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Archaeological discoveries spanning more than 3,000 years of human history have been used to validate the Bible’s narrative. But one ancient artefact, in particular, has been brought forward by theologians as evidence of the Bible’s divine origin. The so-called Great Isaiah Scroll – one of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls – which is believed to be the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Isaiah.
Following its discovery in the 1940s, the more than 2,000-year-old manuscript was found to predate the then oldest-known Hebrew scrolls by 1,000 years.
The Book of Isaiah contains the words of the Biblical prophet Isaiah who is believed to have died in the seventh century BC – the so-called First Temple period.
In 2018, archaeologists in Israel claimed to have discovered an ancient seal possibly belonging to the Biblical prophet.
Efforts to date the manuscript using radiocarbon dating have yielded a range of 356 BC to 103 BC.
According to Tom Meyer, a professor of Bible studies at Shasta Bible college and graduate school in California, US, the discovery proves latter copies of the Bible are faithful records of the Word of God.
He told Express.co.uk: “In the winter of 1946 to 47, on the eve of the birth of the nation of Israel, the greatest manuscript discovery of all time was made near the Dead Sea by shepherds from Bethlehem.
“One of the shepherd boys tossed a rock into a hole in the cliff face to gauge how deep the hole was, but he heard an unexpected sound, that of pottery breaking.
“Because the day was drawing to an end, the shepherds agreed to return home, but their curiosity was roused.
“One of the boys named Muhammed edh-Dhib came back a few days later to explore the cave where he hoped perhaps to find treasure like that in Ali Baba’s cave.
“What he ended up finding was more precious than gold, though Muhammed didn’t know it at the time.”
The cave belonged to a complex of natural and artificial caverns in the Judaean Desert, known as the Qumran Caves.
Hidden within the first cave were ancient jars containing rolls of leather wrapped up in cloth.
The boy carried seven of these scrolls back home with him, after which they were unravelled by his family but they couldn’t decipher them.
Professor Meyer said: “Eventually they took the scrolls to a shop keeper in Bethlehem who agreed to sell them on commission.
“A Syrian Christian noticed the scrolls and, thinking they were ancient and might be worth something, ended up purchasing three scrolls for 24 pounds.
“One of the scrolls sold to the Syrian Christian turned out to be the greatest manuscript discovery of all time: a complete copy of the biblical book of Isaiah.
“The scroll, which is now on display in the Shrine of the Book museum in Jerusalem, measures 24ft long by 10 inches high.”
The manuscript is made from 17 individual sheets of leather that have been sawn together, end to end.
In total, the Isaiah Scroll holds 54 columns of Hebrew writing.
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Professor Meyer said: “Before the discovery of the Isaiah Scroll, which dates to shortly before the time of Jesus Christ, about 100 to 150 BC, the oldest known copy of the book of Isaiah dated to around 1,000 AD.
“When the Great Isaiah Scroll is compared to its counterpart in the Allepo Codex, there is little to no difference; they are virtually the same.
“The few textual variants that do exist aren’t even theological, but instead grammatical in nature.
“It is evident by comparing these documents from over 1,000 years apart that the Jewish scribes took great care in faithfully transmitting the Biblical record.
“As archaeology has demonstrated, the Hebrew Bible, on which modern translations of the Bible are based, hasn’t changed. God really has preserved his Word.”
There are, however, some differences between the Qumran scroll and latter iteration of the Book of Isaiah.
For instance, the ancient manuscript appears to miss parts of verses nine and 10 in its second chapter.
According to some historians, this indicates the missing verses were in later additions.
And there are, of course, sceptics who do not consider the Bible to have a divine origin.
Hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide believe the Bible was penned through men by divine inspiration.
But so-called humanists and atheists point out historical inaccuracies or contradictions in scripture they think back their secular claims.
Joseph C Sommer of the American Humanist Association wrote: “We should reject the views of those who say the Bible has infallible answers to today’s problems.
“As Humanists know, science has proved to be a much better source for answers.”
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