bible with the exception of Esther.

History of the Dead Sea Scrolls' Discovery Because the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is so important for Old Testament textual criticism, a short history and description of these recent discoveries is appropriate. Before the Qumran find, few manuscripts had been discovered in the Holy Land. The early church father Origen (third century A.D.) mentioned using Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that had been stored in jars in caves near Jericho. In the ninth century A.D., a patriarch of the Eastern church, Timothy I, wrote a letter to Sergius, Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Elam, in which he, too, referred to a large number of Hebrew manuscripts found in a cave near Jericho. For more than one thousand years since then, however, no other significant manuscript discoveries were forthcoming from caves in that region near the Dead Sea.

The history of the Dead Sea manuscripts, both of their hiding and of their finding, reads like a mystery adventure story. It began with a telephone call on Wednesday afternoon, February 18,1948, in the troubled city of Jerusalem. Butrus Sowmy, librarian and monk of Saint Mark's Monastery in the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, was calling John G. Trever, acting director of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). Sowmy had been preparing a catalog of the monastery's collection of rare books. Among them he found some scrolls in ancient Hebrew which, he said, had been in the monastery for about forty years. Gould ASOR supply him with some information for the catalog?

The following day, Sowmy and his brother brought a suitcase containing five scrolls or parts of scrolls wrapped in an Arabic newspaper. Pulling back the end of one of the scrolls, Trever discovered that it was written in a clear, square Hebrew script. He copied several lines from that scroll, carefully examined three others, but was unable to unroll the fifth because it was too brittle. After the Syrians left, Trever told the story of the scrolls to William H. Brownlee, an ASOR fellow. Trever further noted in the lines he had copied from the first scroll the double occurrence of an unusual negative construction in Hebrew. In addition, the Hebrew script of the scrolls was more archaic than anything he had ever seen.

Trever then visited Saint Mark's Monastery. There he was introduced to the Syrian Archbishop, Athanasius Samuel, who gave him permission to photograph the scrolls. Trever and Brownlee compared the style of handwriting on the scrolls with a photograph of the Nash Papyrus. The two ASOR scholars concluded that the script on the newly-found manuscripts belonged to the same period. When ASOR director, Millar Burrows, returned to Jerusalem from Baghdad a few days later, he was shown the scrolls, and the three men continued their investigation. Only then did the Syrians reveal that the scrolls had been purchased the year before, in 1947, and had not been in the monastery for forty years as was first reported.

The true history is that sometime during the winter of 1946/ 1947, three Bedouins were tending their sheep and goats near a spring in the vicinity of Wadi Qumran. One of the herdsmen, throwing a rock through a small opening in the cliff, heard the sound of the rock evidently shattering an earthenware jar inside. Another Bedouin later lowered himself into the cave and found ten tall jars lining the walls. Three manuscripts (one of them in four pieces) stored in two of the jars were removed from the cave and were thereafter offered to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem.

Several months later, the Bedouins secured four more scrolls (one of them in two pieces) from the cave and sold them to another dealer in Bethlehem. During Holy Week in 1947, Saint Mark's Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Jerusalem was informed of the four scrolls, and Metropolitan Athanasius Samuel offered to buy them. The sale was not completed, however, until July 1947 when the four scrolls were bought by the Monastery. They included a complete Isaiah scroll, a commentary on Habakkuk, a scroll containing a Manual of Discipline of the religious community at Qumran, and the Genesis Apocryphon (an Aramaic paraphrase of Genesis).

In November and December of 1947, an Armenian antiquities dealer in Jerusalem informed E. L. Sukenik, then Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, of the first three scrolls found in the cave by the Bedouins. Sukenik then secured the three scrolls and two jars from the antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. They included an incomplete scroll of Isaiah, the Hymns of Thanksgiving (containing twelve columns of original psalms), and the War Scroll. (That scroll, also known as "The War of the Children of Darkness," describes a war, actual or spiritual, of the tribes of Levi, Judah, and Benjamin against the Moabites and Edomites.)

On April 1,1948, the first news release appeared in newspapers around the world, followed by another news release on April 26 by Sukenik about the manuscripts he had already acquired at the Hebrew University. In 1949, Athanasius Samuel brought the four scrolls from Saint Mark's Monastery to the United States. They were exhibited in various places and finally were purchased on July 1, 1954, in New York for $250,000 by Sukenik's son on behalf of the nation of Israel and sent to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Today they are on display in the "Shrine of the Book" Museum in Jerusalem.

Because of the importance of the initial discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, both archaeologists and Bedouins continued their search for more manuscripts. Early in 1949, G. Lan-kester Harding, director of antiquities for the Kingdom of Jordan, and Roland G. de Vaux, of the Dominic Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, excavated the cave (designated Gave 1 or 1Q,—"Q" is for Qumran) where the initial discovery was made. Several hundred caves were explored the same year.

Contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls So far, eleven caves in the Wadi Qumran have yielded treasures. Almost 600 manuscripts have been recovered, about 200 of which are biblical material. The fragments number between 50,000 and 60,000 pieces. About 85 percent of the fragments are leather; the other 15 percent are papyrus. The fact that most of the manuscripts are leather contributed to their preservation.

The second most important cave (next to Gave 1) is Gave 4 (designated 4Q), which has yielded about 40,000 fragments of 400 different manuscripts, 100 of which are biblical.

In addition to biblical materials, many sectarian scrolls peculiar to the religious community that lived at Qumran were also found. They furnish historical background on the nature of pre-Christian Judaism and help fill in the gaps of intertestamental history. One of the scrolls, the Damascus Document, had originally turned up in Cairo, but manuscripts of it have now been found at Qumran. The Manual of Discipline was one of the seven scrolls from Gave 1. Fragmentary manuscripts of it have been found in other caves. The document gives the group's entrance requirements, plus regulations governing life in the Qumran community. The Thanksgiving Hymns include some thirty hymns, probably composed by one individual.

There were also many commentaries on different books of the Old Testament. The Habakkuk commentary was a copy of the first two chapters of Habakkuk in Hebrew accompanied by a verse-by-verse commentary. The commentary gives many details about an apocalyptic figure called the "Teacher of Righteousness" who is persecuted by a wicked priest.

A unique discovery was made in Cave 3 (3Q) in 1952. It was a scroll of copper, measuring about eight feet long and a foot wide. Because it was brittle, it was not opened until 1966, and then only by cutting it into strips. It contained an inventory of some sixty locations where treasures of gold, silver, and incense were hidden. Archaeologists have not been able to find any of it. That list of treasures, perhaps from the Jerusalem temple, may have been stored in the cave by Zealots (a revolutionary Jewish political party) during their struggle with the Romans in A.D. 66-70.

During the Six-Day War in June 1967, Sukenik's son, Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University, acquired a Qumran document called the Temple Scroll. That scroll measures twenty-eight feet and is the longest scroll found so far in the Qumran area. A major portion of it is devoted to statutes of the kings and matters of defense. It also describes sacrificial feasts and rules of cleanliness. Almost half of the scroll gives detailed instructions for building a future temple, supposedly revealed by God to the scroll's author.

Dating the Dead Sea Scrolls Early conclusions about the antiquity of the first Dead Sea Scrolls were not accepted by everyone. Some scholars were convinced that the scrolls were of medieval origin. A series of questions relate to the dating problem. When were the texts at Qumran composed? When were they deposited in the caves? Many scholars believe the manuscripts were placed in the caves by members of the Qumran community when Roman legions were besieging Jewish strongholds. That was shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Many other scholars think the scrolls were taken to the Dead Sea caves by Jewish scribes fleeing Roman persecution in the period prior to the destruction of Jerusalem or around the time of the Bar-Kochba revolt (A.D. 132).

Careful study of the contents of a document sometimes reveals its authorship and the date when it was written. An example of using such internal evidence for dating a non-biblical work is found in the Habakkuk commentary. It gives hints about the people and events in the days of the commentary's author, not in the days of the prophet Habakkuk. The commentator described the enemies of God's people as the Kittim. Originally that word denoted Cyprus, but later came to refer more generally to the Greek islands and the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean. In Daniel 11:30 the term is used prophetically, and most scholars seem to identify the Kittim with the Romans. Thus, the Habakkuk commentary was probably written about the time of the Roman capture of Palestine under Pompey in 63 B.C.

Another significant way to date a manuscript is by paleography, the study of ancient handwriting. That was the method initially employed by Trever when he compared the script of the Isaiah Scroll with the Nash Papyrus, thus dating it to the pre-Christian era. His conclusions were confirmed by William F. Albright, then the foremost American archaeologist. The evidence of paleography clearly dates the majority of the Qumran scrolls in the period between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200.

Archaeology provides another kind of external evidence. The pottery discovered at Qumran dates from the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods (200 B.G.-A.D. 100). Earthenware articles and ornaments point to the same period. Several hundred coins were found in jars dating from the Greco-Roman period. A crack in one of the buildings at Qumran is attributed to an earthquake that, according to Josephus (a Jewish historian who wrote during the first century A.D.), occurred in 31 B.C. The excavations at Khirbet Qumran (the caves of Qumran) indicate that the general period of their occupation was from about 135 B.C. to A.D. 68, the year the Zealot revolt was crushed by Rome.

Finally, radiocarbon analysis has contributed to dating the finds. Radiocarbon analysis is a method of dating material from the amount of radioactive carbon remaining in it. The process is also known as carbon 14 dating. Applied to the linen cloth in which the scrolls were wrapped, the analysis gave a date of A.D. 33 plus or minus two hundred years. A later test bracketed the date between 250 B.C. and A.D. 50. Although there may be questions concerning the relation of the linen wrappings to the date of the scrolls themselves, the carbon 14 test agrees with the conclusions of both paleography and archaeology. On the basis of all of these dating methods, the general period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls can be safely dated is between about 150 B.C. and A.D. 100.

Before the Qumran discoveries, the oldest existing Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament were the Masoretic manuscripts noted above, along with the Nash Papyrus and Cairo Genizah fragments. The oldest complete manuscript was the Firkowitsch Codex from A.D. 1010. The greatest importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, therefore, lies in the discovery of biblical manuscripts dating back to only about three hundred years after the close of the Old Testament canon. That makes them a thousand years earlier than the oldest manuscripts previously known to biblical scholars. The most frequently represented Old Testament books are Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah. The oldest text is a fragment of Exodus dating from about 250 B.C. The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 dates from about 100 B.C.

Whatever differences may have existed between the community at Qumran and the mainstream of Jews from which it separated, it is certain that both used common biblical texts. Thus, the manuscripts could have originated from either Jerusalem, the Qumran community, or both.

Significant Dead Sea Scroll Manuscripts

Among the hundreds of biblical manuscripts discovered in the eleven caves around the Dead Sea, there are some very significant ones—especially for textual studies.

Over eight hundred manuscripts have been discovered in the caves at Qumran. The vast majority of the manuscripts are poorly preserved. Often, only a few columns of text survive. Many times only a few barely legible scraps can be identified; but the quantity of material offers a treasure of information from a period and region that previously yielded little manuscript evidence. There are about two hundred fifty Qumran biblical manuscripts, mostly in Hebrew, but some in Aramaic and Greek.

Some of the more significant manuscripts are briefly described below. When a manuscript is described as being proto-Masoretic, this means that its text largely agrees with that found later in Masoretic manuscripts. Other manuscripts will be described as having affinities with the Samaritan Pentateuch or the Septuagint (designated LXX).

In the names of the Qumran manuscripts, the first number signifies the cave, Q indicates Qumran, the abbreviation for the biblical book follows, often followed by a superscript letter for successive manuscripts containing the same book.

1Qlsaa This is the first Dead Sea Scroll to receive widespread attention. It is dated to ca. 100 B.C. The text, which includes most of Isaiah, is proto-Masoretic with some significant variants. The RSV committee, which was nearing completion of their work at the time, adopted thirteen readings from lQIsaa. Many translations published since the RSV have also adopted readings from this manuscript.

1QpaleoLev(+Num) (= 1Q3) This manuscript contains portions of Leviticus and Numbers (Lev. 11; 19-23; Num. 1). Some scholars categorize it as three different manuscripts, which are designated as lQpaleoLeva, lQpaleoLevb, and lQpaleoNum. The paleo-Hebrew script (archaic Hebrew handwriting) is difficult to date, since the scribe was probably imitating an older style of writing. Richard S. Hanson dates it somewhere between 125 and 75 B.C.

1Qlsab The text, which includes most of Isaiah, is proto-Masoretic. It is dated from 25 B.C. to A.D. 50.

2QJer This manuscript is dated from 25 B.C. to A.D. 50 and has portions of Jeremiah chapters 42-49. It has some readings that follow the Septuagint (LXX), while it follows the order of chapters found in proto-Masoretic texts. For the book of Jeremiah, the Septuagint and Masoretic Text are quite different: the Septuagint is one-eighth shorter and has a different arrangement of chapters.

4QpaleoExodm This manuscript, containing most of Exodus, is dated quite early, 200-175 B.C., primarily because it displays paleo-Hebrew script. As such, it has provided scholars with some interesting insights into the early history of the textual transmission of Exodus and the Pentateuch. The manuscript shows many similarities with the Samaritan Pentateuch (described below).

4QNumb This manuscript, dated 30 B.C.-A.D. 20, contains most of Numbers. The book of Numbers existed in three distinguishable textual traditions: the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint. This manuscript, 4QNumb, shows similarities with the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint, while having its own unique readings.

4QDeuta Though it contains only a few verses of Deuteronomy (23:26(?); 24:1-8), this manuscript is one of the earliest copies of Deuteronomy found at Qumran. Harold Scanlin said, "The text appears to be quite close to the presumed original form of the text of Deuteronomy."

4QSama This manuscript, containing about a tenth of 1 a