𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐲 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐂𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐮𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐒𝐞𝐚 𝐒𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐬
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
𝐊.𝐋. 𝐍𝐨𝐥𝐥, 𝐛𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐫, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐚𝐲𝐬 𝐢𝐧 “𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈𝐬𝐫𝐚𝐞𝐥 𝐢𝐧 𝐀𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐲: 𝐀 𝐓𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐨𝐧 𝐇𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧”
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, some 230 are copies of books that were later included in the Jewish Bible. The remaining 570 or so are ancient Jewish writings that were never included in the Jewish Bible. […] In some cases, only one small fragment has been recovered.
Other biblical books are found at Qumran in multiple copies. For example, more than 30 damaged copies of Deuteronomy and more than 20 damaged copies of Isaiah were recovered from the caves. […]
The Dead Sea Scrolls provide a window into the ways in which scribes routinely interacted with the texts. […] A second variety of data demonstrates that biblical literature evolved almost every time a scribe made a new copy of a scroll.
Each scribe maintained complete control over the text.
In some cases, a scribe created an exact copy of an earlier text. In other cases, the scribe introduced any changes deemed necessary. Scribes could erase portions of a text or add substantially to it, rearrange blocks of text, insert a few extra words or phrases (called glossing the text), or even compose an entirely new text by borrowing details from previously existing texts.
This means that any scribe, at any stage in the transmission of a literary work, could introduce any change that this scribe deemed appropriate for any reason. In many cases, even an ancient scribe who claimed to be handling a fixed, unchangeable, authoritative text actually handled this text in an entirely free manner.
In many cases, a scribe’s modifications were minor revisions. For example, a scribe who copied 2 Sam. 12.14 was offended by the original text’s statement that David’s actions had ‘surely scorned the LORD’. This ancient scribe inserted a single extra Hebrew word into the text so that David’s actions had ‘surely scorned the enemies of the LORD’.
This gloss not only changed the meaning of the sentence but clearly made no sense in the context of the story. Nevertheless, it preserved this scribe’s sense of piety! That the word translated ‘the enemies of’ was a late insertion can be demonstrated from evidence at Qumran, where a different scribe, also offended by the original text, glossed the text differently so that David’s actions had ‘surely scorned the word of the LORD’.
Many examples from the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that sweeping revisions were made to many books now included in the Jewish Bible. For example, the book of Judges tells a story in which the Israelites have been oppressed by foreign enemies and the Israelite god sends a messenger to appoint a military savior (Judges 6).
A manuscript from Qumran demonstrates that, at a very late stage in the evolution of this story, a new character was added to the tale: the section in Judg. 6.7–10 was not part of the original story.
This addition introduces a prophet who makes a short speech that fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way. Many examples of these intrusive additions to stories could be listed, but one additional example illustrates the creative way in which an ancient scribe often integrated his newly invented material into the previously existing text.
At Qumran, a variety of manuscript fragments have survived from the book of Jeremiah, but these fragments demonstrate that Jeremiah existed in two variant editions at that time. One version is quite similar to most translations of Jeremiah in circulation today.
The other version is considerably shorter, and almost all researchers agree that the shorter version was the more original. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find unambiguous evidence that anonymous scribes added new material to the older, shorter version of the Jeremiah scroll. […]
The example demonstrates that there was no sense of original authorship in this ancient scribal culture and, therefore, scribes saw no need to refrain from changing the texts.
At Qumran, researchers have discovered numerous manuscripts of the five books attributed to Moses that differ from the standard Hebrew version and shed light on the Torah’s literary evolution. The romantic notion that one man named Moses authored five books can be judged, on the basis of the evidence, to have been a late fiction having nothing to do with the efforts of many anonymous scribes over many generations. Changes, both minor and major, were introduced into the Torah for hundreds of years, and the minor gloss in Deut. 27.4 is a typical instance of that process.
The same observation can be made about the ancient scroll of Joshua or, for that matter, any book now contained in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Likewise, the examples from Qumran illustrate why it is not possible to rely on a biblical poem or story in the absence of other sources of data when formulating a hypothesis about the ancient past.
Every document in the Bible is the by-product of a random process of scribal revisions, a process mostly hidden by lack of evidence and almost always unpredictable and surprising when previously unknown evidence suddenly sheds light on some stage in the text’s evolution. […]
a significant number of the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that the scrolls now contained in the Jewish Bible were still evolving in Roman times. The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that, even as late as Greco-Roman times, scribes routinely made editorial changes to texts.
This could not have happened if the texts were believed to have an authoritative status that scribes could not question. […] A text that was a source for the tale now contained in Daniel 4 appears among these scrolls, showing us the process by which this story was gradually constructed. Another Dead Sea Scroll provides commentary on a sacred scripture that was a modified version of what we know as the book of Genesis.
This suggests that the version of Genesis found in Bibles today was not yet, during the Roman era, the authoritative version of this book. These and other examples demonstrate that, long after the Persian period, the books that would become the Bible had not yet emerged as an authoritative collection called a Bible.
In “Growth and Change of Texts in the Hebrew Bible”, Reinhard Müller, Juha Pakkala, and Bas ter Haar Romeny examine differences between the oldest extant copies of the Bible, namely the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Masoretic texts, the Samaritan Torah and the Septuagint. It lists empirical evidence that “substantial editing took place in the history of the Hebrew Bible”
On the basis of evidence that is collected here it can reasonably be assumed that editorial reworking of the Hebrew Bible continued unabated for centuries before the texts gradually became unchangeable.[…] The empirical or documented evidence indicates that editorial modification was the rule rather than the exception, and accordingly signs of editing can be found in all parts of the Hebrew Bible.[…]
There have also been scholars who rejected the idea of editing completely or assumed that editing was only a marginal phenomenon that did not affect the meaning of the texts substantially. In this book we seek to demonstrate that editing has been so substantial and frequent that biblical scholars may not neglect or bypass editorial processes as irrelevant.
One final example. Have a look at this passage from Deuteronomy in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which shows the polytheistic nature of the contemporary Israelite religion. In this passage the sky god and Heavenly Father El Elyon (“Most High of all the gods”) divides all humans into 70 nations and gives the nation of Israel to his son Yahweh as his inheritance:
When Elyon divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he established the borders of the nations according to the number of the sons of the gods. Yahweh’s portion was his people, [Israel] his allotted inheritance.
– Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (Dead Sea Scrolls)
Now compare this passage with your own copy of the Bible, for example, the King James Bible, and notice that the redactors/scribes have completely obscured the polytheistic references to “sons of the gods” and to two gods (El and his son Yahweh). For more detail see:
This corruption is already present in the Masoretic texts, and it is just one example of what scholars describe as anti-polytheistic editing.
Allah knows Best