Posts tagged ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’

New Discoveries of Old Scrolls

Last Tuesday, researchers unveiled newly discovered fragments of some Dead Sea Scrolls. These fragments represent the first discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls in over 50 years and contain verses from Zechariah 8:16-17 and Nahum 1:5-6. And there’s plenty notable about these discoveries.

First, the text of these fragments is written in Greek, the language of the New Testament, instead of in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, even though Zechariah and Nahum are Old Testament prophets. This is because these scrolls were written in the first century AD when the world spoke Greek. This is a reminder that the Jewish people treated their Hebrew Scriptures as eminently important, so they translated them into the lingua franca of the ancient world so that as many people as possible could read them and learn from them. They believed their Scriptures were good for the world and needed by the world.

Second, these fragments seem to indicate that there was some debate over how certain passages should be translated from their original Hebrew into the contemporary Greek of their day. The translation work in these fragments represents a revision of an older Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. So, for instance, in Zechariah 8:17, the older Greek translation renders a Hebrew word ish as “each other.” The verse reads, “Do not plot evil against each other.” This fragment, however, notices that, in the Hebrew manuscript, ish is the first word in the sentence and therefore leaves it there, and translates it using its most common meaning of “man.” It translates: “As for a man, do not plot evil against his neighbor in your heart.” This shows that, dating all the way back into the first century, people took translating the Scriptures seriously, even debating how to best translate various verses and difficult grammatical constructions. Their goal was to provide as accurate a rendering as possible of the original language texts they had because they held the Scriptures in such high regard. They wanted to be supremely careful in how they translated these holy documents.

Finally, these fragments also, quite uniquely, use the personal name for God: Yahweh. The scrolls leave the name of God in Hebrew with Hebrew letters, even though these are Greek manuscripts. Traditionally, in an attempt to avoid coming even close to misusing God’s name, translators would address God formally as “Lord” instead of invoking God’s name personally as “Yahweh.” But these manuscripts get personal. These translators seemed to have wanted to emphasize that there is a personal God who cares about people – personally.

A discovery like this reminds us that people have long revered the Scriptures and treated them with the utmost care. These were always considered to be sacred documents. They were not exalted to such a status later. This discovery also provides us a window into the faith of our forefathers, who trusted in a personal God and His personal concern for them. From them, we have learned the faith. From them, we have learned the Gospel. And for them, we should be thankful.

March 22, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Darkness to Light – John 3:1-16

Fitness.  According to the Bible, it’s not just a diet program or an exercise regimen, it involves everything we are.  For God desires us to be fit in every aspect of our lives, be that physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, or otherwise.  Indeed, Jesus describes his mission thusly:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  Jesus desires not only that we have life, but that we have it to the full.  And a full life can be found only in him.

Ultimately, a perfectly full life can never be had in this life, for this life will end.  Thus, a full life, given by Jesus, involves a promise of a new life beyond this one – a new, eternal life beyond this one.  This new, eternal life is the topic of conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 3.  The chapter opens:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-2)

Especially notable in these verses is the timing of this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus.  It is “at night” (John 3:2).  On the one hand, as I mentioned in Adult Bible Class, John’s gospel regularly uses the image of darkness to express not only physical darkness, but spiritual darkness.  As Jesus later says in this same chapter: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  Thus, Nicodemus’ timing in his visit to Jesus seems to express something concerning his spiritual state:  he is in darkness.

But at the same time the setting of this encounter alludes to Nicodemus’ spiritual darkness, it alludes to something else:  his faithfulness.  According to ancient traditions, religious communities, such as the community of the Pharisees, were to study Scripture late into the night.  We read in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “The general membership [of a religious community] will be diligent together for the first third of every night of the year, reading aloud from the Book, interpreting Scripture, and praying together” (1QS 6:7-8).  Thus, at night, as during the day, Nicodemus was to study Scripture with his fellow Pharisees.  So when Nicodemus comes to Jesus, he probably does so right after he has studied the Scriptures.

Eventually, Nicodemus comes to faith in Jesus.  We read near the end of John’s gospel:

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)

Interestingly, by this time, Nicodemus does not seem to be nearly so shy concerning his commitment to Jesus as he was in John 3.  He accompanies Joseph of Arimathea to Pontius Pilate, the very prefect of Judah.  Mark records that such an act “took courage” (Mark 15:43), for Pilate could have easily condemned the two men.

Not only does Nicodemus boldly approach Pilate with Joseph, he also embalms Jesus’ body on “the Jewish day of Preparation” (John 19:42), that is, the day before the Sabbath.  Jewish days were reckoned from sundown to sundown.  This means that Nicodemus would have to tend to the details of Jesus’ burial before sundown – while it was still daylight.

Nicodemus’ first encounter with Jesus was under the cover of night.  Nicodemus’ final encounter with Jesus was in broad daylight.  Perhaps all those late night study sessions of the Scriptures helped Nicodemus after all.  For hours upon hours of studying the light of God’s Word eventually led him to faith in God’s Light of the world.

Before you go to bed tonight, after it becomes dark, take a cue from Nicodemus:  take a few brief moments to read and ponder the light of God’s Word, thanking God for his Light of the world.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

February 15, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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