Aramaic Problem of Daniel—3

REALM OF RESEARCH: Aramaic Problem of Daniel—3

Last part of the series

Graduate Student, University of Chicago

Light From the Cave Scrolls

The recent discovery of a number of Hebrew manuscripts in a cave near Jericho in Pales tine, containing Biblical and extra-Biblical books of pre-Christian times has given us material which is highly welcome, and which throws light on many problems connected with Biblical studies.

This great manuscript discovery has already been described in THE MINISTRY: " therefore only facts which bear on the problems discussed in this article will be related.

The excavations conducted in the cave by G. Lankester Harding in February and March, 1949, brought to light fragments of some forty cylindrical jars, measuring about two feet by ten inches, in which originally about two hundred manuscripts had been stored away.2* Most of them had been removed in Roman times, and what was left can be classified in three groups:

I. Scrolls and fragments found by the Bedouins in 1947, now in the possession of the Syrian monastery in Jerusalem:

1. The complete book of Isaiah.

2. Part of a commentary on the book of Habakkuk.25

3. A manual of discipline of an unidentified Jewish sect.

4. The apocryphal book Enoch or Lamech (in Aramaic).

5. Fragments, including three from the book of Daniel containing the following portions: Daniel i .-10-16 and 2:2

6, including the point where the Aramaic part begins, and Daniel 3:23-30 in Aramaic.26

II. Scrolls and fragments found by the Bedouins in 1947, now in the possession of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem:

1. A collection of thanksgiving hymns.

2. An apocalyptic work "The War of the Children of Light Against the Children of Darkness."

3. Chapters 44-66 of another copy of Isaiah.

4. A "bundle" of fragments from several unidentified works.27

III. Hundreds of fragments recovered by G. L. Harding in the excavation of the cave. Many of these fragments are still unidentified, but those which have been identified belong to the following Biblical books: Genesis. Leviticus. Deuteronomy, and Judges.28

From this list it will be seen that for Biblical research the whole book of Isaiah is available as well as part of a second copy of the same book, the greater part of Habakkuk, and fragments of Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Judges, and Daniel. The great value of this find, however, lies in the fact that these manuscripts represent different stages of Biblical re vision.

Dr. Sukenik's Isaiah copy in the Hebrew University has a text which is almost identical with the Masoretic text, found in our present Hebrew Bible.29 The famous Isaiah scroll, which was exhibited in the Library of Congress, however, shows the so-called plene writing, i.e. the insertion of various letters as aids to pronunciation, and the use of consonants to indicate vowels.30 The Habakkuk commentary shows another peculiarity, as the Tetragram maton (i.e., the divine name Jahweh) is writ ten in the citations of the Biblical book in "an archaizing hand in an effort to reproduce the ancient Hebrew characters. In this it departs from the other documents. The original scribe of Isaiah wrote the word with his usual hand." 31

Several fragments of Biblical manuscripts excavated by Harding show the same peculiarity, writing the divine name of God ('al or 'el) in an archaic script. 32 The Leviticus fragments, on the other hand, are entirely written in the old script in use before the exile. Whether the Leviticus manuscript was actually a sixth-century original, or a fourth-century product as Harding and Pere Roland de Vaux believe,33 or whether someone wrote it in the second century B.C. in an archaizing hand, as Prof. W. F. Albright is inclined to think, is not yet certain.34

The Different Scripts Employed

In this connection a short explanation should be given concerning the different scripts in use. Up to the exile all Hebrew documents were written in a script which has been generally called Phoenician script. All Phoenician, pre- exilic Hebrew, and the earliest Aramaic inscriptions, also the Moabite inscription of King Mesha, were written in this script. Excavations have provided many samples of this script from the time of the Hebrew monarchies. About seventy ostraka (inscribed potsherds) from Samaria, the Siloam rock inscription from Hezekiah's time, the twenty-one famous La- chish ostraka, and letters from the time of Jeremiah—to mention only the most important— give us a clear picture of the Hebrew writing up to the time of the Babylonian captivity.

After the return from exile the Jews used along with the Aramaic language the square script which had been developed by the Aramaeans during the previous five, hundred years. This Aramaic script is the forerunner of the present Hebrew square script still in use by the Jews.

The difference between the pre- and post-exilic scripts will be seen from figures I, 2. Figure i is a photograph of the entire column 33 of the recently dis covered Isaiah scroll of the second century B.C., containing Isaiah 40: 2 ff., beginning with the words: "That her war fare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned." Figure 2 presents the beginning of the same text, letter by letter, which I drew, using the script in use before the exile from the Lachish letters.

All manuscripts dating from the time before the exile were later transliterated into the new script, but for a time the divine name was still written in the venerated old script. Later on, this custom went out of use, and all divine names as well as other words were writ ten likewise in the new script, but copyists spelled the words according to current orthographic rules, which changed from time to time. How small the changes were between the second century B.C., when the recently discovered Isaiah scroll is believed to have been written, and the time when the He brew text was standardized in the first or second century A.D., will be seen from a comparison of the first five lines of column 33 of the Isaiah scroll (figure 2), and the corresponding text of the Hebrew Bible (in transliteration):

Isaiah scroll: bky' ml' fb' h ky' nrs' 'wwnh ky' Iqhhmyd yhwh kplym 

Traditional text: ky ml'h sb'h ky nrsh 'wnh ky Iqhhmyd yhwh kplym

Isaiah scroll: bkwl ht'tyh "qivl gzvr' bmdbr pnw drkyhwh yysrw b'rbh 

Traditional text: bkl ht'tyh. quil qwr' bmdbr pnw drkyhwh ysrw b'rbh 

Isaiah scroll: mslh I'lwhynw ''kwl gy yns' wkwl hrwgb'h ysplw whyh

Traditional text: mslh I'lhynw. kl gy' yns' wkl hrwgb'h ysplw whyh 

Isaiah scroll: h'qb l-myswr whrksym Ibq'h swnglh kbwdyhwh wr'w kwl 

Traditional text: h'qb Imyswr whrksym Ibq'h. wnglhkbwd yhwh wr'w kl

Isaiah scroll: bsr yhdyw ky' py' yhwh dbr 

Traditional text: bsr yhdw ky py yhwh dbr

The reader is advised to compare these few lines of text carefully to see what kind of differences this passage represents. He will notice only differences in spelling, with no additions or omissions of words. The addition of (aleph), w (waa), or y (yod) falls under the same-category as those mentioned above in the discussion of the Aramaic of the fifth and third centuries B.C. Although the differences are greater in other passages, the meaning of the text is nowhere changed.

The remarks of Prof. Millar Burrows, editor of the Isaiah scroll, are worth repeating in this connection, -because they describe succinctly the differences observed between the text of the Isaiah manuscript and the traditional Hebrew text:

"The most significant fact about the Isaiah manuscript is the degree to which it agrees with our traditional Hebrew text. The agreement is by no means exact in every detail. In the spelling of the words thare are a great many differences. Our manuscript was written long before the system of indicating vowels by points had been developed, and it makes very free use of the consonants (especially w and 31 but also h and aleph) to indicate vowels. In some cases the grammatical forms are different from those to which we are accustomed in our Hebrew Old Testament, especially in the verbs and the pronouns and suffixes. The grammarians will find considerable new material here for the historical grammar of the language.

"Such differences, however, do not affect the wording of the text. Even here there are differences, as always, for manuscripts are never perfect copies of their originals. The typical errors of copyists, familiar to all students of manuscripts in any language, appear here fairly often. Sometimes where words or whole lines have been omitted they are written in between the lines or in the margin, showing that the manuscript was corrected. Even so there are minor omissions and additions, but the remarkable fact is that there is nothing which can be called a major addition or omission, com parable to the additions and omissions to be found in the Septuagint, for example. There is no important dis location or disarrangement of the text. An interesting minor omission is the little story of the healing of Hezekiah by a fig-poultice (ch. 38 -.21, 2-2), which the cor rector has copied in between the lines and running •down the margin." 33

The conclusions reached from the study of these discoveries can be easily drawn by any reader. The discovery of a remnant of an ancient Jewish library shows that at the same time and in the same library Bible books existed which happened to represent different stages of modernization, some written in a more ancient script than others, and those written in the modern script showing different dates by their grammar and orthography, as the two copies of the same book Isaiah. It is therefore justifiable to state emphatically that the present form of the Hebrew or Aramaic Bible text is no proof of an early or late date of .authorship. This has to be based on other arguments.

As it would be foolish to say that Isaiah was not written before the second century B.C. because our earliest text of that book shows a type of spelling in use during the second century, so it is likewise untenable to use the present form of the Aramaic of Daniel and Ezra to establish the date of their original writing.

Those who do not believe in the authenticity of Daniel will always point out that the Aramaic used in the book is of a late form, and will use this fact as proof of a late authorship. But those believing in the genuineness of the book, vouchsafed by Christ and the Spirit of prophecy, have examples enough which show that a given text form cannot establish the original date of its composition, but only the date of the revision of its script.





23 S. H. Horn, "Important Archaeological Discoveries," THE MINISTRY, vol. 21, no. n (November, 1948), pp. 78. ; Julia R. Neuffer, "Ancient Hebrew Scrolls Exhibited," THE MINISTRY, vol. 23 (January, 1950), pp. 5ff.

24 W. F. Albright, "On the Date of the Scrolls From ‘Ain Feshkha and the Nash Papyrus," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (henceforth abbreviated BASOR), no. 115 (October, 1949), p. 13; G. Lankester Harding, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," Palestine Exploration Quarterly, July-October, 1949, pp. 112-116, and plates XVII-XXI.

25 The first two manuscripts have been published completely in photographic reproduction and with a transcription in Hebrew type by Millar Burrows, with the assistance of John C. Trever and William H. Brownlee, The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark's Monastery, Volume I. (The Isaiah Manuscript and the Habakkuk Commentary.) New Haven, Conn. : American Schools of Oriental Research, 1950. xxiii pp., 61 plates and 61 pages of Hebrew text. $5.00.

26 G. Ernest Wright, "A Phenomenal Discovery," The Biblical Archaeologist (henceforth abbreviated BA), vol. ii (May, 1948), pp. 21, 22; John C. Trever, "Identification of the Aramaic Fourth Scroll From 'Ain Feshkha," BASOR, no. 115 (October, 1949), pp. 8-10.

27 G. Ernest Wright, "Archaeological News and Views," BA, vol. 12 (May, 1949), pp. 33-35; C. R. Sellers, "Archaeological News From- Palestine," BA, vol. 12 (Sept., 1949), pp. 54-56.

28 Sellers, op. cit.

29 Wright, op. cit., p. 65.

30 lbid.; Millar Burrows, "The Contents and Significance of the Manuscripts," BA, vol. n (September, 1948), p. 60.

31 W. H. Brownlee, "Further Light on Habakkuk," BASOR, no. 114 (April. 1949), p. 10.

32 G. Lankester Harding, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," The Illustrated News, Oct. i, 1949, p. 493, and fig. 6 on p. 494.

33 Ibid,, p. 493. Fragments of Leviticus found in the cave by G. L. Harding have been published, with some others, by Pere Roland de Vaux, "La grotte des manuscrits hebreux," Revue Biblique, vol. 56, no. 4 (Octo ber, 1949), PP. 586-609, and plates XIII-XVIII.

34 Sellers, quoted in Wright, op. cit., pp. 32, 33 ; Al bright, op. cit., pp. 14, 19.

35 Burrows, op. cit., pp. 60, 61.



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