Archeological Discoveries and their Bearing on Old Testament Part I -- By: Merrill F. Unger
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Archeological Discoveries and their Bearing on Old Testament
The last century and a half has witnessed the birth, growth and phenomenal development of the science of Biblical archeology. This new science has performed wonders in furnishing background material illustrating and illuminating the message and meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century exceedingly little was known of Biblical antiquities, especially of Old Testament times, except what was recorded in the Bible itself or what chanced to be preserved in the writings of classical Greek and Latin historians. This was considerable for the New Testament period, but was practically nil for the Old Testament era, since classical writers recorded very little information prior to the fifth century B.C. The result was that before the advent of modern archeology there was scarcely anything extra-Biblical to illustrate the Hebrew Scriptures.
Today, however, the picture has totally changed. Besides an ever-increasing store of antiquities from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other lands contiguous to Palestine, the finds in Palestine itself are remarkable, especially the astounding documentary discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and other important ancient Biblical manuscripts during the past eight years, particularly as the result of the explorations at Khirbet Qumran and environs in the vicinity of the northwest shore of the Dead Sea by the Qumran Caves Expedition of March,, 1952.1 The Old Testament scholar now has not
BSac 112:445 (Jan 55) p. 56
only a mass of material to illustrate the Hebrew Bible, but a considerable amount of manuscript material for the purpose of textual criticism,2 an extremely needy field of Old Testament study, which has heretofore suffered chronically from the lack of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts older than the tenth century A.D. A corpus of manuscripts at least a millennium earlier promises to revolutionize Old Testament textual study.
But the dramatic developments of archeological science affecting Old Testament study, in particular the manuscript recoveries of the past eight years, are not without their precursors in the earlier days. Although archeology before 1947 could boast no such significant Old Testament Biblical manuscripts as have come to light since that date, many thrilling discoveries shedding light upon the Sacred Page were made. These early finds, however, paved the way for later triumphs, and laid a firm foundation for the establishment of Biblical archeology as a bona fide science.
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