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  1. In 1979 two silver mini scrolls (actually amulets in antiquity) were discovered at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site that now has been incorporated into the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dating to around 2,600 years ago they are written in paleo-Hebrew and contain the oldest biblical passage that survives to present day, part of a priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. The amulets say that Yahweh is stronger than evil and a "rebuker of evil." Researchers think the amulets would have offered protection to those who wore them. http://www.livescience.com/40046-holy-land-archaeological-finds.html Dead Sea Scrolls A young shepherd named Muhammed Edh-Dhib first discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946 or 1947 near the site of Qumran in what is now the West Bank. Over the next decade, scientists and Bedouin would discover more than 900 manuscripts located in 11 caves. They include canonical works from the Hebrew Bible, including Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Kings and Deuteronomy. They also include calendars, hymns, psalms, apocryphal (non-canonical) biblical works and community rules. One scroll is made of copper and describes the location of buried treasure. The texts date from between roughly 200 B.C. up until about A.D. 70 when the Romans put down a revolt in Jerusalem and Qumran was abandoned. The authorship of the scrolls is a source of debate. A popular theory among scholars is that a monastic sect called the Essenes lived at Qumran, and they wrote and collected the texts. http://www.livescience.com/40046-holy-land-archaeological-finds.html Khirbet Qeiyafa Khirbet Qeiyafa flourished almost 3,000 years ago and is located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem. A casemate city wall with two gates surrounds the 6-acre (2.3 hectares) settlement, and some researchers claim it is the biblical city of Sha'arayim. The site may also have played an important role during Israel's "United Monarchy" period and, in July 2013, researchers announced they had identified a structure more than 10,000 square feet (1,000 square meters) in size as a palace that may have been used by King David himself. http://www.livescience.com/38318-king-david-palace-found-israel.html This aerial picture shows David's palace and the Byzantine farmhouse that was build on top of it. Credit: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority Archaeologists say they've uncovered two royal buildings from Israel's biblical past, including a palace suspected to have belonged to King David. The findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa — a fortified hilltop city about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem — indicate that David, who defeated Goliath in the Bible, ruled a kingdom with a great political organization, the excavators say. "This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom's existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points," read a statement from archaeologists Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The IAA announced the finds as a seven-year long excavation at the site is wrapping up. The government agency and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have halted the planned construction of a nearby neighborhood, hoping to make the site a national park. [In Photos: Archaeology Around the World] Garfinkel has previously said Khirbet Qeiyafa could be the site of Shaaraim, a biblical city associated with King David in the Bible. Shaaraim means "two gates" and two gates have been found in the fortress ruins. Others researchers, meanwhile, have claimed this site might be Neta'im, another town mentioned in the book 1 Chronicles in the Old Testatment. Prior radiocarbon analysis on burnt olive pits at the site indicated that it existed between 1020 B.C. and 980 B.C., before being violently destroyed, likely in a battle against the Philistines. Much of the palace was further wrecked 1,400 years later when a Byzantine farmhouse was built on the site. The archaeologists found a 100-foot-long (30-meter-long) wall that would have enclosed the palace, and inside the complex they discovered fragments of ceramic and alabaster vessels, some of them imported from Egypt. The researchers say the building was strategically located to overlook the city and the Valley of Elah. "From here one has an excellent vantage looking out into the distance, from as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west, to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east," the archaeologists said. "This is an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals." The excavators also found a pillared building measuring about 50 feet by 20 feet (15 m by 6 m) that was likely used as an administrative storeroom. "It was in this building the kingdom stored taxes it received in the form of agricultural produce collected from the residents of the different villages in the Judean Shephelah," or Judean foothills, the archaeologists said. "Hundreds of large store jars were found at the site whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judahfor centuries." http://www.livescience.com/38318-king-david-palace-found-israel.html
  2. When I was a boy, I heard my father give the Society's hour talk on the book of Job about 10 times. The talk spent a good portion of the time showing that Behemoth was a hippopotamus, and Leviathan was a crocodile. Of course, very little time was spent on the fact that the book of Job also says the following about the Behemoth, which is not at all true of a hippo: (Job 40:15-20) 15 Here, now, is Be·heʹmoth, which I made as I made you. . . . 17 It stiffens [or, sways] its tail like a cedar; The sinews of its thighs are woven together. 18 Its bones are tubes of copper; Its limbs are like wrought-iron rods. 19 It ranks first [or, "it is the beginning" -- NWT footnote] among the works of God; Only its Maker can approach it with his sword. 20 For the mountains produce food for it, Where all the wild animals play. The little tail of the hippopotamus does not move or sway like a cedar. It was hardly the beginning of God's creative works. The mountains do not produce food for it. Creatures much more terrifying than hippos have been caught and hunted by man for centuries. When we know what Behemoth is we can then understand why it is tied to the creation of man (cf. "which I made as I made you"), and why it is said to be "first" among God's creative works. Another curious thing about "Behemoth" is that it is a plural word. If it is a type of "plural of majesty" (as in Elohim, or "God of Gods"), then it could mean something like, "Beast of Beasts." The Leviathan is even less like a crocodile than Behemoth is like a hippo. Note: (Job 41:1-34) . . .“Can you catch Le·viʹa·than with a fishhook Or hold down its tongue with a rope? . . . 7 Will you fill its hide with harpoons Or its head with fishing spears? 8 Lay your hand on it; You will remember the battle and never do it again! 9 Any hope of subduing it is futile. The mere sight of it would overwhelm you. 10 No one dares to stir it up. . . . 12 I will not be silent about its limbs, About its mightiness and its well-formed body. 13 Who has removed its outer covering? Who will enter its open jaws? 14 Who can pry open the doors of its mouth? Its teeth all around are fearsome. 15 Its back has rows of scales Tightly sealed together. 16 Each one fits so closely to the other That no air can come between them. 17 They are stuck to one another; They cling together and cannot be separated. 18 Its snorting flashes out light, And its eyes are like the rays of dawn. 19 Flashes of lightning go out of its mouth; Fiery sparks escape. 20 Smoke pours out of its nostrils, Like a furnace fueled with rushes. 21 Its breath sets coals ablaze, And a flame shoots from its mouth. 22 There is great strength in its neck, And dismay runs before it. 23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined together; They are firm, as though cast upon it and immovable. 24 Its heart is hard as stone, Yes, hard as a lower millstone. 25 When it rises up, even the mighty are frightened; Its thrashing causes bewilderment. 26 No sword that reaches it will prevail; Nor will spear, dart, or arrowhead. 27 It regards iron as straw, Copper as rotten wood. 28 An arrow does not make it flee; Slingstones turn into stubble against it. 29 It regards a club as stubble, And it laughs at the rattling of a javelin. 30 Underneath, it is like sharp fragments of pottery; It spreads itself in the mud like a threshing sledge. 31 It makes the deep boil just like a pot; It stirs up the sea like an ointment pot. 32 It leaves a glistening wake in its path. One would think that the deep had white hair. 33 There is nothing like it on the earth, A creature made to have no fear. 34 It glares at everything that is haughty. It is king over all the majestic wild beasts.” Do crocodiles snort out fire and sparks from their nostrils? Do their eyes shine brightly? Does lightning go out of its mouth? is it like a furnace inside, so that its very breath sends a flame that can set coals ablaze? Does it really stir up the deep seas like a cauldron? Looking again at the New World Translation it's hard for me to believe, now, that I ever thought this was a crocodile. Of course, part of the problem is that Witnesses, like many fundamentalist religions, too, do not want to see "fabulous" creatures in the Bible. It opens up the Bible to ridicule if it refers to "real" dragons and unicorns and beasts that seem never to have existed. Yet the idea appears even more "fabulous" if we read from some other translations, or more especially, the "Septuagint" LXX era translations, which would have been based on Hebrew manuscripts from as early as 400 BCE, rather than the NWT which is based on Hebrew manuscripts from as late as 1100 CE. Here are some of the quotes from Job in the LXX: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/28-iob-nets.pdf Job 40:15-23 But look now you are familiar with "monsters" [Behemoth]; they eat grass like cows. Look now its strength is in its loins, and its power in its belly's navel. It stood up its tail like a cypress, and its sinews have been interwoven. Its flanks are flanks of copper, and its spine is cast iron. . . . This is the chief of what the Lord created, made to be mocked at by his angels. But when it went up on a steep mountain, it brought its gladness to the quadrupeds in Tartarus. . . . If there is a flood, it will never take notice. {*It trusts that the Jordan will tumble into its mouth.} Job 40:25-41:26 [Masoretic 41:1-34] And will you catch a dragon [Leviathan] with a fish hook? . . . And do nations feed on it, and do the Phoenician races divvy it up? And a whole fleet, gathered, cannot carry the mere skin of its tail. {and its head in fisherman's boats}. But you will lay a hand on it, though you remember the battle that is waging in its body, and let it happen no more! . . . Who will uncover the front of what it is wearing? And who could enter the plate of its cuirass? Who will open the gates of its face? Fear is all around its teeth. Its inwards are bronze shields. . . . Light shines forth at its sneezing and its eyes have the look of the morning star. From its mouth proceed flaming torches, and fiery braziers are being cast forth. From its nostrils smoke of a furnace burning with the fire of coals. Its soul is coals, and a flame proceeds from its mouth. . . . Its heart is solid like stone, and it stands like an unyielding anvil. . . . It makes the deep boil like a caldron and regards the sea as a pot of ointment and Tartarus of the deep as a captive. . . . There is nothing else on earth like it, made to be mocked at by my angels. Everything high it sees, and it is king over all that are in the waters. The basic idea remains in modern translations, but there is some evidence that the Masoretic text (which the NWT is based upon) has often cleaned up what was thought to be embarrassing to medieval rabbis in the intervening centuries. The references to "Tartarus" [see Greek mythology] are curious, especially due to 2 Peter 2:4. But the additional references to Leviathan in the Hebrew Scriptures are just as striking.
  3. I discovered something today that surprised me greatly, even though it should not have surprised me at all. This post could have gone in the Jewish section or a Controversial Post section, but I chose to put it here because, for me, it concerns my beliefs as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and our recent reading of Isaiah. I base this discussion on a principle found in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, although Paul at the time was specifically concerned with a different subject: (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) . . .we ask you not to be quickly shaken from your reason nor to be alarmed either by an inspired statement or by a spoken message or by a letter appearing to be from us. . . When I left Bethel, I had an opportunity to go to college. My work at Bethel had included picking up some valuable skills for study and research at libraries at Bethel and around NYC. Also, I was starting to pick up some Hebrew and wanted to learn more. I took a part-time job as an assistant editor and illustrator for a University publisher. This was the perfect job that became a kind of continuation of Bethel, and also allowed me to pioneer and to be on campus so that there would not be any push-back if I decided to attend college full-time. I took Computer Science as a major, but also took 8 semesters of Hebrew for 4 years. One of my reasons was because I had a strong interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I thoroughly enjoyed learning Hebrew, because much of the text used as a basis for learning was the Hebrew Bible itself. But after graduation in 1985 I got more heavily involved in congregation responsibilities, my first son was about to be born (1986) and the only jobs I could get in computer science were full time jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, then A D Little, Cambridge [NYC account for NYC property owners]). However, during the time I was studying the "Dead Sea Scrolls" I became suspicious that so many of them matched the LXX (Septuagint), but that some (Isaiah scrolls in particular) were touted to be so much closer to the MT (Masoretic Text). I was suspicious of quite a few more things, too. This made me wonder if some of these scrolls had not been all buried prior to 70 C.E. What if some of them were written or "edited" from, say 400 or 500 C.E, a time closer to when the MT became finalized [900 C.E.].? But no one else seemed to talk about these issues and anomalies. Every time I saw one mentioned, no one ever dealt with more than one single issue, with a potential explanation for it, and this gives the impression that the overall set of anomalies is not so serious. However, this morning I got up at 3am and decided to start taking these questions seriously, after dropping them for 30 years. I'm talking about dozens of research resources. I'm not done yet, of course, but I did find one simple overview that only touches on some of the issues lightly. This will give about the quickest idea of what most of those issues and anomalies are. It's here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1991/03/31/dead-sea-scroll-mystery/121c7d28-aff8-47a4-893a-b94820204136/?utm_term=.3b7aaa886bcc The issues mentioned here are quoted from the article linked above, written by Neil Altman. a series of marginal scroll markings that have now been identified as being Chinese symbols, probably from a period corresponding to the West's Middle Ages. About 800 A.D., writes Charles Pfeifer in his book, "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible," "the Nestorian Patriarch Timotheus I wrote a letter to Sergius, the Metropolitan of Elam, in which he described the discovery of a large number of Hebrew manuscripts in a cave near Jericho," a discovery also cited by John Allegro in his account of the scrolls. The eventual disposition of these manuscripts is not known. Many scrolls were discovered not by archeologists, but by Bedouins, and passed through the hands of numerous people -- shady antiquities dealers and local priests as well the Bedouins -- before scholars were able to purchase them. This is the case with both the Order of the Community and the Isaiah scrolls. The discovery of codices in one of the caves; codices are manuscripts with pages written on both sides, and came into use in the 2nd Century A.D. The presence in the caves of lamps from the 3rd Century A.D.; while this does not directly affect the scrolls, it opens the caves to later entry. The use in the scrolls of consonants to replace vowels to assist pronunciation, as Solomon Zeitlin pointed out years ago, along with the use of final forms of Hebrew letters, suggests a late date. The discovery at Qumran of Arabic and Byzantine coins, which raises questions about the use of the site after its apparent abandonment in 68 A.D. A reference in one of the scrolls to the koshering of fish; though Jews supposedly wrote this document, Jews have never ritually prepared fish. The apparent use on the so-called "Copper Scroll" of both upper- and lower-case Greek letters suggests a late date for this curious finding, as does what I believe to be the presence of anachronistic script. The possible presence of Arabic and Roman numerals raises further doubts about the history of this very unusual metal document.
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