Tuesday, 20 January 2009

[Sunday School] Day 3: topic 2 part 2

[carrying on from last week's topic on the Scrolls and textual criticism...]

Pictures of two of the longest scrolls. There are interest stories behind them, but I'm too lazy to type them out here.

Pictures of two once sensation-arousing scrolls. Some scholars had suggested that 4Q285 says "they killed the Messiah," which would be a striking parallel to New Testament Christology. But nowadays, most scholars agree that it actually says "the Messiah kills them." On the right is a picture of a little fragment with Greek words written on it. Someone suggested that this is a copy of the Gospel of Mark. But seeing that the only complete word preserved on this little fragment is KAI, which means "and" in English, we had better abandoned a maverick suggestion like that.

The work with the Scrolls is like piecing together the largest puzzle in the world. The progress was slow, and there were even talks of a Dead Sea Scrolls monopoly by the 80s. But in 1990/1, a series of events led to the end of the so-called monopoly. One thing that happened was Martin Abegg's reconstruction of the unpublished Scrolls using a concordance and a computer program that he wrote himself. On the right is a photo of such a concordance of the Scrolls. I took those pictures myself. Am I not so very cool?

Scholars date the scrolls to 2nd century BCE to 1st century CE.

The Scrolls contain the earliest copies of the Old Testament.

Before the discovery of the Scrolls, the earliest complete copy of the Old Testament is the Leningrad Codex, from around 1000 CE, which is quite late.

Here is a list of the number of copies of each OT book found among the Scrolls. No copies of Nehemiah and Esther.

A few examples of how the Scrolls can contribute to OT studies. Psalm 145 is an acrostic psalm, and we knew that one verse is missing.

Thanks to the Scrolls, we have no recovered that missing verse! Psalm 145 in Hebrew is now complete.

Another example. Psalm 22.16 in Hebrew says "like a lion are my hands and my feet," which makes little sense. The same passage in the Greek translation sounds a lot better, and would actually parallel New Testament Christology quite well. But hey, it is a translation after all.

But thanks to the Scrolls, we now know that in this case the Greek has actually preserved the better reading than did the MT.

Same thing here with 1 Sam 10. The NRSV has incorporated materials from the Scrolls, and the NIV has not. That's why there's such a huge difference in our bibles.

Similar things happen to the New Testament too. Textual criticism is an important excercise in biblical studies.

Some big names in the Chinese Christian community speak very highly of the Bible Code, thinking that it proves the divine origin of the bible.

The idea of the Bible Code is that if you skip a certain number of words in the bible, you'll get some special messages. For example, (I'm making this up) if you skip every 1,234th word, you will come up with the word "STUPID". Using this, Drosnin predicted the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin before the actual assassination.

Afterwards, Drosnin found more Bible Codes. But unfortunately, this idea stinks. The problem is, we don't have a copy of the bible that is 100% accurate. And because the Bible Code depends on counting the number of letters, the addition or subtraction of even one letter would change everything. The bible that Drosnin used is probably just the Hebrew Bible that we can buy anywhere, which is based on the Leningrad Codex, which apparently is far from a perfect copy of the original bible. So he should call this Leningrad Codex Code, not Bible Code. And if anything, he's proved that the Leningrad Codex is divinely inspired, not the bible was inspired.

Just absurd.