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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls 101 - Importance.

With 60 days left until I, Lord willingly, leave for Qumran, I wanted to start a series on the historical importance of Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are easily one of the most significant Biblical Archeological finds to date!

Up until the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest texts dated to the time of the Masorites. (These are the people that every Biblical Hebrew student thanks, because they added divisions and vowel markings to aid in translation Hebrew .)
Since these were the oldest texts and they dated to around the 7th - 10th centuries, many scholars began to question the reliability of these documents.

The basic question came down to textual criticism and transcription over the ages. Some theories professed that like a copy machine, numerous copies of a source would result in distortions and corruptions over time. Such a theory would place doubt upon the entirety of the Old Testament due to possible errors.

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, came a tremendous breakthrough in textual authenticity! These scrolls came to be dated to around 150 years before Christ! Additionally, the Qumran caves included complete scrolls and portions of every single Old Testament book with the exception of Esther!*

Though other extra-Biblical works were found, it must be remembered that these were a group of fanatical Essenes that had removed themselves from Jerusalem. Also keep in mind that most Christian homes contain numerous extra-Biblical writings in addition to the Bible. The discovery of other materials in no way taints the importance of what the Biblical books contained!

Close analysis of these documents supported a faithful transmittion of the texts over the centuries. No longer was it assumed that gross errors had worked their way into our Old Testament. God had faithfully ensured the integrity of the text over the years. Some noteable discoveries had to do with order and structure. It would appear that Psalms, for example, was not compiled in the same manner. Though the texts are identical in content to what we have today, it would seem that the Psalms had not been combined into one book at their time.

Though we know of slight variances of Biblical documents over the ages, we are able to discern these through comparisions of documents from various regions. These variants are nothing like the childhood game of "Telephone" would indicate. In the game one child whispers a message once into another child's ear. On down the line, the message goes and the last child winds up with a completely different message. Instead of a game, the scribes were devoted to authentic reproduction of their sources. After all, their source document was of highest personal importance. In it contained the Words of their Lord, the very Words of life.

*As to the exclusion of Esther, Dr. Cooper has a great insight. For ages, Christians have wondered why the author of Esther failed to mention God. In fact, it seems like at some times significant effort was taken to avoid referencing God. The reason lies in the intended purpose of Esther. Purim is a celebration that is performed in the household and the reference text is Esther.

The reason that God's name is not mentioned goes back to the intense reverence for the name of God. Some sources claim that when ancient scribes would come to the name of God, they would stop, ritually wash, pick up a new quill to write the name of God, break the quill, ritually wash and then return to writing their text. When talking, the person of Jewish faith will never mention the name of God--it is too Holy! It is noted that even in writings today, that when they need to reference God, they will write it as "G-d." Of course this comes down to a very intentional effort to avoid violating the 3rd Commandment. So the average person of Jewish faith would feel highly uncomfortable saying or even writing the name of God in common settings. Hence, when the book of Esther is to be celebrated during Purim, a problem would arise. So to avoid offending God, the book of Esther was written with effort to clearly infer God's provision, but leave His name out of the text.

That said, the book of Esther then would not be found with the other Holy Scrolls. Instead this book would be found in everyone's household for when the celebration of Purim is to commence. This is the very likely reason that Esther was nowhere to be found in the caves of Qumran.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Big Apple Pizza...in Jerusalem

So when people think of the BEST pizza they have ever had in their life, they obviously are thinking of some place in Italy right? Apparently not!

This is the second time that someone has said, "There is this place on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem that has the best pizza I have ever eaten!" It turns out that this place is called Big Apple Pizza (please note the menu board shape).

I did some research and found this entertaining advertisement about Big Apple Pizza:

"Israel can be pretty iffy when it comes to pizza. Although pizza is as firmly entrenched in the Jewish state as it is everywhere else, Israelis have failed to inherit the appropriate sensitivity to the fine art of pizza-making, meaning a lot of Israeli pizza joints specialize in semi-fossilized slices that have been sitting out for a few hours and weren't much of anything special before rigor mortis set in. Israeli taste in international chains is even worse; a country whose biggest international pizza chain is Dominos is not a pizza mecca.

But fortunately for pie-starved American residents and tourists, there's Big Apple Pizza, which is as close as you'll come to pizza in the style of its namesake in Jerusalem. Somewhat inexplicably divided into two essentially identical locations only two or three minutes apart by foot, Big Apple dishes out kosher pizza by the pie and by the slice (10-12 NIS) with toppings both familiar (mushrooms, olives) and slightly untraditional (corn).

For a true Israeli pizza experience, get a corn slice, skip the garlic powder and garnish it with za'atar from the handy shaker."

Look, I'm not saying that this is now my main reason for going to Israel...I'm just saying it is a convenient bonus!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trip rescheduled to May 12th-June 8th!

This week we had our first meeting for the Qumran trip! So far there are only 2 other students from Criswell going with us. I am so excited because I know both students from previous classes. This will be so much fun!

Dr. Cooper began to mention places we will go, things we will see, foods we will eat, sleep we will be deprived, sun we will be baked by, hours we will wait in airport processing, and all around joy we will have! What a lot of activity to be jammed into one month!

It was mentioned that the trip was moved to May 12th-June 8th. This was to ensure full sightseeing and reduced airfare. He also mentioned that he had received donations to off-set the cost some and it would remain at $4,000, or less. Much will depend upon fuel surcharges and things like that.

Though there will be a few other expenses along the way, this is all within God's provision. I am excited to see how God will provide. Already many of my friends are humbling me by almost demanding support letters. I am so blessed!