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Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest manuscripts of the Old Testament were dated to about the ninth and tenth centuries C.E., known as the Masoretic texts (MT). The Hebrew Old Testament was complete in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E., over 1,400 years earlier than these MT. Therefore, the question begs to be asked, ‘can we trust this MT as really being the Word of God?’ A member of the international team of editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor Julio Trebolle Barrera, states: “The Isaiah Scroll [from Qumran] provides irrefutable proof that the transmission of the biblical text through a period of more than one thousand years by the hands of Jewish copyists has been extremely faithful and careful.” (F. Garcia Martinez, Martinez and Barrera 1995, p. 99)
The Isaiah scrolls identified as “IQisaa” and “IQIsab” are complete copies of the book of Isaiah, but the latter is the earliest known copy of a complete Bible book. Both are from cave 1. Gleason Archer had this to say about the two Isaiah scrolls that “proved to be word for word identical with the standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.” (Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction 1994, p. 19) Up to now, over 200 Biblical manuscripts have come out of the Qumran caves; representing portions of every Old Testament book except Esther. The Isaiah scrolls of Cave 1 are an exception to the rule, as most of the others are mere fragments, containing less than 10% of any given book. The books that are the most often quoted in the New Testament are, in fact, the most popular among the Qumran community: Psalms (36 copies), Deuteronomy (29 copies), and Isaiah (21 copies).
Aside from establishing that the Hebrew Old Testament has not undergone some radical changes over the last 1,400 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls also reveals two other important pieces to some long-standing questions. They provide evidence that there were different versions of the Hebrew Bible texts used by the Jews in the Second Temple period (537 B.C.E to 70 C.E.), each one of them contains its own variations. Of the scrolls, not all are identical in spelling and wording to the MT. Some of them are more in line with the Greek Septuagint, also known by the Roman numerals for seventy, LXX.
It had been thought by scholars prior to 1947 that the differences in the LXX were the result of errors on the part of the scribes, even possibly intentional alterations by the translators. When the Dead Sea Scrolls became known, it was revealed that these differences were due to the variations of the different Hebrew versions. Ellis R. Brotzman and Eric J.Tully write, “Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Qumran biblical manuscripts is their witness to variant readings that were previously found only in early translations, such as the Greek Septuagint. Before the discovery of the scrolls, scholars could not be certain that the readings reflected true variants since it was always possible that they had been introduced by the translator in the translation process. But the Qumran scrolls demonstrate that many of these differences in the versions point to variants in the Hebrew tradition.” – (Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction (p. 27). Baker Publishing Group) Brotzman and Tully go on to say, “… There was real textual variety in this period and that the text form that would later form the basis of the standardized MT was only one of many. Some of the scrolls at Qumran closely parallel this “proto”-MT. Other Qumran manuscripts are similar to the textual tradition of the Septuagint or the Samaritan Pentateuch.” (p. 27)
This could possibly explain why writers from the New Testament quote from the Hebrew Bible texts using wording different than the MT (Exodus 1:5; Acts 7:14) In other words, it isn’t that the NT authors are preferring the Greek Septuagint over the Hebrew Old Testament text of the day per se, but rather the quotation, paraphrase, or reference to a verse(s) from the OT is the same as the Greek Septuagint that was translated from a Hebrew text that reads differently than the Proto-Masoretic Text (later Masoretic Text), were variants found in other Hebrew Old Testament texts of the day that we do not have today.
Hence, the storehouse of thousands of fragments and Biblical scrolls affords the textual scholar an excellent basis in their studying the transmission of the Hebrew Bible text. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls have established the worth of both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch for textual comparison. As all modern Bibles are based on the Masoretic Text, they also provide added bases for these translation committees to consider emending (correcting) their translations and the MT.
It has long been held that there was not just one form of Judaism in the first century C.E. The portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls that describe the rules and beliefs of the Qumran community further validate that position. The Pharisees and Sadducees were far different from the Qumran sect. Some extreme differences are likely, what led the sect to withdrawal into the wilderness. They saw themselves as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3,
Isaiah 40:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 A voice of one calling out,
In the wilderness, “prepare the way of Jehovah;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Numerous scroll fragments state that the Messiah’s coming was imminent. Bible students should find this interesting as Luke commented that “the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ [Messiah].”–Luke 3:15.
The Dead Sea Scrolls also help us better understand the historical setting in the life and times of Jesus Christ. They are also beneficial in the comparative study of Bible texts and ancient Hebrew. Nevertheless, not all of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been analyzed. Therefore, more light may come out of the wilderness. Absolutely, these scrolls were one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, which remains to motivate both scholars and Bible students as we have now entered into the 21st century.
While the Septuagint is the second most important tool after the original language texts for ascertaining the original words of the original Hebrew text, it is also true that the LXX translators took liberties at times, embellishing the text, deliberate changes, harmonizations, and completing of details. Even so, it should be noted that the Septuagint manuscript of Aquila (Codex X), Symmachus (also Codex X), and Theodotion also read “according to the number of the sons of Israel.”
The primary weight of external evidence generally goes to the original language manuscripts. The Codex Leningrad B 19A and the Aleppo Codex are almost always preferred. In Old Testament Textual Criticism, the Masoretic text is our starting point and should only be abandoned as a last resort. While it is true that the Masoretic Text is not perfect, there needs to be a heavy burden of proof in we are to go with an alternative reading. All of the evidence needs to be examined before we conclude that a reading in the Masoretic Text is a corruption. The Septuagint continues to be very much important today and is used by textual scholars to help uncover copyists’ errors that might have crept into the Hebrew manuscripts either intentionally or unintentionally. However, it cannot do it alone without the support of other sources.
 Hebrew Bible: the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible, revised and annotated by Jewish scholars between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E.
 Greek version of Hebrew Bible: a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made between 280 and 150 B.C.E. to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine.
 Because of the tradition about 72 translators, this Greek Bible translation came to be known as the Septuagint, based on a Latin word meaning “Seventy.”
 Actually, there were more forms of Judaism. There were the Herodians, who were Jewish partisans or party followers of the Herodian dynasty. In addition, there were the Zealots, who advocated a Jewish kingdom completely independent of Roman control.
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