Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ketef Hinnom: An Important Archeological Find

In 1979 an archeological team led by Garbriel Barkay discovered two tiny silver scrolls, thought to be amulets worn around the neck, that tell a very large story.

The discovery was made in a burial tomb across the Hinnom Valley to the southwest from the old city wall of Jerusalem, the site being called Ketef Hinnom. The significance of this find has been slow in developing. The scrolls are so fragile that it was three years before they were opened. When finally opened, they revealed Hebrew text that contained God’s personal name, YHWH, as well as what appeared to be quotes from the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

The text was photographed in the 1980s and analyzed over the years by scholars, who dated the text to the post-exilic era. Their analysis, however, was skewed by the less-than-ideal quality of the photographs.

In 1994 the amulets were again photographed with much improved photographic techniques. These new photos revealed detail that was previously unobserved, allowing the scholars to re-date to scrolls to a time prior to the Babylonian exile of the Jews in 586 B.C.

Amulet I, 3.8” x 1.1” in size, reads:
[...]YHW...the grea[t...who keeps] the covenant and [G]raciousness toward those who love [Him] and those who keep [His commandments...]. The Eternal? [...]. [the?] blessing more than any [sna]re and more than Evil. For redemption is in Him. For YHWH is our restorer [and] rock. May YHWH bles[s] you and keep you. [May] YHWH make [His face] shine…”.

Amulet II, 1.5” x .4” in size, reads:
[First line almost completely illegible.] May h[e]/sh[e] be blessed by Yahweh, the warrior [or “helper”] and the rebuker of [E]vil: May Yahweh bless you, keep you. May Yahweh make His face shine upon you and grant you p[ea]ce”. (online reference)

Notice that both of these texts contain a form of the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. “The importance of this find can hardly be overstated. It proves this section of Numbers was written at least 2,600 years ago. This Old Testament passage is 400 years older than the oldest Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts, and perhaps even older yet. This makes the silver scrolls the oldest Biblical text confirmed through archaeology. The age of the text may prove a nail in the coffin of the Documentary Hypothesis theories that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, or that it was not even known in Moses’ time. Those theories speculate that large segments of the first five books of the Bible originated in the period of Ezra: 400–500 BC. In this debate, some of the arguments revolve around the use of YHWH, the divine name of God (often rendered ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’), which is said not to have been in use before this time. The silver scrolls, dated before 586 BC, contain that name. In fact, this is the earliest the name had been found in any dig in Jerusalem.” (online reference)

So these tiny scrolls really do tell an important story. They confirm what Christians already believe, that the books of the Bible reflect an accurate historical timeline and weren’t fabricated at a later date as higher critics would have you believe. That some pious Jew wore these sacred texts around their neck as they went about their daily life teaches us something else as well:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Of course, if you’re waiting for the Discovery Channel special on Ketef Hinnom, you’ll be waiting for a long time. While the world clamors around archeological finds that purportedly demonstrate this month’s version of “the missing link,” we Christians take comfort in the words of our Lord in John 20:29b, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."


Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott-- we just finished the LLL Bible Study on "How we got the Bible" and you post this fascinating article. I remember reading about this, and kind of wondered whatever happened to it. It certainly doesn't do the H/C hypothesis any good, does it?

Now if we could just find Peter's fishing net or that bowl of manna,or David's smooth five stones, we'd really have something, eh?


Scott Diekmann said...

Well I've got a good one for you since you're into archeological evidence Johannes. The Ark of the Covenant has been found! Actually it was found quite a while ago - I guess they're trying to coordinate the book and Discovery Channel show (kidding about that part). According to Ron Wyatt, who is now dead by the way, he discovered the ark in a dig underneath the crucifixion site. Christ's blood actually dripped down through a crack in the rock and onto the atonement seat. Quite the story.

It seems a bit fanciful to me. One of the pilots I flew with at my airline flew with a guy who actually went out to meet Mr. Wyatt and speak with him, and the pilot thought Mr. Wyatt was credible.

Jer 3:16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.

Rev 11:19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Anonymous said...

I thought Indiana Jones found the Ark.


Indiana Johannes

Martin Diers said...

Oh, boy. Quite a yarn, there. It all sounds so ... convenient and predictable. Every detail seems custom designed to fit our expectations of the story. And of course, as with every other story like it, no pictures, and in this case, quite literally, a deus ex machina explanation as to why not.

Once upon a time I would have given a chance to a story like this. But whenever heavenly apparitions become part of the story, and future prophecies come into it, I'm done. The only new prophecies I will listen to will have to come from the mouth of my Savior, when he shows up in person on the last day. Until then, I know where I can hear his voice and be certain that it is actually Him speaking.