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article imageThe Bible may be even older than previously thought, say scholars

By Karen Graham     Apr 12, 2016 in Science
Tel Aviv - Mathematicians and archaeologists with Tel Aviv University in Israel say they have found evidence that suggests that a number of key biblical texts may have been composed earlier than what some scholars have thought.
Using algorithmic handwriting analysis technology similar to what is used by banks and intelligence services, the Tel Aviv University team determined that a number of ancient inscriptions, dated to around 600 BC, were actually written by at least six different people, reports Fox News.
The finding has some interesting implications, indicating that the literacy rate was much higher than previously thought at that time, and raises the possibility that biblical texts were written much earlier than we thought. The inscriptions were not of biblical texts, but were 16 ink inscriptions found in the desert fortress of Arad, written ca. 600 BCE.
The Torah constitutes the first and oldest part of the Hebrew Bible and contains the Pentateuch  or ...
The Torah constitutes the first and oldest part of the Hebrew Bible and contains the Pentateuch, or “Five Books of Moses,” ascribed by Jewish tradition to divine inspirations received by Moses around 1200 BCE.
University of Cjicago
The literacy rate was higher than we thought in ancient Judah
The 16 inscriptions dealt with Judah's military correspondence and were found on ceramic shards. They detailed troop movements and listed expenses for provisions. The examination of the writing indicated that writing was used throughout the military chain of command, on down to the deputy quartermaster, and was not solely the responsibility of scribes, reports CTV News Canada.
An analysis of the writing shows “a high degree of literacy in the Judahite administrative apparatus and provides a possible stage setting for a compilation of biblical texts,” the study says. “Proliferation of literacy is considered a precondition for the creation of such texts.”
The co-author of the study, Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist and biblical scholar at Tel Aviv University told Live Science, "We're dealing with really low-level soldiers in a remote place who can write. So there must have been some sort of educational system in Judah at that time."
He added that the kingdom obviously had the intellectual resources to write and compile large chunks of the Old Testament during this period, and if the study is correct, it would indicate that parts of the Old Testament were written in Jerusalem before the siege. This assumption is based on a group of texts from the Book of Joshua to the second Book of Kings, said Finklestein.
The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Painted in 1866  and currently at the Accademia of Venic...
The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Painted in 1866, and currently at the Accademia of Venice.
Francesco Hayez
Biblical history
The study concluded that a high enough level of literacy existed around 600 BC to warrant a contribution into the long-standing debate over when biblical text first began to be written. Up until the Middle Ages, people believed the Bible was written in "real-time," recording events as they actually happened.
Biblical text tells us that the Kingdom of Judah had scribes and literate officials during the period in which it was a state, from roughly the 10th century BC on up to 586 BC, when Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar quite literally destroyed Jerusalem. He destroyed the temple and sent Jerusalem's elite into exile in Babylonia.
This biblical story gave scholars good reason to believe passages in the Old Testament were written before the destruction of the temple. But this line of reasoning assumes that the biblical accounts were accurate. Finklestein throws in the possibility that later writers added passages that showed people were literate, based on their own culture.
Finklestein says there is another, more recent school of thought on when the Old Testament was written. Some scholars are suggesting a much later date for the compilation of the Old Testament, and some of them are pushing for an even later date, such as when the Greeks or Persians ruled what is now known as Israel.
The study comes to a conclusion
Based on the discovery of the different authors who wrote the inscriptions, the team determined that several hundred of the 100,000 people living in Judah around 600 BC were literate, and of those literate individuals, some of them could have very well written parts of the Book of Deuteronomy, parts of Genesis, and the books of Joshua to 2 Kings, Finkelstein said.
Finklestein points out that after the destruction of the first temple, when the elite were either killed or sent into exile, there is not any evidence, not even a pottery shard that has inscriptions for the next 200-years. This indicates to Finklestein that the evidence points to the Old Testament books being written before the destruction of the temple.
This very interesting study, "Algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judah’s military correspondence sheds light on composition of biblical texts," was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 11, 2016.
More about biblical text, Handwriting analysis, Babylonian siege, Jerusalem, literacy level
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