Monday, February 1, 2021

Learning About Life and Realities from a Dead Sea Scroll

 The scroll in the picture above is “1QIsaa” – “1Q” means it came from “Cave 1 at Qumran” and “Isaa” means it is a scroll of “the Book of Isaiah.”  Scribes copied the scroll between 356 and 100 BCE (based on radiocarbon and paleographic/scribal dating). It is now housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


Please take a minute and think about the fact that “you and the 1QIsaa scroll both exist now!” Now consider the following information related to the scroll in the picture.


It existed about 170 years before the Second Temple was destroyed.


It was about 100 years old when Jesus was born.


It was about 400 years old when Constantine the Great lived.


It was over 1,500 years old when Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther and Nicolaus Copernicus lived.


It was about 1,900 years old when the United States became a nation.


It was 2,100 years old when the first smartphones were sold.


The first time I saw pictures of 1QIsaa I was visiting an archaeologist. He also taught Hebrew at a large university. He showed me the picture in the graphic above and asked me, “What stands out to you?” I told him it was the letters of the words.


He then told me that one of the first things he did when working with ancient scrolls was look at the back. Then he pointed to the dark stains on left and right side of the scroll in the picture. Those stains were oil and dirt from the hands of people who held the scroll as they read the words on the other side. By identifying the darkest stains on the back, he was able to find the sections of the scroll that were read the most. The section in the picture above was one of the most read sections of 1QIsaa.


Next, we compared the Dead Sea Scroll to the Isaiah scroll that is found in synagogues around the world today. They were almost identical. Then he reminded me of the story in Luke 4 about Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah (61) at the synagogue in Nazareth. He found the photograph of that section of 1QIsaa, handed it to me, and said:


You are seeing the exact words Jesus saw!


I still get cold chills every time I think about that experience. But today I know some things that did not exist when I first saw those pictures. One of those things is how to Explore Biblical Heritages and Beliefscapes.


The two largest biblical heritages today are Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

Neither existed when 1QIsa was made.


Beliescapes are generated by human brains from their most trusted belief models -- mental images linked to things we sensory perceive that give them meanings.  


The scribes that copied 1QIsaa had beliefscapes that did not include “Jesus,”

while Christian readers can’t imagine Isaiah’s words “without Jesus.”


Those are two very different realities that were created by different beliefscapes – both of which are part of the timeline of 1QIsaa. Changes in beliefscapes reveal changes in the lives and realities of people who read the words of Isaiah. You will be hearing more about creating beliefscapes in future emails.


Thank you for exploring with us. Please share and discuss it with others.



Jim Myers 

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