Archaeologists decipher text from burned scroll 1,500 years old

6th century fragment of Leviticus 1
6th century fragment of Leviticus 1

It’s a fragment of Leviticus!

Live Science reports: (H/T ECM)

A burned 1,500-year-old Hebrew scroll found on the shore of the Dead Sea was recently deciphered, 45 years after archaeologists discovered it, researchers in Israel have announced.

“The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting,” Sefi Porath, the archaeologist who discovered the scroll in 1970 in Ein Gedi, Israel, said in a statement from The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The Ein Gedi parchment scroll is the oldest scroll discovered from the Hebrew Bible since the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to the end of the Second Temple period, about 2,000 years ago.

The parchment scroll was so charred that it was illegible to the naked eye. Only with advanced technology did the scroll reveal the opening verses of the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew Bible.

So, this is the second oldest fragment of the Old Testament, with the Dead Sea Scrolls being earlier, and containing far more material than this fragment. The deciphering was done using micro-CT scanners.

And what’s the text on it?

On the newly deciphered scroll, the text (from the beginning of the book of Leviticus), translated from the original Hebrew, reads as follows:

“The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the Lord, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the Lord. You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The burnt offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the parts, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar.” (Leviticus 1:1-8).

The biblical text marks the first time a Torah scroll was found inside a synagogue in any archaeological excavation, according to the IAA.

The Live Science story notes that other fragments are still being analyzed, so we may get more stories like this sooner, rather than later.

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