Following The Evidence #52

There are more ancient manuscripts (documents) for the Bible than any other ancient text. We have over 24,000 manuscripts for the New Testament alone. Compare that with e.g., 10 manuscripts mentioning Julius Caesar, or 7 for Plato and 5 for Aristotle. There are 643 for Homers Iliad. However, until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls the earliest Old Testament manuscripts we had were from the 10th century AD, because old copies of the Bible were destroyed (out of reverence). As soon as they showed any wear, they were reverently disposed of, but not before a copy was made. These manuscripts were hand copied by scribes (a profession). Because of this, people claimed errors must have crept into the copying process. Until the discovery of the dead sea scrolls!

Found by a shepherd boy in 1947. He was herding his goats and playfully threw a stone into a cave on the cliff. He heard a crash and climbed up to the caves and found the manuscripts in clay jars. Later searches found many caves with many more manuscripts.

The scrolls apparently belonged to the Qumran community – a group of Essenes. The Essenes were a separatist group, some of whom formed an ascetic monastic community and retreated to the wilderness of Judea. They shared material possessions and occupied themselves with disciplined study, worship, and work. They practiced ritual immersion and ate their meals communally. The period of occupation of this site runs from about 100 B.C. 68 B.C. and the scrolls themselves nearly all date from the 3rd to the 1st century B.C. It appears the scrolls were hidden when the threat of Rome was looming but were never recovered and the community mysteriously disappeared.

All the Old Testament books, except Esther, were found in the Dead Sea caves. There were Biblical commentaries of Old Testament books, Psalms and hymns. There was also sectarian material belonging to the Qumran community itself. There was no mention of Jesus, Paul or John, because this community pre-dated the New Testament.

DR Gleason Archer said, “Two copies of Isaiah found in the caves and these proved to be word for word identical with our standard modern Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling”
Dr Seigfried Horn said of the manuscripts for Isaiah, “Its text proves that since this copy was written, probably in the second century B.C. or in the first, the book of Isaiah has not experienced any change… Everyone who has worked with this
scroll has been profoundly impressed by the unmistakable fact that this two-thousand-year-old Bible manuscript contains exactly the same text we possess today.” The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1Sigfried H. Horn, Light from the dust heaps, Review and Herald, 1955, pp 89-90

The reason for this lack of discrepancy and absence of any change can be attributed to the thorough copying rules that ancient scribes employed. They counted every letter and every word. If the copy was not the same, they destroyed it. They counted the middle letter and middle word, if the copy was variant it was destroyed. They were well aware that copying manuscripts could produce change and so the copies were checked vigorously before being allowed to pass.

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