Friday, April 20, 2007

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? And What Do They Have to Do with Textual Criticism?

You've probably heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls on a History Channel special. What are they?

Here is a Wikipedia summary. But the simple answer is that in the middle of the 20th century they found a bunch of texts, commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Portions from the Hebrew Bible were found among the texts.

These texts are the oldest surviving texts of the Hebrew Bible. How would they be used?

Well, stay tuned for an example. But the short answer is that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide information about the textual traditions prior to the Masoretic texts we have now.

In textual criticism, we want all the available texts we can get our hands on. Its another piece of evidence. This doesn't mean that the Dead Sea Scrolls should be favored over the Masoretic texts in all cases, but they should be consulted.

I don't want to give everything away. I don't want to confuse you by bringing in new texts to talk about. But the Dead Sea Scrolls will come up. Hopefully, all will become clear then.

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Blogger Sherry said...

Thank you for this info. I have also been doing research on the Dead Sea Scrolls as well. It's very interesting.

4/24/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Grey said...

Concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls: There seem to be different interpretations or translations between the Hebrew text as defined by Rabbis and the Christians. The prophecies of Daniel 9:24-27 are disputed by the rabbis dealing with the 7 and 62 weeks being consecutive as well the term "anointed" dealing with the Messiah? Do the scrolls show this as a Messianic Prophecy as opposed to a high official of some sort and the intention of there to be 69 consecutive weeks?

7/14/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

I'm not aware of any textual variants between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic tradition at this text. But I'm no expert. I'm not even sure if the Dead Sea Scrolls have any surviving copies of Daniel.

If Rabbinic Judaism wants to support the view that "annointed" means some high official then they have a few things to explain.

First, it says the following will happen: "to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place."

Then it says the annointed will be cut off. Then the city and sanctuary will be destroyed.

Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE they need to tell me.

1) Who is the annointed, if not the Messiah?
2) How was all of that accomplished?

7/19/2007 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Grey said...

This is reasoning I was speaking of earlier and my question regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls with a possible look at the the translation of these verses. Does the Hebrew translation show these to be valid points or are these the twisted words from a Rabbi tweaking the verses?

In our study of the different translations we will compare the Hebrew text with that of the King James Version of the Bible. It contains the grossest errors, which are, in whole or in part, duplicated by other Christian versions of the Bible.

First, the King James Version puts a definite article before "Messiah the Prince" (9:25). The original Hebrew text does not read "the Messiah the Prince," but, having no article, it is to be rendered "a mashiach ["anointed one," "messiah"], a prince," i.e., Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1, 13; Ezra 1:1-2).

The word mashiach is nowhere used in the Jewish Scriptures as a proper name, but as a title of authority of a king or a high priest. Therefore, a correct rendering of the original Hebrew should be: "an anointed one, a prince."

Second, the King James Version disregards the Hebrew punctuation. The punctuation mark 'atnach functions as the main pause within a sentence. The 'atnach is the appropriate equivalent of the semicolon in the modern system of punctuation. It thus has the effect of separating the seven weeks from the sixty-two weeks: ". . . until an anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks; then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again . . ." (9:25).

By creating a sixty-nine week period, which is not divided into two separate periods of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks respectively, Christians reach an incorrect conclusion, i.e., that the Messiah will come 483 years after the destruction of the First Temple.

Some Christians claim that there is something called a "prophetic year" of 360 days, thus shortening the interval between the beginning of the 483 years which they claim began in 444 B.C.E., and the date of the crucifixion of Jesus. They do this in order to make the dates coincide, but the claim of a "prophetic year" is without any scriptural foundation.

Third, the King James Version omits the definite article in Daniel 9:26, which should read: "And after the threescore and two weeks. . . ." By treating the sixty-two weeks as a distinct period, this verse, in the original Hebrew, shows that the sixty-two weeks mentioned in verse 25 are correctly separated from the seven weeks by the 'atnach. Hence, two anointed ones are spoken of in this chapter, one of whom comes after seven weeks (Cyrus), and the other after a further period of sixty-two weeks (Alexander Yannai).

Fourth, the words v'ayn lo (9:26) are incorrectly translated by the King James Version as "but not for himself." They should be translated as "he has nothing" or "he shall have nothing." There are Christian commentators who maintain this phrase has both meanings, but that claim cannot be supported grammatically.

7/25/2007 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...


I have to admit I haven't looked at Daniel 9 in depth. You seem to be repeating the arguments you heard. I'd just be repeating the arguments I heard.

Here is a link that may be of value:

Let me look at one quote in particular that was of interest to me: First of all, we are wondering why they insist on using ONLY the King James version to "prove" their points when other Bible versions word these same Scriptures a little differently? The KJV is fairly hard to understand, and often has to be translated into modern English before one can make sense of it....

Secondly, Jews for Judaism says the King James version "ignored Hebrew punctuation." Perhaps they need to be reminded that the original Hebrew had no punctuation! Vowels and punctuation were not invented until modern times.

7/28/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

I skimmed a little bit of the following:

That is Jerome, a church father who interacted with Jewish rabbis from the 5th century CE.

The link is to his commentary on Daniel. He mentions the view of the Jews he interacted with. It appears from what he recounts that the Jews of his day believed it to be about the Messiah.

If Jewish rabbis today reject that it is about the Messiah, it may have to do with it supporting Christian claims than any grammatical reason. Something similar appears to have occurred regarding Isaiah 53.

7/28/2007 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

Link didn't fully post so I'm breaking it apart:

You can go here to read it.

It is a very long section.

7/28/2007 12:47:00 AM  

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