The Significance for Biblical Studies of the New Manuscript Finds Part II: Great Archeological Discoveries— Their Bearing on the Old Testament -- By: Merrill F. Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:450 (Apr 1956)
Article: The Significance for Biblical Studies of the New Manuscript Finds Part II: Great Archeological Discoveries— Their Bearing on the Old Testament
Author: Merrill F. Unger


The Significance for Biblical Studies of the New Manuscript Finds
Part II:
Great Archeological Discoveries—
Their Bearing on the Old Testament

Merrill F. Unger

The Dead Sea Manuscripts and Biblical Studies

The remarkable manuscript finds from the Dead Sea area since 1947 have yielded a corpus of Biblical and intertestamental material of great historical and philological importance which the most optimistic specialist could scarcely have imagined or dared hope a decade ago. Yet today, as a result of a series of notable archeological triumphs, scholars are in possession of a whole new body of material that is being scanned diligently and studied minutely and which is centering archeological interest on Palestine as once it was centered on inscription-rich sites such as Boghaz-keui in Asia Minor in 1906; Nuzu (Yorgan Tepa, near Kirkuk), 1927–1931; Ras Shamra (Ugarit) in Syria, 1929–1937, and Mari (Tell el Hariri on the Middle Euphrates), 1933–1936.

Evaluation of the Manuscripts

Since W. F. Albright called the original discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 “the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times” (Biblical Archeologist, 11:3:55, September, 1948), sentiment has not changed, but rather become more enthusiastic as larger numbers of manuscripts both Biblical and non-Biblical have poured in from the Dead Sea area. James Kelso says “the priceless MSS and fragments represent the greatest of all finds in the field of Biblical research” (“The Archeology of Qumran,” Journal of

Biblical Literature, 74:146, September, 1955).

In appraising this large body of material, its value must be judged in the light of the textual criticism of the old Testament and its paleographic importance, as well as its effect upon the fields of history and archeology.

The Textual Value of the Manuscripts

When the fact is remembered that before the great discoveries since 1947 there were no extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament prior to about the tenth century A.D., except a very short excerpt from Deuteronomy 6:4, called the Nash Papyrus, dating about 100 B.C., it is easy to see the bearing the new material will have in the field of textual criticism. Already the Isaiah scroll is proving its value in this field of study. The variant readings of this document published in 1950 (The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Marks Monastery, Vol. I, The Isaiah Manuscript and the Habakkuk Commentary. Edited for the Trustees by Millar Burrows with the assistance of John C. Trever and William Brownlee, American Schools of Oriental Research, 19...

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