Biblical history has been in the news. From the genetic code of the Canaanites to ancient scrolls of the Hebrew Bible, everyone seems to be offering an evaluation of the Bible’s accuracy.
The recent discovery of Lebanese genes descending from ancient Canaanites made headlines, as reporters misunderstood biblical texts referring to their extermination by the armies of ancient Israel. Some claimed science disproved the Bible in one fell swoop, but this interpretation of the genetic code came from people who misread the biblical story of Israel’s failure to remove the Canaanites from the Holy Land.
However, thanks to a digital technology that was funded by Google and the U.S. National Science Foundation, another discovery bolstered scholars’ appreciation for the Hebrew Bible and its transmission.
Using special imaging technology, an X-ray-based micro-computed tomography, a 3D version of a very old text was made readable for the first time. This scroll represents the oldest biblical text known to exist.
The biblical scroll examined in the study was first discovered by archaeologists in 1970 at Ein Gedi, the site of an ancient Jewish community near the Dead Sea. Inside the ancient synagogue’s ark, archaeologists found lumps of scroll fragments (“Scientists Finally Read the Oldest Biblical Text Ever Found”)
The Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea date from ca. 250 BC–AD 70 and were found in Judean caves between 1947 and 1956. There are literally thousands of fragments, many of which could not be read until recently.
These important texts have transformed our understanding of the accuracy with which the Bible has been transmitted. The scrolls have illuminated the general cultural and religious background of Palestine, out of which Judaism and Christianity arose.
These documents include the oldest surviving manuscripts of works we have, which were later included in the Hebrew Bible, along with the religious beliefs in the time of Christ and the early church.
Allowing scholars to read what was previously hidden, this technology shocked researchers. The team found the ancient text “100 percent identical” to the Book of Leviticus we have today, according to the scholar Emmanuel Tov (Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
What was once scorched and fragile, a text from the Book of Leviticus is now available to be analyzed for the first time. This text represents a substantial find in our understanding the history of the Hebrew Bible and its transmission. It now represents “the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardized standardised form.”