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24 April 2011

Posted by DMC on 25 April 2011 in Diary |

In my Good Friday entry I mentioned that I was in Jerusalem in the mid-50s, possibly on the way to Baghdad, I cannot recall without researching memoirs (to do so is extremely different manner as I cannot move from this chair or indeed handle paper any more the reader must just put up with what I perceive to be the memory of what happened at the time)

There were three or four special events which stick in my mind about that trip. First, was that archaeologists had recently excavated the steps to Pontius Pilate’s Palace and I stood on the steps thinking that this was the very spot where this provincial governor ceremoniously washed his hands, on the eve of a Jewish holy festival, (now Good Friday) leaving it to the Jewish people to choose which prisoner. out of those due to be crucified, should be released, the robber Barabbas or Jesus. Well we all know which one they chose! These few moments of reflection gave me a tingling feeling down my spine. On the same trip I stood by the banks of the River Jordan on the spot where it is claimed John the Baptist baptised the young Jesus.

A day so later I was taken to see one of the original entrances to ancient city of Jericho. It was a sloping hole in the ground through which a single person could slide and therefore it was carefully guarded from the inside against unwanted intruders. The interesting thing about this particular excavation was that around it there were charred remains which gave credence to the biblical story about the walls of Jericho tumbling down (the result it seems the great conflagration).

Whilst I was in the area I decided to pay a visit to the Dead Sea and indeed like so many other tourists swam in it and found that the salt content was so great that it was impossible to sink-I believe I’m right in saying that this is one of the lowest places on earth something like 1400 feet below sea level. What was also particularly interesting about that vacation was that it was around there that they found the famous Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran Caves. I read about them at the time was absolutely fascinated that they had been preserved in sealed amphora (clay jars) and that most of them were written on lead. I certainly read contemporary books at the time written about the Scrolls but it was clearly going to take scholars very many years to translate them, from the original Hebrew and Greek, and I must now see what contemporary literature exists to bring me up-to-date. In the meantime I reproduce what I found on the Internet about this amazing find.

Significance to the Canon of the Bible

The significance of the scrolls relates in a large part to the field of textual criticism and how accurately the Bible has been transcribed over time.

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible were [[Masoretic]] texts dating to 10th century CE such as the [[Aleppo Codex]]. The biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls push that date back a millennium to the 2nd century BCE. Before this discovery, the earliest extant manuscripts of the Old Testament were in Greek in manuscripts such as [[Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209]] and [[Codex Sinaiticus]].

According to ”The Oxford Companion to Archaeology”: {{Quote|The biblical manuscripts from [[Qumran]], which include at least fragments from every book of the [[Old Testament]], except perhaps for the [[Book of Esther]], provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the [[Masoretic]], or traditional, [[Hebrew]] text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the [[Masoretic text]], of the Hebrew original of the [[Septuagint]], and of the [[Samaritan Pentateuch]]. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its [[Biblical canon|canonization]] around 100 CE.<ref>Fagan, Brian M., and Charlotte Beck, ”The Oxford Companion to Archeology”, entry on the “Dead sea scrolls”, Oxford University Press, 1996.</ref> 

We all got up at pretty much a usual time and after breakfast ‘the young’ went off to church. When they returned I was wheeled out into the garden for a smoke and a glass of wine before lunch. It’s one of those rare days when we were able to eat outside, where I think the food always tastes so much better. It may have something to do with the early years of my life spent in Australia.

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