» Home > In the News

Lost Biblical Texts

24 December 2016

At www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.716368 … many scholars think the Bible was consolidated by the end of the 5th century BC but almost no manuscripts from that period survive. Why? The material on which books and documents were written, such as papyrus and leather, are perishable. The same if true of the Phoenicians. They spread the alphabet around the Mediterranean basin yet virtually nothing of their writings has survived. The same goes for the Egyptians. All we have left are hieroglyphs on temples and in tombs. Kenneth Kitchen estimated that 99 per cent of papyri from 3000BC to the 4th century BC have been lost. That is an awful lot of paper. In the Greco-Roman world we know that Roman soldiers were paid at regular points of time in the year but none of their pay slips have survived as they also were written on papyrus. Out of 225 million receipts from Augustus to Diocletian only two have survived. In contrast the Assyrians and Babylonians used baked clay tablets – and the EA letters have survived for that same reason. Ostraca (messages written on pottery shards), inscriptions on stone and wooden tablets have also survived to a greater degree than papyri but wooden tablets using wax as the writing medium have fare badly. Allan Millard, professor of Hebrew and ancient Semitic languages at Liverpool University, is convinced writing was common in ancient Israel in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and even earlier. Surviving ostraca and graffiti prove this was so. Millard thinks that parts of the Bible date back to the 13th century – although the 8th and 7th centuries are more visibly so. For example, the prophet Isaiah says he was a contemporary of Sargon II (Is 20:1-2) and the use of wooden tablets occurs in Is 30:8. Biblical texts were then copied through the centuries down to our own day by scribes.

At www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.760249 … we have a fragment of the Dead Sea scrolls found in the desert while at www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.756385 .. we have a discourse on the tribe of Dan – Greek or Israelite. Were the Danites a remnant of the mercenaries hired by the Egyptians in the late NK period? When the Egyptians withdrew from Canaan the Danites hybridised with the locals and were accepted as one of the 12 tribes. At www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.732284 … the Biblical kingdom of Geshur emerges from the past and it was much more powerful that thought, the main town situated on a basalt outcrop on the descent from the Golan Heights. Geshur was located east of the Jordan and is envisaged as Aramean, co-existing with early Israel and Judah. Over at www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.720387 .. we have a piece on Gaza.

At www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.713849 … the question is asked, were Hebrews ever slaves in Egypt? There is no direct evidence that people worshipping Yahweh sojourned in Egypt but what is known is that thousands of years ago there were a lot of semites in ancient Egypt and some these were slaves or servants. The histories of Canaan and Egypt were closely intertwined for a long period of time. They arrived in Egypt as merchants, and refugees. They came as economic migrants and as prisoners of war. Others were sold into servitude by their own people. Slaves were a feature of the ancient world.

Skip to content