Did Ancient Jewish Worshipers Ever Make Changes to the "Holy' Scriptures?

by fulltimestudent 16 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    If you have the time and the means to visit Israel right now, you can see something that few modern people have seen.

    At the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, a very special document will be on display.

    What is it?

    The Museum's website heading describes it as:

    Genesis Retold: An exceptional Dead Sea Scroll.

    As you see, the scroll is in very bad condition, and this is the first time it has put on display. Here's what the Museum has to say about that scroll.

    A Rare View of an Exceptional Dead Sea Scroll
    Genesis Apocryphon starting March 15
    70 years ago, the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the Judean Desert, containing the oldest copies of the Bible. This was considered the most meaningful archaeological discovery in the 20th century.
    The Genesis Apocryphon is one of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947. Its text is a reworking of parts of Genesis, at times remaining close to the biblical version, but at times the biblical narrative is expanded through the incorporation of extra-biblical tradition.
    The scroll, is extremely fragile, which is why it had not been not exhibited in the past 50 years. Now, in honor of the State of Israel's 70th birthday, the Museum offers the opportunity of a lifetime to view this rare scroll before it is put back into storage for the future decades.
    "The scroll is unique. There is no other like it," says Dr. Adolfo Roitman, who curated the exhibition with Hagit Maoz. "The parts that survived are written in Aramaic and describe the heroes of the past: Lamech, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. The fragment on display retells Noah's story after the Deluge, as told in Genesis. The text sometimes remains close to the biblical version, but at times it expands through the incorporation of extra-biblical traditions. This serves as a source from which one can learn about the political, social and economic reality of those days".

    The WTS insists that the scriptures we have today, were preserved by YHWH to ensure that humans could know precisely what YHWH wanted us to know, and that one reason we could trust the contemporary scriptures is because early copyists took exceptional care to change nothing.

    But the above scroll is an example of some 'faithful' Jews, being willing to add to the biblical text. The Dead Sea Scroll people are generally accepted these days as having been a special section of the Essenes sect. (Though some scholarship expresses doubts). Other DD scrolls have been found with some changes also, throwing a lot of doubt on the WTS assertion about the care that copyists took.

    There are questions we should ask. Was there ever a master copy of the OT? If so, where was it kept? If in the temple, how was it preserved when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem? If it was preserved through that destruction, how was it preserved through the second destruction of the Temple (by the Romans in 70CE?

    Check the dates for the oldest copies of OT documents that have been found: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript

    It does not seem to me, that we can be 100% certain that any biblical document is 100% accurate.
  • GLTirebiter

    There are questions we should ask. Was there ever a master copy of the OT? If so, where was it kept?

    Since much of it (the Pentatuch) predates a written Hebrew language, the Master Copy was an oral tradition. It was transcribed after the fact. After that was done, the best candidate for the master copy would be those kept in the Ark of the Covenant, so it is long lost.

    If you want word for word accuracy, sorry, it's no longer possible. Nor would it be possible when reading a translation, because there is not perfect agreement in vocabulary, grammar, etc. between languages (especially when there are multipel translations: ancient Hebrew, to Aramaic, to Latin, to the archaic English of the KJV, to the English we speak now.)

    But if you want the meaning of the message, it is there. As the article noted, it extended the conventional text, it did not replace or contradict it.

  • JaniceA

    Accurate as to? Provenance? Authentic to?? Accepted by?

    For all the WT and others go on about consistency. . Well, we have absolutely consistent and unquestioned declaration of independence , but that doesn't make it the word of god, even if there are statements that God had input into the laws and rights accorded in the document.

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    Folk tales which are at the core of Bible texts would have originally been transmitted verbally within families and probably by itinerant storytellers. The majority would have been illiterate and little the worse for that but to them the idea of something written down would have had almost magical implications and if the illiterate were told these markings on vellum or cut into stone were the words of God, by association they would be revered as sacred.

    Once “sacred” is applied to anything, people’s expectations rise beyond reason and the if the words were assumed to be from god then the medium of transmission would also have to fittingly be perfect and immutable. Notice how the Genesis here is called “apocryphon” or secret text, creating a sense of mystery and awe.

    However as shown here with the Genesis scroll, any manuscript is subject to deletions, alterations and additions. Each cultural centre holding texts might view their own copies as the authentic ones for status reasons but in reality there could be no authentic sacred versions. Nevertheless it would be a religious coup to claim that all other versions but your own were the true words of God and no doubt this trick was played on the peasants. Once successfully accomplished, the influence of the preacher and his synagogue would have been greatly empowered.

    The various manuscripts in circulation accumulated additions (you have supplied the evidence FTS) and were edited over time. The idea that there was an original Bible is absurd, even the Jewish writings today (Tanakh) do not constitute what Christianity calls the OT. Even after the collection of books known as the Bible were given the imprimatur in the fourth century by the Roman Church they still kept revising it. The Protestants later deleted about seventeen of these books. Nothing is fixed or sacred, the reality was fluid and subject to prevailing religious orthodoxy.

  • Vidiot
    fulltimestudent - "Did ancient Jewish worshipers ever make changes to the "Holy' Scriptures?"

    All the fucking time, man.

    And guess what? They didn't see anything wrong with it, 'cause they had the presence of mind (and basic common sense) to realize that stuff that had been written down hundreds of years before might be - gasp - wrong.

    It was the Christian Church in the Dark Ages that tried to bottle that genie. In fact, some historians have theorized that that was a major (if unspoken) component of historical antisemitism...

    ...the church demonized Judaism to better suppress the fact that updating scriptures to better reflect reality as time went on - amongst "Gods (previously) "chosen people", no less - was actually acceptable, and therefore still might be acceptable.

    (I suspect that the historical Church insistence on Genesis being literal history had a similar agenda, too).

  • smiddy3

    My main question would be :

    If their is / was an Almighty GOD why couldn`t / wouldn` t he preserve the original texts ? After all it is supposedly his word , you would think he would want to preserve it as was accurately portrayed wouldn`t you ?

    And not leave it up to imperfect humans who have their own agenda for making their own pet views known.

    Ancient Jewish worshipers no doubt had their pet beliefs and being imperfect humans like the rest of us could quite easily modify /manipulate writings to suit their agenda.

    Scribes were only imperfect human beings that had their own beliefs and bias `s

    It`s no stretch of the imagination that they could influence what we accept today as the Word Of God

  • silentbuddha

    Bible God was not capable of preserving a master copy? My 13 year old daughter has the presence of mind to backup her copies of mp3s and Photoshop doodles but booboo in the sky forgets to enable the autosave feature for the book that is suppose to bring the world salvation.

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    Yes Vidiot it was normal to alter a new copy of any hand written text in your possession, the impulse would be irresistible if you thought you could improve it, why not since no scribe ever thought "I am writing a part of the Bible". All Bible texts are a selection by the Roman Church of earlier manuscripts to suit their political agenda.

    Smiddy, there is some sort of logic that an almighty god would leave clear instructions but the premise is wrong since almighty gods are only beliefs in the first place and meaningful logic is only applied to fact. Nevertheless what heavenly father would leave such a rag-bag of illogical texts to confuse his children with--and then beat their brains out if they didn't get it right?

    To get to the root of this religion business it is really about the putative authority of the preacher. I missed a few words out of my earlier post and had wanted to say: It would be a religious coup to claim that all other versions of holy texts were defective but only those in your possession were the true words of God and no doubt this trick was played on the peasants.

    If you can show 'evidence' to be in possession of "holiness" or "Divine truth" you gain authority and make good money!

    In the early British churches as elsewhere the key was all about how holy or effective your relics were and if they caused miracles. If your abbey had a holy object which won battles or cured the sick, people would flock to you and fill the coffers especially if it attracted royal patronage.

    In a similar way the Watchtower org play their unscrupulous trump card by claiming not only their text but their interpretation of it is the "true religion". It's just a superstition, superstition and a misguided belief in holiness.

  • fulltimestudent
    GL Tirebiter: Since much of it (the Pentatuch) predates a written Hebrew language,

    Good point! It demolishs the Watchtower's construction of a narrative in which Genesis becomes a series of summaries of individual histories whose authenticity is guaranteed by divine authority. It may be that, but it cannot have been written by any eyewitness because there was no known writing system in existence.

    Here's a timeline for writing systems:

    c. 3,200 BCE - First (extant) instance of written language in Sumerian.
    c. 2,500 BCE - Beginning of literature in Sumerian.
    2,285 BCE - 2,250 BCE - Life of Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon of Akkad, and world's first author known by name.
    c. 2,150 BCE - c. 1,400 BCE - The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh written on clay tablets.
    2,000 BCE - Minoan hieroglyphic scriptis invented.
    1,700 BCE - Minoan Linear A script.
    c. 1,640 BCE - c. 1,700 BCE - Written form of the Atrahasis Myth of the Great Flood.
    1,600 BCE - Canaanite alphabet.
    The above is from the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Link: https://www.ancient.eu/writing/
    So when did early Hebrew develop a writing system. There does not seem any evidence of an early development for a Hebrew alphabet.
    A Wikipedia entry on the topic claims:

    Quote: "According to contemporary scholars, the original Hebrew script developed alongside others in the region (the region is the Land of Cannan and Arabia) during the course of the late second and first millennia BCE; it is closely related to the Phoenician script, which itself probably gave rise to the use of alphabetic writing in Greece (Greek)." (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Hebrew_alphabet )

    All of which casts doubts on the story of YHWH personally writing in Hebrew the ten commandments on tablets of stone.

    And if Moses then wrote Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, what writing system did he use? Egyptian pictographs? How ironic that would be.

    GL Tirebiter: the Master Copy was an oral tradition. It was transcribed after the fact.

    An oral tradition of the Pentateuch cannot be called a Master copy.

  • smiddy3

    And wasn`t it more than 2000 years after the events that supposedly happened in the garden of Eden that Moses wrote down the first five books of the Bible ?

    Chinese whispers comes to mind here

    Where was Jehovah God for these first 2000 years ? he obviously didn`t trust anybody to write anything down to record the History before the flood including Noah and his family. ?

Share this