Archive for September, 2016

f2-largeOne of the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament was revealed by researchers at the University of Kentucky.  This scroll, which contains portions of the book of Leviticus, was discovered in 1970, but was unreadable because it suffered from fire damage 1,500 years ago.  Modern technology made it possible to scan and “virtually” unwrap it without actually touching it and destroying it in its fragile state.  This video from the Wall Street Journal explains the process:

 

Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University explains its importance,”For scholars, the scroll brings the good news that the text has not changed for 2,000 years.”

Breaking News Israel reports:

This week, incredible cutting-edge technology allowed archaeologists to finally read the contents of a burned 1,500-year-old scroll found near the Dead Sea in 1970. The remarkable discovery of verses from the Book of Leviticus, which matched, letter for letter, the Hebrew text still in use today, is the first instance of one of the Five Books of Moses ever found in a Holy Ark.

On Wednesday, researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem announced in the Science Advances journal the success of new technology called ‘virtual unwrapping’. A complicated and difficult process based on the technology used in medical CT scans, researchers said it “represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis”.

The technique allowed scientists to read the Ein Gedi Scroll, a charred, ancient parchment discovered in an ancient destroyed synagogue on the shores of the Dead Sea more than forty years ago which has sat on a shelf, untouchable and indecipherable, ever since.

The scroll contains the first eight verses of Leviticus and dates from either the 1st or 2nd century CE and when compared to the Torah used today it is identical.  This is the earliest discovery of an Old Testament manuscript since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

Articles/Videos:

“Researchers Reconstruct Early Version of Old Testament Text From Burned Scroll,” Robert Lee Hotz | Wall Street Journal, Sept 21, 2016

“Burned Mystery Scroll Digitally Unraveled Reveals Bible Unchanged for 2,000 Years,” Adam Berkowitz | Breaking Israel News, Sept 21, 2016

“Computers Decipher Burnt Scroll Found in Ancient Holy Ark,” Michael Greshko | National Geographic,  Sept 21, 2016

“Scientists Use ‘Virtual Unwrapping’ to Read Ancient Biblical Scroll Reduced to ‘Lump of Coal’ “ Ian Sample | The Guardian, Sept 22, 2016

“From Damage to Discovery Via Virtual Unwrapping,” William B Seales, et. al | Science Advances, Sept 21, 2016

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

 

 

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California Mission Wooden CrosChristian missionaries have been deemed racists, imperialistic, and intolerant, but the truth of the efforts of missionaries has some very interesting seemingly unintended consequences: liberal democracies to name just but one.

While many might view the modern Christian missions movement as an intolerable effort against multiculturalism leading to the exploitation of people groups by proselytizing efforts social indicators has deemed the efforts positive in multiple accounts.

The Myth: Missionaries are culturally insensitive proselytizers.  Thomas S. Abler in The American Indian Quarterly begins by asserting that, “It is convention that anthropologists view Christian missionaries as disruptive agents of cultural change.” (source)  He goes on to report “It is the missionary’s goal to replace indigenous religion with Christianity and to alter other aspects of behavior to the norms of Western society. Anthropologists expect individuals who assume such a role to be personally ethnocentric, possibly to an extreme degree.”

While there is instances of this occurring, it is the exception rather than the rule.  For example, Napoleon Chagnon quotes a Catholic priest as saying the Yanomamo of the Amazon rainforest region as saying, “I believe the Yanomamo are subhuman-they act like animals and lack the essential faculties of being human” in his book Yanomamo: The Fierce People (1983)

But the truth is much more complex and constructive for the indigenous.

The Truth: No doubt, there is the rare antidote of the oppressive missionary, but the truth is the efforts to convert people to Christianity has lead to some remarkable benefits for the recipients, not just for eternity as the missionaries hoped, but for the temporal as well.

Some of the benefits include:

  • increased literary rates
  • mass education
  • civil rights
  • education for  women and the poor
  • better health
  • lower infant mortality
  • lower corruption
  • mass printing
  • liberal democracies

These positive increases in social indicators has been discovered by the work of Dr. Robert Woodberry.  Woodberry, a sociologist, used statistical analysis to uncover the benefits that Protestant missionaries bring to an indigenous people group.  WithBookshelf

Dr. Robert Woodberry has discovered a direct causation (not correlation) between Protestant missions and the rise of stable liberal democracies.  The Christianity Today article titled “The World Missionaries Made” in the January 2014 issue recounts Woodberry’s work on how the efforts of missionaries are the single largest factor in ensuring the health of nations:

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

Woodberry published his work in the academic journal American Political Science Review showing how Protestant missionaries influence the rise and spread of stable democracies around the world and was crucial in initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms.  Titled “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” Woodberry thesis in the article demonstrates:

historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. . . . The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses.

For a shorter article in World Magazine detailing his discovery AND what happens academically when it doesn’t match up to Politically Correct thought Marvin Olasky:

“Into Exile” World Magazine | Aug 25, 2012

Resources:

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“To suggest that the missionary movement had this strong, positive influence on liberal democratization—you couldn’t think of a more unbelievable and offensive story to tell a lot of secular academics.” (Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame)

“[Woodberry] presents a grand and quite ambitious theory of how ‘conversionary Protestants’ contributed to building democratic societies.  Try as I might to pick holes in it, the theory holds up. [It has] major implications for the global study of Christianity.” (Philip Jenkins, history professor of Baylor University)

“I think it’s the best work out there on religion and economic development.  It’s incredibly sophisticated and well grounded. I haven’t seen anything quite like it.” (Robin Grier, professor of economics and international studies at University of Oklahoma)

Books/Articles/Videos:

“The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy” Robert D. Woodberry, American Political Science Review May 2012 106: pp 244-274
This article received awards for the best article in Comparative Politics, Comparative Democratization, Political Economy (runner up) from the American Political Science Association and best article in the Sociology of Religion from the American Sociological Association.
“The World Missionaries Made” Christianity Today January 2014
This article won first place in the Evangelical Press Association’s General Article: Long category.
“The True Story of Christian Missionaries” by Amy Hall, Stand to Reason Jan 15, 2014
“Into Exile” World Magazine | Aug 25, 2012

Robert Woodberry’s presentation at Berkley Center at Georgetown University in Dec. of 2012.  (5 minutes)

 

A more thorough presentation (40 minutes) at the Center for Independent Studies in Sydney Australia titled “Religion and the Roots of Liberal Democracy” in 2015:

 

A palace has been discovered at the biblical city of Gezer that dates to the 10th century BC, the era usually associated with King Solomon.  Gezer has been excavated off and on since the 1990s, but this past season of archaeological efforts has produced evidence of a Philistine presence in the city as recorded in the Old Testament.

In the Haaretz (Israel’s oldest daily newspaper), Philippe Bohstrom reports that:

[An] American archaeological team . . . found a layer featuring Philistine pottery, lending credence to the biblical account of them living in the city until being vanquished by King David.

This past season of excavation has revealed a Philistine link to Gezer as recorded in 2 Samuel 5:25 which states that “David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer” as well as in 1 Chronicles 14:16.  The Haaretz article goes on to report that pottery discovered there is Philistine:

According to the Old Testament, the city was also associated with the Philistines in David’s time: the king broke their power “from Geba to as far as Gezer” (2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 14:16). This excavation season has proved the Philistine link too, when the archaeologists revealed a layer with Philistine bichrome pottery.

The rest of the article can be found here: King Solomon-era Palace Found in Biblical Gezer

As of right now there is still no evidence of which Israelite king lived there or if any did, but somebody of importance did because “the edifice is significantly larger than the size of ordinary houses of the time.” (source)

At International Business Times Janice Williams reports on the Gezer discovery:

Archaeology Proves the Bible is a True Story? King Solomon Era Palace Found in Israel

At taste of this article:

Although archaeologist are unsure if Solomon ever visited the site, they named the compound “Solomon’s Palace” because of his biblical tradition of building grand projects at Hatzor, Megiddo and Gezer. There is also a passage in the Bible (1 Kings 9: 16-17) that says Egypt’s monarch gave the city of Gezer to Solomon as a dowry for his wife, after which Solomon rebuilt the city.

Tel Gezer

Other articles related to this discovery:

Archaeology Discovery: 3,000-Y-O Israeli Site Supports Old Testament Account of Philistines | Christian Post

New Finds From An Old Geezer | Baptist Today

Solomon’s Palace Discovered in IsraelChristianity Today

Archaeologists Link Remains of a Destroyed Palace to the Reign of King Solomon | News Corp Australia Network

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla