Category Archives: New Testament

7Q5: The New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls

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7Q5: The New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Giuseppe Guarino

The Dead Sea Scrolls were perhaps the most important manuscript finding of the twentieth century. 7Q5 is one of them: no 5 fragment in cave 7. It was in Greek.

The 18 papyri fragments of Cave 7 are visible in high definition quality on the official website:  www.deadseascrolls.org.il

Sometimes evidence of the past may be huge, majestic, like the Egyptian pyramids. Other times it is all hidden in small fragments of papyrus. Then it depends on man’s deductive ability to reveal the truths hidden in the surviving evidence. The latter is the case with the manuscript fragment called 7Q5 – which stands for relic 5 of cave 7 in the Qumran site. Many have tried to understand what 7Q5 actually bears witness to. I am sure many have spent sleepless nights trying to understand if it is possible to prove what was the content of the original complete manuscript – I am one of them. I felt the need to find answers to the puzzling questions that 7Q5 arises and share them with others.

from the book

Chapter 1

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

The discovery of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls took place in the middle of the 20th Century but the meaning of their witness is still open field for theories and suggestions.

It was in 1947 that, by mere chance, a shepherd found some manuscripts inside a cave near the Dead Sea. Further investigation of the site led to the discovery of ten other caves which brought back to light a treasure of long lost documents dating from 250 BC to 68 DC.

The Dead Sea Scroll discovery and study led some to controversial theories, which were to undermine the whole Christian core of beliefs and entirely try to re-write the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faith.

However, time and a more scientific approach have proven the case for a less radical view of the Scrolls.

The Scrolls give us a better understanding of the Jewish world of the second temple, especially the years preceding the destruction brought by the Romans.

The Scrolls also brought to light Old Testament (Tanakh for the Jews) manuscripts dating between the third Century BC and the first century AD.

No evidence found in the caves can reasonably be dated later than 68 AD, when the Qumran site was abandoned. That is why the Scrolls have given scholars the opportunity to examine the Old Testament, canon and text, in light of manuscript evidence about one thousand years older than those that were available before.

The Dead Sea Scrolls by Stephen Hodge is a very interesting book on the subject. It shows a scientific and sound approach to the matter. I strongly suggest the reading of his work to those who want a sober and reliable update on the Dead Sea Scrolls studies. I personally do not entirely endorse his views, but honestly speaking my approach is more apologetic than purely scientific.

Hodges maintains that at least 850 books were placed in the eleven Qumran caves. Most of the manuscripts surviving are in a fragmentary state. The so called Great Isaiah Scroll (in the picture) is an exception, since it is preserved in its integrity.

The remarkable agreement of this manuscript with the so called Masoretic text has given fresh credibility to the traditional Tanakh in use among Jewish and Christian believers.

“Once scholars had had the opportunity to study the great Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 (1QIsaa, copied in approximately 100 B.C.) and to compare it with the Masoretic Text, they were impressed with the results. Despite the fact that the Isaiah scroll was about a thousand years older than the Masoretic version of Isaiah, the two were nearly identical except for small details that rarely affected the meaning of the text. […] The results obtained from comparative studies of this kind have been repeated for many other scriptural books represented at Qumran. The large majority of the new scrolls do belong to the same textual tradition as the Masoretic Text. They are, however, centuries older and thus demonstrate in a forceful way how carefully Jewish scribes transmitted that text across the years.” James C. VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, p.126

The most credited theory on the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they are the surviving evidence of a “library” in use of an Essenic monastic community that had its abode at Qumran.

The Essenes were a Jewish sect. They are never mentioned in the New Testament, though open reference is made there to other Jewish groups, like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Zealots. The argument based on silence has led some to suppose that more than simple sympathy existed between the ascetic community of Qumran and John the Baptist and even Jesus. But it was mere speculation.

The existence of a monastery is the best credited theory, but the archeological sites and the findings do not give definite evidence in this direction. It is not even sure that the extra biblical writings found in the caves really belonged to the sect of the Essenes.

Considering the variety of the writings found in the caves, some suppose they are simply manuscripts rescued from the destruction of Jerusalem accurately hidden in the caves.

One very important thing about the Scrolls is that they proved the case for the Hebrew language being spoken in Israel in the first century AD. In fact, the percentage of writings in Hebrew at Qumran is unexpectedly high: 80 percent of the total found. The rest are in Aramaic and only a few in Greek. Up until the discovery of the Scrolls it was commonly believed that Aramaic had replaced Hebrew after the Babylonian exile.

The Hebrew language has no parallel in history. It was spoken and written by Moses and it is read and understood today in the synagogues – about 3500 years later. This is, to say the least, surprising, though it is noteworthy that the Jewish people itself, with its traditions, religion, culture, has survived centuries of diaspora, persecutions, hatred, migrations, etc… never losing national identity.

Some overestimated the analogies between the Christian doctrine of the Gospels and the teaching of the Essenes. This position was taken to the extreme, supposing that even Jesus belonged to this sect. A better knowledge of the Scrolls has proven the case against such a gratuitous theory. Some of the teachings of Jesus might seem close to the beliefs of the Qumran community, but others do strongly and openly oppose them.

In any respect, it is no surprise that the Jewish religious thought of the time had much in common with Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus was not a Pharisee but he supported them against the party of the Sadducees concerning the belief in a future bodily resurrection.  He agreed with both parties though and that of the Scribes, and they agreed among themselves, believing the Torah is God’s Word. He rejected the tradition of the Pharisees, but also the restrict views of the Sadducees.

In other words, Jesus never questioned the basic truths of the second temple Judaism, but at the same time he never accepted compromise and strongly supported the true spiritual meaning of the Law and the Tanakh in general.

The Qumran community was the abode of a sect of self-proclaimed Jewish elect, devoted to ascetic life. The Essenes gave up social life – Jesus never did. He was always among all kinds of people, never scared to “mingle with the commoners.” Jesus openly taught his disciples to spread his doctrine among the heathens! – See Matthew 28:19. Not to mention the mission given by the risen Messiah himself to Paul  – see Galatians 2:8-9.  Too many Essenes’ practices and beliefs were radically against the teachings of Jesus and the Gospels to believe the Lord was one of the Essenes himself.

Another very notable difference between the Essen creed and Jesus’ teachings is the love for enemies that Jesus openly taught. – Matthew 5:43-47. Before the Scrolls, it wasn’t clear who Jesus was referring to when he spoke of people that were teaching hate for their enemies. Thanks to the contents of non-biblical Scrolls we know now that he was openly speaking against the Essenes, who taught in such a way.

Jesus started a non violent revolution, a spiritual renewal, to change society in a radical way – one individual’s heart at a time. He never supported or encouraged any military action to impose religion or thought.  In this perspective his teaching had nothing in common with the aggressive attitude displayed in the Qumran writings and the Jewish expectations of the time in general.

The Messianic beliefs of the times of Jesus were obviously based on an interpretation of the Tanakh. It is also clear that the various spiritual and even some pseudo-political movements originated from the Jewish religious background of the nation. They all were equally Jews, though each faction had its own expectations, plans and programs. Christianity did not originate outside of the Jewish world, but within. Its founder was a Jew, its leaders were Jewish. The first disciples kept the law like any other Jew would have done. The main, evident difference with the rest of the Jewish “sects” was that Christians received Jesus as the promised Messiah. Also, very soon the followers of Christ opened the door of salvation to non-Jewish converts. The invitation in the Gospel of John (though he was a Jew) is clearly universal and, like in other parts of the New Testament, it was motivated by the failure of the Jewish nation to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah they had long waited for – See John 1:11-12.

Supposing the Dead Sea Scrolls to be a collection of manuscripts hidden in the caves to save them from the destruction brought by the Romans explains the nature of the manuscripts and also their independence from the inhabitants of Qumran –  whoever they might have been.

Even today it is hard to underestimate the responsibility felt by the nation of Israel for the preservation of the text of the Old Testament Bible  – definitely entrusted to them. It is possible to take a virtual tour of the museum where the Scrolls are preserved on the website:

www.imj.org.il/panavision/shrine_inter_eng.html

This building has been structured to survive a nuclear attack and preserve those precious witnesses of the Jewish Bible.

It is most probable that the people fleeing the city of Jerusalem because of the imminent destruction might have hidden the Scrolls to preserve them for future witness to God’s Word – which is indeed what really happened.

Probably we will never know, but it is a fact that those extraordinary documents were hidden in a safe place for almost two thousand years. Now they are being diligently studied, providing new – providential – light on the world where Christianity moved its first steps.

The facts about the eleven caves of Qumran as recorded by Hodges are the following.

The caves contained fragments of about 850 books. Only the so called Great Isaiah scroll is complete. Only ten manuscripts preserve more than fifty percent of the text found in the original manuscript.

223 manuscripts are biblical.

The highest number of manuscripts of a biblical book is that of the Psalms (39 mss). After that, the best attested is of course the Torah, the Law of Moses. Worthy of mention is the finding of 8 manuscripts of the canonical book of the prophet Daniel.

96 manuscripts have not been yet identified.

The rest of the fragments witness to other texts, like Tobias, Enoch, an apocriphon of the book of Genesis, the so called “scroll of the temple”, “The Rule of the Community”, “The Scroll of War” and several commentaries to the canonical books of the Old Testament.

As we said earlier, the language found in the manuscripts is quite important. Over 80 percent of the texts are written in the Hebrew language. Almost all the rest of the evidence is written in Aramaic.

In this book I will focus my attention on the 18 (+1) fragments of Greek papyri found in cave 7. I will try to understand what those manuscripts were doing in a Jewish, Hebrew library.

Eusebius Pamphilus, bishop of Cesarea in the first half of the fourth century, wrote a very important Ecclesiastical History. He bears witness to a very interesting story on why the Christians in Jerusalem did not fall victim of the destruction of the city which took place in 70 AD, when Titus led the Roman army inside the city of David. He writes: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella,” Eusebius Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter V, Baker Book House, Reprint of 1991, p.86

Is it possible that some of the Christian writings were taken away from Jerusalem to preserve them from destruction and that those manuscripts found their way in a cave at Qumran?

In the book that possibility will be taken into serious consideration.

The 18 papyri fragments of Cave 7 are visible in high definition quality on the official website:  www.deadseascrolls.org.il

 

 

 




The Language of the New Testament

THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT Hebrew or Greek?  by Giuseppe Guarino. This book will prove the case for a Greek original of the New Testament.

We got the New Testament in Greek. Koinè Greek, used in a form we can call Biblical Greek. The Author was recently confronted with some claims that Greek was not the New Testament actual language of composition. Then he asked himself: were the autographs of the New Testament actually written in Greek or Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever language or dialect was spoken by the Jews in Israel during the first century? He investigated the matter and found enough reasonable evidence to come up with convincing ideas. They are collected in this book, hoping they will be a satisfactory answer to those interested in this challenging question.

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Introduction (from the book)

This collection of considerations is a personal review of facts I have learned and thoughts I have meditated on the challenging topic described in the title of this book.

We got the New Testament in an “original” Greek. I was recently confronted with some claims that this is not its actual language of composition.

So, I asked myself: were the autographs of the New  Testament actually written in Greek or Hebrew or even Aramaic, or whatever language or dialect was spoken by the Jews in Israel during the first century?

I investigated the matter and found enough reasonable evidence to come up with convincing ideas. I collected them here.

I pray the results of my study will give a satisfactory answer to those interested in this challenging question.

Sicily, 9th December, 2018.

 

Chapter 1

The Language of the New Testament

As far as evidence is concerned, the original Text of the New Testament has been handed down to us through manuscripts which contain it in Greek.

The question has recently been asked me: Are you sure the original New Testament was actually written in Greek?

The New Testament is a collection of books written independently, at various times and in different places, for specific immediate needs or purposes.

In this perspective, and for the sake of convenience, we will discuss about those books separately.

The initial question, in fact, must be thus reviewed: were any or all of the books of the New Testament originally written in another language that was not the Greek in which they have travelled down through the centuries?

If we rely on external, objective, evidence only, we must answer the preceding question positively. There is, in fact, no manuscript attestation that can actually compete with the over six thousand representing the Greek originals of the New Testament.

The Church has constantly relied on the Greek manuscripts as a witness to the original text of the Christian Scriptures. And, apart from some references to Hebrew autographs, like Matthew for example, we have no other serious candidate for a non-Greek original language.

The above made me always state, and I confirm it now, that the New Testament was originally written in Greek.

The first century Greek spoken everywhere in the Roman Empire is called Koinè. But I prefer to refer to Biblical Greek when speaking of the language of the Septuagint or of that of the New Testament.

Koinè was the language of commerce, of contracts and documents. It was the language spoken everywhere in the former Greek empire founded by Alexander the Great.

The peculiarities of the language of the Scriptures became even more evident in the hands of the early Christians.

So many conjectures, suppositions and ideas can be added to the above statement which represents facts as they are. So many details of the language of the New Testament can be investigated.

The purpose, my purpose, is not and cannot be arguing or trying to prove or disprove this or that theory, but to deepen and widen our understanding of the holy scriptures, their meaning, authority and authenticity.

If I wanted to shock the readers I would say that all the books of the New Testament were basically written in Hebrew, this term being a general way to address the language currently spoken in Israel during the times of

 

Jesus – if it was biblical Hebrew or Aramaic, we will say something about it later. In fact, even if Paul, Luke, or any other inspired author entrusted their thoughts and ideas to the Greek language, their mother tongue, frame of mind and the environment in which they lived was Jewish, Semitic. The Faith they were writing about was based on Hebrew Scriptures. Very probably in their work they consulted some reliable early document in Hebrew – abundant evidence shows the latter is more than an assumption.

Had the New Testament been written all in Hebrew it could have not been more Jewish than it is the way it was delivered to us.

I believe this to be a fact.

After I learned Greek, studying the original text made it clear for me how necessary it was to learn at least some Hebrew.

This is why I call the Greek of the Septuagint and its consequent New Testament evolution, Biblical Greek. Because it is a derivation of Koinè. It started there, but then it took a path of its own, which is also deeply connected to the development of the Jewish Faith that we call Christianity.

Just a few examples.

Matthew 1:1 reads: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (King James Version).

I choose the KJV here because we need to look at a literal translation. The opening of this gospel is so deeply Jewish that no translation in any language can change this fact.

If it had been originally written in Hebrew, the translator(s) in Greek must have rendered it faithfully

 

and literally, so that, in practice, the Greek is no less Semitic than a Hebrew autograph.

The KJV follows a literal translation criteria, which I actually like.

We all know there are different ways of translating a text from one language to another.

For the way in which I read the Bible, I always had a preference for the literal approach. Other ways will inevitably reflect the personal ideas and opinions of the translator(s).

Translating literally is sanctioned by the New Testament itself, since the Greek we read today clearly shows

  1. Hebrew thoughts in a native speaker’s mind or
  2. Reference to written sources, documents, or
  3. Even autographs.

The New Testament in Greek keeps all the flavor, the Semitisms, the atmosphere, the terminology of Hebrew-Jewish language and culture.

The New King James Version tries to move a bit further in Matthew 1:1 and renders: “the book of the generation” so the reader may have access to the idiomatic correspondent expression in English: “the genealogy.

This is more conveying the meaning in our modern current language than simply translating it, for the sake of being more understandable and make sense to the English speaking reader.

The NKJV doesn’t continue this way for the rest of the verse. It is just like the KJV: “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.

The Amplified Bible will fulfill its purpose and further dig into the meaning of Mt 1:1, which, of course, is not so evident to the non-Jewish mind or those who are not familiar with the Scriptures: “The book of the ancestry (genealogy) of Jesus Christ (The Messiah, the Anointed), the son (descendant) of David, the son (descendant) of Abraham.

The English word “son” perfectly translates the Greek here, which, in turn, literally renders the Hebrew, and conveys the idea of descent and not of a direct father-son relationship. This frame of mind is not found here in Mt 1:1 only. See James 2:21, Romans 4:1, 12, 16, Acts 7:2, just to name a few.

Anyway, focusing on the Hebrew language only can also lead us astray.

If not by the authors, Greek was chosen by the supposed translator(s) of the New Testament, who must have been convinced that it could serve their purpose well.

Neglecting the importance of Greek is dangerous and can be an (even involuntary) attempt to undermine the witness of the Church.

In the next chapter I will give the reader a quick introduction of the Greek language in general, then I will move to discuss evidence in favor of Greek autographs and the possibility of non-Greek autographs.