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Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes

Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes

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Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes

Longueur:
848 pages
8 heures
Sortie:
Jul 13, 2017
ISBN:
9781370543199
Format:
Livre

Description

Ever wonder what the Bible was all about but were nervous about reading such an intimidating book? Key Themes of the Old Testament is a creative approach to the study of the Old Testament. It surveys twelve Old Testament themes written for the undergraduate audience from a themes perspective. The themes include history of the English Bible, biblical revelation, inspiration, transmission of the text, creation context, sovereignty of God, sin and the human condition, protoevangelium, covenant, biblical law, Israelite worship, and prophets.

Graves provides an informative and accessible read that explores the Bible, not as a survey of history, but by examining twelve interconnecting themes, provides an overview of what the Bible is all about and how it relates to the New Testament. Learn how the covenant is connected to the law and the law related to the Old Testament sacrificial system. What has Genesis 3:15 to do with the rest of the Bible? Graves answers the kinds of questions that the average reader of the Bible wants answered and not simply the answers that scholars think they should hear.

Numerous detailed maps, charts, tables, and more than 100 photographs illustrate the Old Testament context. Helpful breakout panes, dealing with Quotes from Antiquity, Moments in History, and Facts from Archaeology, provide an interesting and informative understanding of the cultural and historical background of the Bible. A glossary defines technical terms, and extensive footnotes and the hundreds of books listed in the For Further Study breakout panes and bibliography provide an invaluable resource to students for future study.

Sortie:
Jul 13, 2017
ISBN:
9781370543199
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Dr. David E. Graves, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, Scotland) Graves has been involved in teaching the Bible and archaeology for more than thirty-five years and is currently an Assistant Professor with Liberty University, Rawlings School of Divinity. He has taught archaeology at Oxford University, England; provided tours of the Ashmolean and British Museums; traveled extensively in the Middle East; and been involved in Mount Ararat research. He is currently a supervisor at the Shiloh excavations, Israel and was part of the team who discovered and excavated the Dead Sea Scroll cave Q12 near Qumran, Israel (Jan 2017) and Tall el-Hammam (Sodom?), Jordan (2005-2015); and is a member of the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). He is the author of The Seven Messages of Revelation and Vassal Treaties; Key Themes of the Old and New Testament; The Location of Sodom; and Biblical Archaeology: Vol. 2 available through Amazon.com and published through his company Electronic Christian Media (ECM). He has also authored a number of journal articles on the Bible and archaeology most available through academia.edu. Email d.graves777 -at- yahoo.com.

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Key Themes of the Old Testament - David E. Graves

Author

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book owes a great debt of gratitude to many friends and family whose professionalism and passion for the Bible and archaeology have contributed to its completion. First among them is Ralph Richardson, who taught this course in various forms to the undergraduate students at Atlantic Baptist College and later Crandall University for over 30 years. Dr. Richardson initially assisted in assembling the Biblical Themes course material which evolved over the next ten years into its present form. He was not only my teacher but invited me to teach the course Themes of the Bible with him which is the basis upon which this work is written.

Next, thanks is due to my daughter Jessica, who began the tireless task of proof reading the original manuscript. Another individual not to be forgotten is Scott Stripling, a friend and colleague who dug with me at Tall el-Hammam, Jordan for several seasons and who kindly proof-read parts of the initial script. And thanks, is also due to Glen Ruffle who performed the bulk of the proof reading of the final manuscript. His eye to detail and prompt attention to minor issues is much appreciated.

I also wish to express my gratitude to Glasgow Library, Special Collections, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, The Trustees of the British Museum, Leen Ritmeyer, George Grena, David Steeves, Todd Bolen, Bryant Wood, and the late Clifford Wilson and others for their permission to use their fine work in photographs, illustrations, and images.

Lastly, I wish to express my thankfulness to my wife Irina for her helpful comments, deep love, care, and patience during the long hours of writing and editing this work.

Sola Deo Gloria

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ABBREVIATIONS

This work will conform to the abbreviations and general format conventions set out by The SBL Handbook of Style: for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical and Early Christian Studies by Patrick H. Alexander, et al. eds. second printing (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002) for general literary conventions, Bible translations, biblical books, Dead Sea Scrolls, pseudepigraphical, early patristic books, targumic material, Mishnah, Talmud, other Rabbinic works, Nag Hammadi tractates, commonly used periodicals, reference works and serials. Unless otherwise indicated the references to the works of Josephus, Pliny, Philo, and other early church sources reflect the Loeb Classical Library numbering system and Latin abbreviations. Eusebius is used from the new updated translation by C. F. Cruse published by Hendrickson unless otherwise indicated.

OLD TESTAMENT

Gen: Genesis

Exod: Exodus

Lev: Leviticus

Num: Numbers

Deut: Deuteronomy

Ruth: Ruth

Judg: Judges

Josh: Joshua

1–2 Sam: 1–2 Samuel

1–2 Kgdms: 1–2 Kingdoms (LXX)

1–2 Kgs: 1–2 Kings

3–4 Kgdms: 3–4 Kingdoms (LXX)

1–2 Chr: 1–2 Chronicles

Ezra: Ezra

Neh: Nehemiah

Esth: Esther

Job: Job

Ps/Pss: Psalms

Prov: Proverbs

Eccl: Ecclesiastes

Qoh: Qoheleth

Song: Song of Songs or Solomon

Cant: Canticles

Isa: Isaiah

Jer: Jeremiah

Lam: Lamentations

Ezek: Ezekiel

Dan: Daniel

Hos: Hosea

Joel: Joel

Amos: Amos

Obad: Obadiah

Jonah: Jonah

Mic: Micah

Nah: Nahum

Hab: Habakkuk

Zeph: Zephaniah

Hag: Haggai

Zech: Zechariah

Mal: Malachi

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NEW TESTAMENT

Matt: Matthew

Mark: Mark

Luke: Luke

John: John

Acts: Acts

Rom: Romans

1–2 Cor: 1–2 Corinthians

Gal: Galatians

Eph: Ephesians

Phil: Philippians

Col: Colossians

1–2 Thess: 1–2 Thessalonians

1–2 Tim: 1–2 Timothy

Titus: Titus

Phlm: Philemon

Heb: Hebrews

Jas: James

1–2 Pet: 1–2 Peter

1–2–3 John: 1–2–3 John

Jude: Jude

Rev: Revelation

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APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Barn.: Epistle of Barnabas

1–2 Clem.: 1–2 Clement

Did.: Didache

Herm. Sim.: Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude

Herm. Vis.: Shepherd Hermas, Vision

Pol. Phil.: Polycarp, To the Philippians

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APOCRYPHA

1–2 Esd: 1–2 Esdras

1–2 Macc: 1–2 Maccabees

OT PSEUDEPHIGRAPHA

As. Mos.: Assumption of Moses

Sib. Or.: Sibylline Oracles

2 Bar.: 2 Baruch, Syriac Apocalypse

3 Bar.: 3 Baruch, Greek Apocalypse

1 En.: 1 Enoch, Ethiopic Apocalypse

Apoc. Mos.: Apocalypse of Moses

Ep. Arist.: The Letter of Aristeas

Jub.: Jubilees

Mart. Ascen. Isa.: Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah

T. Sol.: Testament of Solomon

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DEAD SEA SCROLLS

11Q5: Psalms, 11QPs

1QapGen: Excavated frags. from cave col. XXI (frag. pulled from side of scroll).

1QIsaa: The Great Isaiah Scroll

1QIsab: Isaiahb Scroll

1QS: Serek ha-Yahad or Rule of the Community, Manual of Discipline from Qumran Cave 1

3Q15: Copper Scroll

4Q175: 4QTest; Testimonia from Qumran Cave 4

4Q41: Deutn

4QIsad: Isaiahd Scroll

DSS: Dead Sea Scrolls

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ANCIENT SOURCES

Abr.: Philo, De Abrahamo, On Abraham

Ag. Ap.: Josephus, Against Apion

Ann.: Tacitus, Histories and Annales

Ant.: Josephus, Jewish Antiquities

Ap. John: Apocryphon of John

Apoc. Ab.: Apocalypse of Abraham

Apol.: Justin Martyr, Apologia, Apology

Autol.: Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum

b.: (before rabb. txt.) Babylonian Talmud

b. Sanh.: Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin

b. Sotah: Babylonian Talmud tractate Sotah

b. Yoma: Babylonian Talmud tractate Yoma (= Kippurim)

Cat.: Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis

Civ.: Augustine, De civitate Dei, The City of God

Comm. Joh.: Origen of Alexandria, Commentary on John

Congr.: Philo, De congressueru ditionis gratia, Studies on the Preliminary Studies

Contin.: Augustine, De continentia, Continence

Corrept.: Augustine, De correptione et gratia, Admonition and Grace

De Praesc. Haer. Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum, The Prescription Against Heretics

De Princ.: Origen of Alexandria, De principiis, On First Principles

Dial.: Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew

Eccl. Hist.: Theodoret, Historia ecclesiastica, Ecclesiastical History

Enchir.: Augustine, Enchiridion de fide, spe, et caritate, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love

Ep.: Jerome, Epistulae, Letters

Ep.: Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, Letters

Ep. fest.: Athanasius, Epistulae festales, Festal Letters

Flacc.: Philo, In Flaccum, Against Flaccus

Good Person: Philo, Quod omnis probus liber sit, That Every Good Person Is Free

Haer.: Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, Against Heresies

Hist.: Herodotus, Historiae, The Histories

Hist. eccl.: Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, Ecclesiastical History

Hom. Luc.: Origen, Homiliae in Lucam, Homilies on Luke

Hypoth.: Philo, Hypothetica, Hypothetical Discourse

J.W.: Josephus, Bellum judaicum, Jewish War

m.: The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby)

m. ’Abot: Mishnah tractate ’Avot

m. Sotah: Mishnah tractate Sotah

m. Yad.: Mishnah tractate Yadayim

m. Yoma: Mishnah tractate Yoma (= Kippurim)

Marc.: Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, Against Marcion

Midr.: Rabbinic Writing, Midrash

Mos.: Philo, De vita Mosis I, II, The Life of Moses I, II

Nat.: Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia, Natural History

Paed.: Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, Tutor

Pan.: Epiphanius, Panarion (Adversus haereses), Refutation of All Heresies

Praep. Ev.: Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, Preparation for the Gospel

Prax.: Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam, Against Praxeas

Protr.: Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, Exhortation to the Greeks

Quis Div.: Clement of Alexandria, Quis Dives Salvetur, Who Is The Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?

Res.: Tertullian, De Resurrectione Carnis, The Resurrection of the Flesh

Somn. 1, 2: Philo, De somniis I, II, On Dreams 1 and 2

Strom.: Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Patchwork

Trin.: Augustine, De Trinitate, The Trinity

Vita: Josephus, Vita, The Life

Vit. Const.: Eusebius, Vita Constantini, Life of Constantine

Vit. Paul.: Jerome, Vita S. Pauli, primi eremitae, The Life of Paulus the First Hermit

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MODERN SOURCES

§: section

ABD: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (6 vols. ed. David Noel Freedman)

AEHL: Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (4 vols. Rev. and updated ed. eds. Avraham Negev, and Shimon Gibson)

AMP: Amplified Bible

ANET: The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ed. James B. Pritchard)

ASV: American Standard Version

BCF: Baptist (Second London) Confession of Faith of 1689

BDAG: Bauer, Walter, F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature

ca.: circa

cent.: century

CEV: Contemporary English Version

ch.: chapter (s)

CSNTM: The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

DJG: Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (eds. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I Howard Marshall)

EBD: Easton’s Bible Dictionary

EDB: Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (eds. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck)

EDT: Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (ed. Walter A. Elwell)

ESV: English Standard Version

ed(s).: editor(s), edited by

et al.: et alii, and others

etc.: et cetera, and the rest

e.g.: exempli gratia, for example

GNB: Good News Bible

GNT: Good News Translation

Gr.: Greek

Heb.: Hebrew

i.e.: id est, that is

IDB: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (gen. ed. George A. Buttrick)

ISBE: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939 eds. James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, Morris O. Evans, Melvin Grove Kyle)

ISBER: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Fully Revised (1995 ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley)

KJV: King James Version

LB: Living Bible

LXX: Septuagint

MT: Masoretic Text

NASB: New American Standard Bible

NBD: New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. (eds. I. Howard Marshall, Alan R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and Donald J. Wiseman)

NDT: New Dictionary of Theology (eds. David F. Wright, and Sinclair B. Ferguson)

NIDNTT: New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (ed. Colin Brown)

NIV: New International Version

NJB: New Jerusalem Bible

NKJV: New King James Version

NLT: New Living Translation

NRSV: New Revised Standard Version

OEANE: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East (ed. Eric M. Meyers)

OIM: Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago

P: Papyrus

RSV: Revised Standard Version

RV: Revised Version

TEV: Today’s English Version

Tg.: Targum

TNIV: Today’s New International Version

Vg.: Vulgate

WCF: Westminster Confession of Faith

WDBA: Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (ed. Charles F. Pfeiffer)

ZPEB: Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vols. 1–5. Revised, Full-Color ed. (eds. Merrill C. Tenney and Moisés Silva.

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PREFACE

This work arose out of my own frustration at locating a suitable text for a course I taught for over ten years called Themes of the Bible or Biblical Themes. The students came from a variety of faith backgrounds and I noticed they had little or no Bible background. Most of the entry level texts were written for Bible Survey courses, which were different from the approach taken for the course I was teaching. The present work is a combination of a broad Bible survey, theological and hermeneutical introduction, historical and archaeological background, all packaged together in an apologetic approach. The closest text for my course were a combination of Ronald Youngblood’s, Heart of the Old Testament and John Stott’s Basic Christianity which we happily used. While both were excellent texts, the course was supplemented with an extensive reader to cover all the gaps in material not addressed in these two books. It was necessary to provide background material for the history of the English Bible, and the church in the New Testament. This work is written on the Old Testament to provide students with a broader source for their study. A companion work on the New Testament will follow. While this material is designed around a five-week intensive course comprising four themes in each class, this text could be used in a variety of contexts and course structures. This volumne will deal with the first twelve themes about how the Bible came into existence and central themes of the Old Testament.

The advantage of such a text is it provides a broad overview that tells the story of redemption without miring the reader in the complexity of the detailed narrative. This material, while important, can be handled in the typical Introduction to the Old and New Testament books that address in more detail the historical narrative. Because of the hundreds of books listed in the For Further Study breakout panes, the reader will find themselves provided with an invaluable resource for continued study. Not all of the works listed are endorsed by the author but listed to provide a broad understanding of the available works on each topic. There are also maps, photographs, charts, tables, and helpful breakout panes dealing with Quotes from Antiquity, Moments in History, and Facts from Archaeology. This work is not designed to be exhaustive but provides a general introduction for the undergrad student or layperson that has no understanding of the Bible or its background. I have written this material for those without a theological or biblical studies background to lay a general framework from which to work in, understanding the Bible as an important spiritual and cultural document in a post-modern age.

While not everyone has the privilege to travel to the Holy Land, it is my hope and prayer that the reader will catch something of the excitement and fascination for the ancient Near East and the Bible through reading this book and be blessed.

Dr. David E. Graves, Moscow, Russia 2012

Toronto, Canada 2017

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ARCHAEOLOGICAL PERIODS

Period—Abbreviation—Historical Period—Dates

PREHISTORIC PERIOD

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, B—PPNA, PPNB—Post Creation—8500–6000 BC.

Pottery Neolithic A, B—PNA, PNB—Ubaid Period (Sumer)—6000–4300 BC.

Chalcolithic Period—Cal.—Ubaid Uruk Period (Sumer)—4300–3200 BC.

Period—Abbreviation—Historical Period—Dates

BIBLICAL PERIOD

Early Bronze Age I—EB I—Uruk Period (Sumer) Writing—3200–2750 BC.

Early Bronze Age II–III—EB II–III—Dynastic Period (flood?)—2750–2350 BC.

Intermediate Bronze Age: —IB (formerly EB IV–MB I) —Third Dynasty of Ur—2350–1950 BC.

Middle Bronze Age IIA—MB IIA—Israel’s Patriarchs—1950–1750 BC.

Middle Bronze Age IIB—MB IIB—Middle Kingdom Egypt—1750–1650 BC.

Middle Bronze Age IIC—MB IIC—New Kingdom Egypt—1650–1550 BC.

Late Bronze Age I—LB I—Mosaic Period—1550–1400 BC.

Late Bronze Age IIA—LB IIA—Early Exodus & Conquest—1400–1300 BC.

Late Bronze Age IIB—LB IIB—Late Exodus & Conquest—1300–1200 BC.

Iron Age I A, B—IA IA, IA IB—Judges—1200–1000 BC.

Iron IIA—IA IIA—United Monarchy—1000–900 BC.

Iron Age IIB–C—IA IIB–C—Divided Monarchy and Babylonian Conquest—900–586 BC.

Iron Age III—IA III—Neo-Babylonian Period—586–539 BC.

Persian Period—Pers.—Exile—539–332 BC.

Period—Abbreviation—Historical Period—Dates

CLASSICAL PERIOD

Hellenistic Period—Hell.—Alexander the Great—332–63 BC.

Maccabean / Hasmonean Period—Macc.—Maccabean Revolt—165–63 AD.

Early Roman Period—ER or E. Rom.—Herodian/ NT Period—63 BC–70 AD.

Middle Roman Period—MR or M. Rom.—Yavne Period—70–135 AD.

Late Roman Period—LR or L. Rom.—Mishnaic Period—135–200 AD.

Late Roman Period—LR or L. Rom.—Talmudic Period—200–330 AD.

Byzantine Period—Byz.—Eastern Roman Empire—330–638 AD.

Period—Abbreviation—Historical Period—Dates

ISLAMIC PERIOD

Umayyad Period—Umay.—Arab Caliphate Period—638–750 AD.

Abbasid Period—Abb.—Arab Caliphate Period—750–969 AD.

Fatimid Period—Fat.—Caliphate Egyptians—969–1171 AD.

Kingdom of Jerusalem Period—Crus.—Crusader Period—1099–1187 AD.

Ayyubid Period—Ayy.—Crusader Period—1187–1244 AD.

Mamluk Period—Mam.—Crusader Period—1244–1517 AD.

Ottoman Period—Ott.—Ottoman Empire—1517–1917 AD.

Period—Abbreviation—Historical Period—Dates

MODERN PERIOD

British Mandate Period—Brit. Man.—British Occupation and Arab states—1917–1948 AD.

Israeli Period—Isr.—Modern Israel—1948–Present.

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1. Map of the tribal allotments of Israel with Levitical cities and cities of refuge.

INTRODUCTION

This book is about themes of the Old Testament. It is presented in what is known as an interdisciplinary study since it considers material from a variety of disciplines but gathered around biblical themes. The cultural and historical context of the text is paramount to understanding the Bible. As the eminent historian and archaeologist G. Ernest Wright stated

The Bible, unlike other religious literature of the world, is not centered in a series of moral, spiritual, and liturgical teachings, but in the story of a people who lived at a certain time and place….Biblical faith is the knowledge of life’s meaning in the light of what God did in a particular history. Thus the Bible cannot be understood unless the history it relates is taken seriously. Knowledge of biblical history is essential to the understanding of biblical faith…If the nature of such periods is to be properly understood, and the biblical events fitted into their original context in ancient history as a whole, the original background to the biblical material must be recovered with the aid of archaeology.¹

Thus, the material will be examined from the perspective of these disciplines:

• Archaeology

• Geography

• Theology

Linguistics

• History

• Philosophy

• Science

The material is presented in a convenient format that is purposefully apologetic² in tone, interdisciplinary in nature, and thematic in scope. This volume will consider the themes found in the Old Testament. There appears to be no single overarching theme that can unify the entire Bible, including such important themes as promise, love, covenant, resurrection or the kingdom of God.³ However, several important themes, that are interconnected, will be examined and justify an interdisciplinary approach to their study. Special sidebars are provided with information from a variety of disciplines to enhance one’s understanding of the biblical themes:

• Moments in History

• Quotes from Antiquity

• Facts from Archaeology

• For Further Study

Study questions are provided along with selective bibliographies to assist the reader in interacting with the material.

Before we begin with the themes it is important to lay out some introductory remarks as we approach the controversial subject of the Bible.

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NEUTRALITY MYTH

When it comes to ideas there is no neutrality. Everyone has a preconceived notion about everything. No idea is still an idea. The issue is whether we are honest about our presuppositions and assumptions.

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ASSUMPTIONS

Everyone has certain assumptions when reading the Bible. Someone may pick up a Bible and assume that it was written by mere human beings. We may assume that it only contains moral stories. That assumption will make a difference when one encounters certain passages of Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments.

Some people will propose that the word of God is understood completely objectively, that people are neutral about it and do not bring their own opinions to it. But in reality, you have just come with an opinion, the opinion of no opinion. Everyone has an opinion about the Bible. Whether we decide that the Bible is good, bad, or indifferent, we still have an opinion. We all have definite assumptions about the Bible.

What you believe about the Bible will influence how you interpret it. If you don’t believe that miracles can happen, then you are going to interpret the miracles in such a way that the supernatural is removed. Rudolph Bultmann in his writing tried to demythologize the teachings of Jesus.

The assumption presented in this material is from a Judeo-Christian worldview. This text assumes that the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments are historically true and reliable.⁵ While it is possible to misunderstand the meaning of the text this is an issue with our interpretation and not with the objective truth of the text.

This material also assumes that the readers of the Bible have come from a variety of faith backgrounds and experiences. And so, the material is presented with respect for other positions.

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TOLERANCE

The Oxford American Dictionary & Thesaurus defines tolerance and toleration as:

Tolerance: A willingness or ability to tolerate; forbearance.

Toleration: The process or practice of tolerating, esp. the allowing of differences in religious opinion without discrimination.⁶

Webster’s Dictionary defines toleration as:

The endurance of the presence or actions of objectionable persons, or of the expression of offensive opinions.

We all have differing opinions on various subjects and none of us agrees with everyone. Some of the opinions that we encounter we may find personally objectionable and offensive. So how does one interact with those of differing opinions? The general response is tolerance. But what does tolerance mean? Does it mean that their views are also true and valid? Does it mean that we must accept their views as our own to be tolerant? Unfortunately, this is often the postmodern understanding of tolerance.⁸

The definition of tolerance deals with how people are treated and how people interact with others. It is not about embracing their views or accepting their views as valid, which are quite different matters.

There are many misconceptions about tolerance in the postmodern world. Tolerance does not mean accepting that two opposing views are both valid. It does not mean accepting their views as correct. It means fairly representing a differing opinion. Tolerance means treating those who differ with us with respect and fairness. Stetson defines it as patience toward a practice or opinion one disapproves of.

Debate is a sound academic exercise but must be done with respect for the person because everyone is created in the image of God. Debate must involve fairly representing the opposing views. Thus, it is important to represent an opposing view as accurately and fairly as possible. If one creates a caricature of the views of others and soundly demolishes the caricature, then you have not successfully countered their arguments.

For Further Study

Holmes, Arthur F. All Truth Is God’s Truth. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1983.

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AN AD HOMINEM ARGUMENT

In rhetoric or logic, the personal attack known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin argument to or against the person) is described as so-and-so is a person of bad (defective) character, therefore his argument should not be accepted.¹⁰ It is an argument which links the validity of a premise to the personal character of the person making the premise. Example: Sally says that the umpires made the right call, but she is wrong because she is a stupid idiot. Sally may be a stupid idiot, but this does not invalidate her knowledge of the fact that the ball was indeed a strike and the umpire called it outside the strike zone. Perhaps the lowest form of the argumentum ad hominem is name calling,¹¹ which in one form Jesus treats as the attitude of murder (raca = you fool, Matt 5:22).

For Further Study

Copi, Irving M., and Carl Cohen. Pages 97–100 in Introduction to Logic. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

Hurley, Patrick J. Page 125–128, 182 in A Concise Introduction to Logic. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 1999.

Walton, Douglas N. Ad Hominem Arguments. Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 1998.

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VALID QUESTIONS

All questions are valid questions. Jesus used the catechetical (question and answer) method of teaching (Matt 16:13–16; Mark 8:27–29; Luke 10:36). This does not mean that all questions are always appropriate in each setting, but the question is always worth answering.

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CHAPTER ONE – HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE

The Bible contains 66 books written by 24 authors over a period of 2000–3500 years. The Old Testament (OT) consists of 39 books, while the New Testament (NT) contains 27 books. The NT references to Scripture are to the text of the OT. When Paul says, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3–4) he is referring to what the Scriptures of the OT state about the Messiah (See also Acts 17:2–3; 18:28; 2 Tim 3:15–16). The same is true of the phrase it is written in Acts 1:20; 13:33. The Bible of the NT was the OT.

Before examining the content of the Bible, it is helpful to know some things about the history of the English Bible. This chapter will consider the Bible’s origins, the languages used in the Bible, and the origin of Bible translations.

2. Reproduction of the Gezer tablet. This limestone agricultural calendar is only about 4 inches (10 cm) tall and dates to the time of Solomon.

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Facts From Archaeology

The Gezer Calendar

This tablet was found at Gezer (tenth cent. BC) and written in archaic biblical Hebrew. It contains a calendar that lists the seasons and their associated agricultural activities.¹² It translates as

Two months of harvest

Two months of planting

Two months are late planting

One month of hoeing

One month of barley-harvest

One month of harvest and festival

Two months of grape harvesting

One month of summer fruit

Abijah¹³

Abijah is a common name in the Bible meaning "Yah (YHWH) is my father." This was also the name of one of the kings of Judah (1 Kgs 14:31).

Other examples of Hebrew script include the Siloam Inscription, Tall Dan inscription, and the Lachish letters or Ostraca which describes the final capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC.

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3. The Sumerian pictograph tablet. This tablet is one of the first pieces of writing recovered, dating to 3100–2900 BC. This replica is an identical cast of the original at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

LANGUAGES OF THE BIBLE

Originally God communicated his revelation in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The first two belong to the category of languages called Semitic, named after the descendants of Shem (Gen 10). Other Semitic languages include Phoenician, Assyrian, Arabic, Akkadian, Ethiopic, Sumerian, Ugaritic, Moabite, and Babylonian. These languages are read from right to left except Akkadian and Ethiopic, which were the first languages to indicate vowels. There is a common cultural life because of the common language. Sumerian, Greek and English are Indo-European languages and not Semitic.

4. The Siloam inscription records the construction of Hezekiah’s tunnel in 8th cent. BC and demonstrates one of the oldest examples of the ancient Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. In the nineteenth century, it was damaged when thieves cut it from the tunnel wall but it was recovered and repaired. Reproduction with the original located in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

One might wonder why sometimes the spelling of the names in the inscriptions differ from the way they are spelled in the Bible? The main reason is that the ancient languages were more spoken than written. People spelled words the way they sounded, and because of different accents similar words with the same meaning were often spelled a bit differently. There was no standardisation of spelling, much like it is today with British and American words (colour and color). Thus, it is difficult to know if the person or place names in the tablets are the same as in the Bible. One good example is the mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Ebla tablets. Some scholars say they are the same cities¹⁴ while others argue they are not.¹⁵ It is difficult to know for sure.

Facts From Archaeology

Rosetta Stone

The discovery of the Rosetta stone by Boussard, one of Napoleon’s soldiers, in 1799 was the key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is named after the town of Rosetta, Rashid in the delta region of Egypt where it was discovered. The stone was moved to Cairo where Napoleon had it copied but when the French surrendered Egypt to the British in 1801, the Rosetta stone also passed into British hands. It is now on exhibition in the British Museum.

The Rosetta stone is an irregularly shaped slab of black basalt which is about 1.75 m. long, 0.71 m. wide, and 27.94 cm. thick and weighs over a ton. The top right and left-hand corners are broken off as well as the bottom right hand corner. The missing pieces were never found, although a search was made for them. It is estimated that the actual complete size of the stone was about 45– 60 cm longer than at present. It is thought that the complete Rosetta stone would resemble in general form and appearance the other Stelae which were set up in honour of Ptolemy III, IV, and V by the priesthood of Egypt assembled at Memphis and Canopus.

The tablet contained two languages: Egyptian Hieroglyphic, (top 14 lines) with an Egyptian shorthand script called Demotic (Gr. people of the town, middle 32 lines), and Koine Greek (bottom 54 lines) which makes the script bilingual and not trilingual. Scholars could read the Greek and thus decipher the Egyptian and Demotic. It may be that the purpose for the great diversity of scripts was to communicate the high priestly decree to everyone.

5. Rosetta Stone, PD.

The contents of this bilingual tablet commemorate the ascension of Ptolemy V Epiphanes to the throne of Egypt in the year 197–196 BC, in the ninth year of his reign. The decree summarises the benefits given by Ptolemy V to the priesthood and appears to have been written by priests at Memphis after a great General Council of Egyptian priests from Upper and Lower Egypt. The benefits extend beyond the priesthood to also encompass the sailors, soldiers and civilians of Egypt.¹⁶

Budge describes some of the decrees of the priests to honour Ptolemy V:

A statue of Ptolemy V as the Avenger of Egypt should be set up side by side with a statue of the chief local god in the most prominent place in every temple in Egypt.¹⁷

Festive holidays, statues and additional titles were all given on behalf of the King. Finally, Budge describes the recording of the famous Rosetta stone:

The Decree should be inscribed in the old hieroglyphic character, in Demotic, and in Greek on a slab of hard, black basalt and a copy of it, inscribed on hard stone, should be set up side by side with the image of the King in every temple of the first, second and third class in Egypt.¹⁸

To what extent this was carried out is not known. Some of the copied tablets with the decree of the priests have been found. The most important of these is the Stele of Damanhur (or the Stele of Annobairah). The Rosetta stone is thought to be very similar in decoration to the stelae set up in honour of Ptolemy III and IV.¹⁹

Attempts to decipher the scripts from the stone before 1800 were unsuccessful, as the pictures were believed to be composed of mystic symbols. In 1802 some progress was made by the French scholar A. I. Silvestre de Sacy and the Swedish diplomat, Jean David Akerblad, when they identified a number of proper names in the Demotic text by comparing it with the Greek.²⁰

Further work was carried out by Thomas Young, an accomplished linguistic who discovered that the royal names were written within ovals called cartouches, and worked out from these a phonetic alphabet. In 1814, he established the way in which the birds and animals in the pictorial script faced. Difficulty came when he failed to recognise that the Demotic and hieroglyphic were paraphrases and not literal translations. As a result, not all of the characters lined up equally.²¹

Jean Francois Champollion continued the work with the discovery that the hieroglyphic text was the translation of the Greek, not the reverse as had been thought. On September 17, 1822 Champollion read his Lettre a M. Dacier and exhibited his Hieroglyphic Alphabet, with its Greek and Demotic equivalents, before the Academy of Inscriptions. He further developed his system in a series of memoirs called Precis du systeme hieroglyphique des anciens Egyptiens which he read in the Institute in 1823. Champollion was assisted in his work when he had the opportunity to travel to Egypt and copy 2,000 pages of inscriptions in his own hand writing. Working from his meagre alphabet and skilfully applying his knowledge of Coptic and of the Rosetta stone, he successfully deciphered them.²²

The true significance of the Rosetta stone cannot be determined by its message but rather in the use of the content to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. Until 1822 Egyptian history derived from inscriptions on the walls of tombs and tablets lay silent in a mystical sequence of fascinating pictures. The brilliant work of Champollion with the Rosetta stone opened the way into 3000 years of written Egyptian history, essential for the study of the humanities and biblical studies.

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Hebrew

Most of the OT was written in Hebrew with small portions written in Aramaic (Gen 31:47b; Jer 10:11b; Ezra 4–7; Dan 2–7; See Aramaic).

Facts From Archaeology

Oldest Hebrew Inscription

In 2008 possibly the oldest reported Hebrew inscription was discovered by Yossi Garfinkel, the Israeli director of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation. The inscription is on a pottery shard dating to 1,000–975 BC, the height of the Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem. Garfinkel bases his identification on a three-letter verb from the inscription meaning to do, a word he argues existed only in Hebrew.²³ Some scholars argue that the legendary kingdom of David was little more than a small chiefdom, if it existed at all.²⁴ Kathleen Kenyon states that:

no extra-Biblical inscription, either from Palestine or from a neighbouring country, has yet been found to contain a reference to them (David and Solomon).²⁵

If Garfinkel’s assessment is accurate then this proves that Israelites at the time of David recorded their own written history.²⁶ Professor Aren Maeir, of Bar Ilan University reported in the news that it is one of the most important texts, without a doubt, in the corpus of Hebrew inscriptions.²⁷

Combined with the Tel Dan stele discovered in 1993–1994, during the Tel Dan excavations, mentioning the king of the House of David (Heb. bytdwd) scholars now must acknowledge the existence of the Davidic kingdom mentioned in the Bible. While this inscription was widely debated, Grabbe maintains that it is now widely regarded (a) as genuine and (b) as referring to the Davidic dynasty and the Aramaic kingdom of Damascus.²⁸ Anson Rainey has commented that [Philip] Davies and his ‘deconstructionists’ [Thomas L. Thompson] can safely be ignored by everyone seriously interested in Biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies.²⁹

History of the Hebrew Text

Old Hebrew, Paleo-Hebrew or Archaic Biblical Hebrew (tenth–sixth cent. BC). A Canaanite script still used by Samaritans.

Classical Biblical Hebrew (sixth cent. BC). Flourished during the Babylonian Exile.

Late Biblical Hebrew (sixth–fourth cent. BC). A slight variation of the classical biblical Hebrew that corresponds to the Persian Period. Used the Imperial Aramaic script.

Dead Sea Scroll (DSS) or Qumran Hebrew (third cent. BC–AD first cent.). Hellenistic and Roman Periods before 70 AD. Used the Hebrew square script (Assyrian script), still in use today

Mishnaic, Tannaitic, or Early Rabbinic Hebrew (first–fourth cent. AD). Used during the Roman Period after 70 AD.

Masoretic Text (MT). There are no vowels in the early forms of Hebrew, with vowels only being added later by the Masorite scribes (AD 500–1000). Until that time the only way to determine the exact pronunciation and meaning of the words was by their context. The Masorite name is derived from the masora, the complex series of markings used to indicate the vowels and accents. The Masorite also added a series of notes to ensure accuracy of the text.

For Jews, Hebrew was the language of sanctity, the holy tongue (m. Sotah 7:2). This fact helps to explain the reason for the care exercised by the scribes to insure the precision of the Hebrew text down through the generations.

The cuneiform (cursive) script can be traced back to Egyptian hieroglyphs, though the phonetic values are dependent on the acrophonic principle of the Late Bronze Age Proto-Canaanite alphabet. For example, the letter A, represents the sound a, while the pictogram representing an ox is pronounced as ‘alp. Ancient Hebrew and Phoenician are based on the Canaanite language and the first to adopt a Semitic alphabet other than Egyptian hieroglyphics.

For Further Study

Heine, Ronald E. Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church: Exploring the Formation of Early Christian Thought. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Sáenz-Badillos, Angel. A History of the Hebrew Language. Translated by John Elwolde. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Würthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.

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Aramaic

Aramaic originated in Aram (modern Syria) and became the international language of the Persians. It belongs to the Northwest group of Semitic languages of the ancient Near East. Other similar languages are Canaanite (Hebrew, Phoenician, Moabite, and Edomite) and Ugaritic.

When Abraham moved to Haran from Ur he settled in Aramean territory. Abraham’s father Terah and his family would have spoken Aramaic. Rebekah, Leah and Rachel would have spoken Aramaic even though they lived in Canaan after Abraham’s move to Palestine.

6. Reproduction of a Seal (Bulla) with the inscription Belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yotham King of Judah.

Hebrew is similar in vocabulary and pronunciation to Aramaic and those who have mastered Hebrew find Aramaic easy to learn. But there are sufficient differences to make the two languages distinct in their look and sound.

Text Aramaic followed by the Translation:

Mark 5:41 talitha cumi Little girl, I say to you, arise

Mark 7:34 ephphatha be opened

Mark 14:36 abba father (Rom 8:15).

Mark 15:34 Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Portions of the OT books of Ezra (Ch. 4–7) and Daniel (Ch. 2–7) are written in Aramaic along with Gen 31:47b and Jer 10:11b. Parts of Daniel were written in Aramaic because this was the language of the Persian Empire where he was living and working as a high ranking political attaché. The correspondence of Ezra was of international interest and so was also written in the diplomatic language of the local rulers.

Along with Greek and Hebrew, Aramaic was also commonly used as a language in Israel in the first cent. AD. By then the OT was completely translated into Aramaic and used by Jesus and the disciples as their Bible. The gospels were written in Greek but there is good evidence that their writers were thinking in Aramaic. Moreover, sometimes the Gospel writers transliterate entire words from Aramaic into Greek. Luke contains none of these and Matthew only has four (in Matt. 27:46). Mark’s Gospel records two transliterated Hebrew words (3:17; 15:22) and eight Aramaic words. Most of the Aramaic we have in the NT is recorded for us in the Gospel of Mark, further reinforcing the belief that Mark was the first Gospel to be written. The NT Aramaic dialect was sometimes called Hebrew (John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:16; Acts 21:40; 22:2).

The Targums are a collection of Aramaic commentaries on the OT text, with varying degrees of accuracy for the translation of the Hebrew text. While the Targum assists in our understanding of Jewish interpretation, they are not a reliable witness to the Hebrew text.

For Further Study

Beyer, Klaus. Aramaic Language: Its Distribution and Subdivisions. Illustrated edition. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986.

Buth, R. Aramaic Language. Pages 86–89 in Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Craig A. Evans, NP. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.

Dobbs-Allsopp, F. W. Aramaic. Pages 84–85 in Freedman, David Noel, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, eds. EDB. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

Birkeland, H. The Language of Jesus. Avhandlinger Utgitt av det Norske Videnkaps-Akademii Oslo II. Hist.-Filos. Kl., 1954/1; Oslo: Jacob Dybwad, 1954.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. Pages 57–84 in The Semitic Background of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Kutscher, E. Y. Studies in Galilean Aramaic. Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1976.

Greek

The Greek language was popularized by Alexander the Great (336 BC) and remained in use until about AD 500. The NT was written in common marketplace Greek called Koine or Hellenistic Greek. It was the first cent. vernacular rather than the more sophisticated classical Greek of the philosophers.³⁰

God gave his revelation of his son in the common expressive language of the people. For example, there are four words for love which narrow the meaning to either: godly love (Gr. agape), sexual love (Gr. eros), brotherly love (Gr. philios), or the affection parents have for children, vassals for rulers, or the love of dogs for their masters (Gr. storge).

There are several unique characteristics of Greek which include:

• The Greek alphabet contains 24 letters compared with 26 in English.

• Capitals are only used to describe proper names.

• Sentences begin with lower case.

• Sentences do not have spaces between the words.

• The question mark is a semi-colon [; = ?].

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DATE OF COMPOSITION

Maximalist or Minimalist Viewpoint

The minimalist viewpoint approaches the biblical text from the view that it contains a minimal amount of real history as opposed to the maximalist viewpoint that holds to a more conservative position and embraces the maximum amount of history. While these are broad generalizations most would fall into one of these two positions when approaching the biblical history.

Minimalist View

The minimalist viewpoint looks to the date of the earliest discovered manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written sometime after the second cent. BC to provide the date for the writing of the OT books. For the minimalist, the biblical books were originally composed just before the time of the DSS (fourth–third cent. BC). Kenneth Kitchen reveals the basis for this view:

With that late date they would couple an ultralow view of the reality of that history, dismissing virtually the whole of it as pure fiction, as an attempt by the puny Jewish community in Palestine to write themselves an imaginary past large, as a form of national propaganda.³¹

Others were already involved in this practice, setting the precedent for Israel. Both Manetho’s (Egyptian priest, third cent. BC) Aegyptiaka³² and Berossus’ (Babylonian priest of Marduk) Chaldaika³³ were written as political propaganda. However, the OT books were written in Hebrew for their own nation, not as political propaganda for others. The Greek translation of the OT (LXX) was produced years later and then only for their own community.

Kitchen asks several important questions which deserve answering:

Were the Old Testament books all composed within circa 400–200 BC? And are they virtually pure fiction of that time, with few or no roots in the real history of the Near East during circa 2000–400 BC? . . . Are they purely fiction, containing nothing of historical value, or of major historical content and value, or a fictional matrix with a few historical nuggets embedded?

Merely sitting back in a comfy armchair just wondering or speculating about the matter will achieve us nothing. Merely proclaiming one’s personal convictions for any of the three options just mentioned (all, nothing, or something historical) simply out of personal belief or agenda, and not from firm evidence on the question, is also a total waste of time.³⁴

Maximalist View

The maximalists are those who generally accept the biblical text as historically accurate and agree with the early dates for authorship of the various books. There is not always agreement on the exact dates but this is more difficult to verify with pinpoint accuracy. The main argument is that the books of the OT were written when they say they were. However, what evidence is there for such an early date? Kitchen lays out significant evidence in his life’s work entitled On the Reliability of the Old Testament.

Direct and Indirect Evidence

The maximalist need not put his head in the sand and ignore the evidence. There is ample evidence all around but sometimes it is hard to see. As Kitchen points out the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.³⁵ Evidence can be broken down into two categories, direct and indirect, and both are valid forms of verification. An example of explicit or direct evidence would be the royal seals with the names of the kings of Judah on them. Seal-impressions (bullae) exist that verify the rule of Judah’s kings e.g., Belonging to Yotham (739–735 BC 2 Kgs 14:22); Belonging to Ahaz (son of Yotham) king of Judah (735–716 BC 2 Kgs 15:38; "Belonging to Hezekiah (son of Ahaz) king of Judah (715–687 BC 2 Kgs 16:20) and Belonging to Manasseh, son of the king (687–643 BC 2 Kgs 20:21). There is also the famous Megiddo lion seal to Shema (Heb. Lšmc) Servant of Jeroboam" (1 Kgs 12–14).³⁶

7. Reproduction of a Seal (Bulla) with the inscription "Belonging to Hezekiah (Son of) Ahaz King of Judah."

The more difficult evidence to understand is the implicit or indirect evidence, but it is still valuable. This type of evidence is exemplified in the comparison of the price of a slave or the covenant structure in the biblical text with their counterparts in ancient tablets.

For example, the age of the tablets and the cost of a slave are known from the archaeological period (strata). Joseph was sold into slavery for 20 shekels (Gen 37:28). In the early second millennium the cost of a slave, according to the Code of Hammurabi (§§116, 214, 252),³⁷ the Mari tablets,³⁸ and other documents, averaged 22 shekels.³⁹ Inflation was in operation as it is today and so the cost of a slave gradually increased. In the Third Dynasty of Ur the cost was 10 shekels⁴⁰ while after the eighteenth cent. it was 30 shekels (Moses, Lev 27:2) until in the first millennium the price of a slave rose to as much as 50–60 shekels (Menahem, 2 Kgs 15:20).⁴¹ During the Persian Empire prices reached 90–120 shekels.⁴² This graph of inflation for the price of a slave creates a parallel track useful in dating each of the biblical events. The date for writing the biblical text corresponds to the discovered tablets by comparing the price of a slave.

8. Pottery jar handles stamped with seals reading lmlk (belonging to the King). Upper right: two-winged icon with only one word in the top register. Upper left: two-winged icon with divided words in both registers. Center: two-winged icon with divided word in the top but an undivided word in the bottom. Lower left: four-winged icon with a professional, lapidarist inscription. Lower right: four-winged icon with an amateurish, cursory inscription. Such stamps are specific to the reign of Hezekiah of Judah (716–687 BC).

The covenant structure also evolved over time and displays a unique pattern in the second and first millennium BC that Kitchen uses for dating the biblical material. According to Kitchen the sequence of covenants is consistent, reliable and securely dated⁴³ and useful for dating.

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MANUSCRIPTS

Biblical manuscripts were produced in the form of either scrolls or books (Latin codex meaning block of wood; plural codices).

Facts From Archaeology

Kinds of Manuscripts

Manuscripts (MSS) were produced by hand either on papyrus or Vellum (fine parchment). Parchment (Latin pergamenum; French parchemin; Dutch perkament; Spanish pergamino) or vellum (Latin vitulus, calf skin) is produced from thin sheep, goat or calf skin (Herodotus Hist. 5.58). Papyrus, found as early as 3100 BC, was also used for manuscripts, and was manufactured from the pith of a bulrush plant which grew almost exclusively on the marshy banks of the Nile river in Egypt (Job 8:11; Pliny Nat. 13.11).⁴⁴ In moist conditions Papyrus has a life of only a cent. or two, however in the dry desert conditions of the Dead Sea such documents have survived for nearly 2000 years. Scrolls were formed by sewing sheets of parchment or papyrus together with a linen thread (see Jer 36:1–32, Ezek 3:1–3). Papyrii written on both sides are called palimpsest and one was found from the seventh cen. BC near Qumran.⁴⁵ The Dead Sea Scrolls were written primarily on tanned leather,⁴⁶ not on the fine processed leather parchment produced in Pergamum in the fourth cent. AD.

Uncial is a script written entirely in capital letters (third to eight cent. AD) but can also be used as a type of manuscript that is all written in capital letters such as the Codex Sinaiticus.

Minuscule (not spelled miniscule) refers to manuscripts that use lowercase letters. Minuscule manuscripts had their origins in the seventh cent. The earliest Greek miniscule is the Uspenski Gospels (MS461 AD 835).⁴⁷ The ancient Greeks did not capitalize sentences so writing in minuscule was not a problem for scribes.

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9. Stone wax tablet. Tall el-Hammam, Jordan.

Facts From Archaeology

Wax Tablets

In antiquity writing was done on a wooden board (Ezek 37:16; Isa 30:8 and Hab 2:2) covered with bees wax with a sharp stylus impressing letters into the wax.⁴⁸ Later, the message was transferred to parchment. If the scribe made a mistake it was easy to either smooth out the wax or heat the tablet to 50 °C. We derive our expression a clean slate (Latin expression tabula rasa) from this practice. This makes the discovery of the original autographs likely impossible since they were possibly first written in wax. A well preserved wooden writing board was discovered in the wreck of a merchant ship off the coast of Turkey (Uluburun) dating to 1300 BC.⁴⁹

Wax-covered tablets could also make books. A high-class set of twelve ivory leaves, with gold hinges at alternate edges, was prepared for Sargon II of Assyria and recovered from a well at Nimrud. Enough was remained to reveal that the book had apparently contained over 7,500 lines of an encyclopedia of omens.⁵⁰

10. Wooden writing board with area to put wax for writing. Used with permission of OIM.

When the NT documents were published, numerous professional copies were simultaneously made by scribes in a scriptorium like the one at Qumran. Each scribe would make a single copy from an original that was read aloud. The study of ancient documents is called paleography.

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11. Papyrus plant harvested from the Nile river in Egypt prepared to make Papyrus.

Moments in History

Making Papyrus

Metzger describes the process of making papyrus for use with manuscripts:

Its thick stem was divided into sections and sharp tools were used to cut it lengthwise into wafer-thin strips. These strips were laid side by side to form a single layer with the fibers of the pith running parallel, and on top of it a second layer

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