Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Israel and the Reliability of my Bible (Holy Land #10 of 14)

For someone like myself whose job involves spending great amounts of time in study of the Scripture, our recent trip to the Holy Land had several extra bonuses.

The Qumran Caves

Not far at all from the city of Jericho is the Qumran area where the Essenes lived. These individuals, mainly males, were very legalistic seeing themselves as right and everyone else as wrong. They even went by a different calendar than the Jewish calendar and celebrated Passover and the other feasts on a different day. They considered themselves the “children of light” and everyone else they called the “children of darkness.”

Yet, we owe a great deal of gratitude to these people. These folks spent much of their time meticulously copying the scrolls of the Old Testament. They took this so seriously that they would take a ritual bath involving their whole body being immersed before they started their scribal work. Every time they got to the name of God they would stop and take another ritual bath, again immersing their entire body, before writing this holy name.

They then put these copied parchments in pottery that they also made. When the Romans invaded, they hid these scrolls in the surrounding caves. Back in 1947, a shepherd found some of these scrolls as he threw stones trying to get the attention of one of his sheep that had wandered in a cave. He heard his stone break something and found some of these precious manuscripts still in tact. Excavations have revealed almost all of the Old Testament including the entire book of Isaiah which now gives us our oldest manuscripts which are reliable to our present Bibles. Yes! We can trust our English Bibles today. What a thrill for me to stand at these caves and realize that they bring a level of fact to my faith in the inspiration of Scripture. This may have been the most significant stop of our journey in the Holy Land.

We visited the Shrine of the Book where we saw the story of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We were also able to see a couple of the very jars that these important manuscripts were found in. These manuscripts dated 10 centuries earlier to the oldest manuscripts we had and showed that the Bibles we are using today really are accurate. Our guide told us that the manuscripts we saw at the Shrine of the Book are exact copies of what the Dead Sea Scrolls look like but that the real Dead Sea Scrolls are hidden in an underground vault somewhere in Israel.

Jerome’s Grotto

In Bethlehem we were in the grotto called Jerome’s grotto. It was in this very grotto that Jerome spent over 20 years of his life translating the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, the language of the people. To be in that very place where such a huge part of how we got our Bibles today took place was astounding to me. Jerome is also buried in that place.

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