Archaeology and the early Old Testament

writings of and commentary inspired by Charles Pellegrino

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Part V : Origin reprise and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Creation and Origins

Despite the OT creation account being evidently "just" Sumerian mythology, it does bear a striking resemblance to modern cosmology. "In the beginning there was nothing. Void. .. Then there was light." A fairly accurate summary of the Big Bang Theory. In the beginning there was nothing, no space, no time. Then there was light, light which filled the whole cosmos, for the light was the cosmos. Sounds biblical? Well it's not, it's the Big Bang Theory! The question is not why does the creation account match the Big Bang theory but how did the ancient Sumerians come up with something so accurate?! And the ancient Sumerians weren't the only ones. The Mayan creation account reads as follows (compare it to Genesis 1) ...
    "Before the world was created, calm and silence .. ruled.
    Nothing existed .. the face of the earth was unseen. There was
    ..a great emptiness of sky .. silence stood in the dark."
    "In the darkness the creators waited .. then let the
    emptiness fill! Let the light break .. let the sky fill up
    	with the light of dawn."
    "Let the water weave its way downward so the earth can show
    	its face."
    "Earth! the creators called .. and it was there .."
    .. then plants .. then animals ..
    "Let our glory be a man walking on a path through the trees."

Coincidence? Who knows.

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden by a bunch of Jews living on the shores of the Dead Sea. They were described by Pliny and his decription closely matches that of a mediaeval monastry, down to the fine details. The people, living in the settlement of Qumran, were called the "tribe" of Essenes and stashed a huge amount of records into the caves surrounding the Dead Sea, some OT manuscripts, others mundane items like marriage contracts and land deeds, at the time when the Romans were crushing civil war in Judea and destroying the remant of Israel.

In the almost 50 years since they were rediscovered, much had been said about them, but very little on them. Those chosen to study and publish did .. next to nothing. Conspiracy theories abounded, but more likely just a matter of ego .. and acadmeic slowness. A few years ago the archaeologists staged a "revolution" and the scrolls now are surfacing (even on the internet). Out of the at least 800 scrolls recovered, 127 are biblical. They have been dated from around 250BC (the oldest ones) right up to the Jewish revolt in 70AD. And the scrolls indicate that the folk of Qumran were intensely messianic, even back to 250BC. They are still only partially translated, but they tell of two "saviour" figures, one called the "teacher of righteousness", the other possibly referring to James, Jesus' "brother" who was gaining increasing popularity and influence before being killed by the Sadducees in 66AD by throwing him off the roof of the Temple. The Sadducees were in religious power at the time and their deed, according to history, triggered the Jewish revolt (they were the first up against the wall, as the saying goes). The "teacher of righteousness" was also martyred, according to the scrolls, and of the House of David. Whether they were christians or messianic Jews is a moot point, since the early christians were messianic Jews. Jesus, the Twelve, Paul and the rest were all messianic Jews. The only difference between a "christian" and a messainic Jew is one's background. "Christian" is merely the name for messianic Jews who are also gentiles. What the connection between the Essenes and the Jerusalem church of Acts remains yet to be found, but the evidence so far indicates there was at least a shared belief in the Messiah.

One thing, of particular importance to Roman Catholics deals with the "Virgin Mary". Isaiah 7:14 is held as the famous prophecy of the virgin birth. Isaiah was written around 700BC. Both RC and protestant bibles have translated the verse as "a virgin", yet the word in both the Hebrew "bible" and a 200BC copy of Isaiah found at Qumran is "almah", which translates as "young woman", the word for virgin being "bethulah". Not that this means Jesus wasn't of a virgin birth, merely that this prophecy, if that is really what it is, does not mention a virgin birth.

The Hebrew bible does not (reputedly) link the messiah with raising the dead, but one scroll fragment reads: "The heavens and the earth will obey His messiah, he will release the captives, make the blind see, raise up the downtrodden, then he will heal the sick, resurrect the dead and to the poor, announce glad tidings." [4Q521] This is but one of many scroll fragments that link the messiah to raising the dead .. passages that are not even in the bible .. showing that the people at Qumran were Jews who believed in the messiah, a messiah who had come. In the words of an archaeologist quoted in the book, it shows that "messianic judaism (christianity) is a ... form of the jewish faith, because it ..[was].. at Qumran." Would that christians (and jews) in the past and present had understood that simple fact, that "in the beginning, christian, muslim and jew were one." How many wars have been fought over percieved differences?


Comments on Part V

That the NT is not the only record of Jesus as Messiah, that after he died christianity became a (moderately) acceptable form of Judaism. That (not stated but implied) as messianic Judaism grew among the gentiles eventually a point was reached when the gentile messianic Jews, or christians as they came to be called, discarded their Jewsish messianic and non-messianic Jew brothers, came to oppress them and even mass murder them. But that under all that bloody history of death and persecution, christian, jew and muslim were all once one.
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