Bible Written Earlier Than Previously Believed? 2,500-Y-O Archaeological Discovery Reveals New Insights

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 (PHOTO: REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN) Archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel shows a shard of pottery at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, October 30, 2008.

Parts of the Bible from the Old Testament could have been written earlier than scholars previously thought, a discovery relating to a handwriting analysis of a text on pottery shards has suggested.

Researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University posted their findings Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where they revealed that 600 BCE pottery from the Arad citadel suggested that not only the elites in society were able to read.

Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist and biblical scholar at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said the handwritten analysis represents new information about the people in the ancient kingdom of Judah.

“We’re dealing with really low-level soldiers in a remote place who can write,” Finkelstein told Live Science. “So there must have been some sort of educational system in Judah at that time.”

Finkelstein explained that the significance of this discovery is that it shows the kingdom had the intellectual resources to write and compile parts of the Old Testament during this period.

Haaretz noted that there is scholarly dispute about precisely when the different writings of the Old Testament were composed, with one key question being whether the oldest books were made before or after the destruction of Judah and its capital Jerusalem in 586 BCE.

“There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts, but to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period? And what were the literacy rates later on?” Finkelstein added.

The research, carried out by a team of archaeologists, physicists, and mathematicians, used specific imaging tools and algorithms to photograph, digitize and analyze pieces of pottery that were initially discovered in the 1960s in the ruins of the Arad stronghold.

The inscriptions contain information about troop movements and distributions of provisions that were addressed to the fort’s quartermaster, Eliashiv.

Barak Sober, one of the mathematicians on the team, explained details about the process: “We designed an algorithm to distinguish between different authors, then composed a statistical mechanism to assess our findings. … Through probability analysis, we eliminated the likelihood that the texts were written by a single author.”

A significant find was that a sample of 16 potsherds was written by at least six different hands, which suggests that literacy was widespread in Judah’s army.

Physicist Eliezer Piasetzky said while it was hard to tell the exact percentage of people in the kingdom who could read and write, the pottery shows that it trickled down to some of the lower levels of society.

“We found indirect evidence of the existence of an educational infrastructure, which could have enabled the composition of biblical texts,” Piasetzky suggested. “Literacy existed at all levels of the administrative, military and priestly systems of Judah. Reading and writing were not limited to a tiny elite.”

Finkelstein added: “Following the fall of Judah, there was a large gap in production of Hebrew inscriptions until the second century BCE, the next period with evidence for widespread literacy. This reduces the odds for a compilation of substantial biblical literature in Jerusalem between ca. 586 and 200 BCE.”

Still, some scholars remain skeptical.

“There is no such thing as consensus in biblical studies these days,” said professor Edward Greenstein of Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, according to The New York Times. “The process of transmission was much more complicated than scholars used to think.”

The full report can be read on the PNAS website.

April 12, 2016 | by Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter | Source: christianpost.com “Bible Written Earlier Than Previously Believed? 2,500-Y-O Archaeological Discovery Reveals New Insights”

Oldest Draft of King James Bible Discovered, Historian Says

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Pages of the notebook in which Samuel Ward translated an updated version of the King James Bible’s Apocrypha section. Credit: Reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Photograph: Maria Anna Rogers

The King James Bible, the most widely read book in the English language — from which phrases like “a man after his own heart” emerged — is as storied as it is elusive. Now, a historian claims to have found the oldest known draft of the Christian text, written in messy script, in an obscure archive at the University of Cambridge.

The manuscript was hidden among the papers of Samuel Ward, one of the men commissioned by King James I to translate a new version of the Christian text into English in the early 17th century.Jeffrey Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, chanced upon the 400-year-old notebook while doing research on Ward for an essay he’s writing.

The Eureka moment came when Miller realized that the notebook contained text from the very book that Ward had been commissioned to help translate. Miller recalled thinking, “Oh my gosh, he’s talking about a book that he had been asked to help translate,” he said.

“Then I realized rather he was creating the King James Bible in that moment.” [Proof of Jesus Christ? 7 Pieces of Evidence Debated]Describing his discovery in the Times Literary Supplement, Miller said the notebook is not just the earliest draft ever found, but it is also the only surviving draft written in the hand of one of the original translators.

“Ward’s draft alone bears all the signs of having been a first draft, just as it alone can be definitively said to be in the hand of one of the King James translators themselves,” Miller wrote.

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Samuel Ward took running notes as he translated two Apocryphal books from the King James Bible. Credit: Reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Photograph: Maria Anna Rogers

That hand was a messy one, it seems. “Ward’s handwriting is notoriously bad,” Miller told Live Science. “At least this is from earlier in his life,” he added. 

Ward began his translation when he was just 32 years old, making him the youngest of the 54 or so men commissioned to translate the King James Bible; his handwriting only got worse with age, Miller noted. Luckily, Miller was familiar with Ward’s handwriting from his intense study of the translator’s texts.

Translating the Bible

The King James Bible, first published in 1611, is one of the most influential and popular books in English literature. It spawned a long list of common phrases and figures of speech, such as “out of the mouths of babes,” “at their wit’s end” and “eat, drink and be merry.” Even so, few documents survive from its translation.

“I think it is a fascinating discovery, and wholly credible,” Jason BeDuhn, a professor of comparative study of religions at Northern Arizona University, told Live Science. “The more we can learn about the process by which the King James Bible was produced, the more realistic our assessment of its merits becomes.”

(c) Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

King James tasked teams of translators in London, Cambridge and Oxford to write an English version of the Bible that would better reflect the principles of the Church of England. Ward was part of one those teams in Cambridge.

He later became master of Sidney Sussex, one of the colleges within the University of Cambridge, and his scholarly papers ended up in the school’s archives. In the 1980s, the notebook in question, catalogued as MS Ward B, had been labeled as a “verse-by-verse biblical commentary” with “Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes.”

But when Miller revisited the text, he discovered that it actually contained notes and translations of parts of the Apocrypha, a disputed section of the Bible that is excluded from many versions today. [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

“This discovery helps us recapture the human side of the translation process,” BeDuhn said. “I especially like Prof. Miller’s description of Ward trying out phrasing, crossing it out and trying something else. This is the real work of translation caught in the act.”

According to Miller, Ward’s notes show that he indeed grappled with the language of certain verses in the Apocrypha, for example, 1 Esdras 6:32. In the 16th-century Bishops’ Bible, the previous version to be authorized by the English Church, 1 Esdras 6:32 describes a declaration of King Darius, which states that anyone found disobeying his decrees “of his own goods should a tree be taken, and he thereon be hanged.”

“Proposing a revision to the front half of the passage, Ward at first began, ‘A tre,’ but then crossed it out,” Miller explained. “No, ‘out of h,’ he started writing on second thought, but then crossed that out, too.

At last, he reverted back to the more straightforward construction with which he had abortively begun, which also more closely mirrors the Greek of the passage: ‘a tree should be taken out of his possession.'”

It seems Ward’s suggestions were disregarded. The King James translation would ultimately read “out of his own house should a tree be taken, and he thereon be hanged.”

Window into the past

The newly discovered notebook is not only the earliest known draft of any part of the King James Bible, but it’s also the only known surviving draft of any part of the Apocrypha. Even so, Miller sees its legacy on a broader scale: “It points the way to a fuller, more complex understanding than ever before of the process by which the [King James Bible], the most widely read work in English of all time, came to be,” he wrote.

Gordon Campbell of the University of Leicester agreed. “In short, Miller’s discovery is a window into the translation process, and that makes it the most important discovery since Ward Allen unearthed the Corpus notebook sixty years ago,” Campbell, a fellow in Renaissance studies, told Live Science, referring to an American scholar who, in the 1960s, tracked down the notes of one of the men tasked with revising the translations into the final King James Bible.

The discovery may also give researchers a model of what other drafts could look like.

“One of the things I hope is that the draft that I found leads us to discover more drafts of the King James Bible, because maybe we have a better idea of what that might look like,” Miller said.

Jeanna Bryner, managing editor of Live Science, contributed to this article.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include more information about the discovery. 

October 15, 2015 | by Megan Gannon | Live Science Contributor | Source: livescience.com "Oldest Draft of King James Bible Discovered, Historian Says"