The “Original” Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Can the scrolls help expose the original Bible language within the Masoretic Text and Septuagint?


The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:8) in the Masoretic Text describes the Most High dividing the nations according to number of “the sons [children?] of Israel.” This Dead Sea Scroll fragment (4QDeutj) and the third-century B.C.E. translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch into Greek (the Septuagint [LXX]), however, say the nations were divided according to the “sons of Elohim” (God). What did the original Bible text say? Photo: IAA.

For centuries, Bible scholars examined two ancient texts to elucidate the original language of the Bible: the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. The Masoretic Text is a traditional Hebrew text finalized by Jewish scholars around 1000 C.E. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Torah created by the Jews of Alexandria in the third century B.C.E. (The other books of the Hebrew Bible were translated over the course of the following century.) According to Septuagint tradition, at least 70 isolated ancient scholars came up with identical Greek translations of the Torah.

Which is the “original” Bible? How do we decide which of these two ancient texts is more authoritative? In “Searching for the ‘Original’ Bible” in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hebrew University of Jerusalem scholar and long-time editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication team Emanuel Tov suggests we turn to the Dead Sea Scrolls to help us compare the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls actually have more in common with the Greek Septuagint than the traditional Hebrew Masoretic Text, showing that the Greek translators must have been translating from Hebrew texts that resembled the Dead Sea Scrolls. Are the Dead Sea Scroll texts as trustworthy as these other two sources? Are they as close to the text of the original Bible?


The Great Isaiah Scroll is one of the most iconic of the Dead Sea Scrolls, yet it does not reflect the original language of the Bible. Tov calls it “a classroom example of what an inferior text looks like, with its manifold contextual changes, harmonizations, grammatical adaptions, etc.” Photo: John C. Trevor, Ph.D. Digital Image: James E. Trevor.

Some turn to the Dead Sea Scrolls simply because they are older: 2,000-year-old texts were less likely to be subjected to scribal corruption, implying that they reflect a more original Bible language. Tov supplements this chronological reasoning with a logical—and admittedly subjective—approach: He examines which text makes the most sense in a given context. Tov examines a number of textual discrepancies between Bible versions (Did God finish work on the sixth or seventh day before resting on the seventh day? How were the nations divided according to the number of the sons of God?) in his search for the original Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Explore the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.

As an example, Tov asks: Did Hannah bring one bull or three bulls as an offering at Shiloh? (1 Samuel 1:24):

When the infant Samuel had been weaned and his mother, Hannah, finally came to Shiloh with her son, she also brought with her an offering for the Lord that is described in two ways in our textual sources. According to the Masoretic Text, she brought “three bulls,” but according to the Septuagint and a Qumran scroll (4QSama from 50–25 B.C.E.) she brought one “three-year-old bull.”

I believe that Hannah probably offered only a single bull (as in the Septuagint and 4QSama); supporting this choice is the next verse in the Masoretic Text which speaks about “the bull.” I believe the Masoretic Text was textually corrupted when the continuous writing (without spaces between words) of the original words prm/shlshh (literally: “bulls three”) underlying the Septuagint was divided wrongly to pr mshlsh (“three-year-old bull”).*

The evidence of the Septuagint, being in Greek, always depends on a reconstruction into Hebrew, and consequently the Qumran scroll here helps us in deciding between the various options. Incidentally an offering of a “three-year-old bull” is mentioned in Genesis 15:9. It shows that a Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint once existed in which Hannah brought only one three-year-old bull.

Tov uses the Dead Sea Scrolls to elucidate the original language of the Bible not only because they are the oldest Bible manuscripts, but also because they provide additional logical clues. He concludes: “In finding our way in the labyrinth of textual sources of the Bible, we must slowly accumulate experience and intuition. When maneuvering among the sources, we will find much help in the Dead Sea Scrolls. But they must be used judiciously.”


Subscribers: Continue on the search for the “original” Bible as Emanuel Tov explores different versions of important Biblical passages. Read the full article “Searching for the ‘Original’ Bible” by Emanuel Tov as it appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a subscriber yet? Join today.

This Bible History Daily article was originally published on June 27, 2014.



* Many thanks to Joseph Lauer for a careful reading of the text, and to Emanuel Tov for clarification. The text:

“…of the original words prm/shlshh (literally: ‘bulls three’) underlying the Septuagint was divided wrongly to pr mshlsh (‘three-year-old bull’)”

Should read:

“…of the original words pr mshlsh (‘three-year-old bull’) underlying the Septuagint was divided wrongly to prm/shlshh (literally: ‘bulls three’)”


72 Responses

  1. Semi tre says:

    Maybe is not profitable?

  2. William says:

    There is no longer “The Septuagint “. It was lost centuries ago. Any claim that we have copies of the true and only Septuagint are completely false.

  3. Karl EzekiEL Mohamad Kirsch says:

    Why can’t I find an actual Greek Bible that I can read Kuyrios THeos PantoKrator Basilios, kai Iesouys ho KHristos, on the internet? THey give me a bunch of silly nonsense about books I can’t buy, but no one on the internet has the faintest clue how to put the New Testament Zondervan Interlinear hEllenika Greek on the internet, like EuvAnggelion kata Ioanen, En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton THeon, kai THeos en ho logos. Lost Conklin book blocks my use of library.

  4. Bob says:

    Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaticus greek septuagints are the oldest sources and were neglected for too long because early scholars thought the masoretic text was closer to the original. Thankfully this is no longer the case and some errors are gradually being corrected which confirm prophecies quoted in the New Testament.
    I have asked Bible Gateway to include Brentons Septuagint in their translations but they will not do it for some reason.

  5. robis says:

    Interesting….I like reading Tov sometimes. NIV says “three year old bull” but the AOTC commentator argues against that and translates “weaned him with three bulls” and then explains his reasoning…… I find these other comments by people on this site interesting. Tov may or may not think himself the final arbiter on biblical translation, as Gareth seems to believe, but he is one voice, and that is fine.

  6. Dennis B. Swaney says:

    @Laura, I think you meant “…LATER translations…” as the Aleppo Codex was written in the 10th Century (901 – 1000) AD/CE or a little earlier (roughly) than the Masoretic Text. Thus translations earlier than the 10th Century AD/CE couldn’t have been copied from it.

    Also remember that the Greek Septuagint IS a Greek translation(s) from Hebrew versions of the Torah. Since the Septuagint was written in the 3rd Century (300 – 201) BC/BCE, those Hebrew Torahs were most likely written in the late 4th Century (350 – 301) or early 3rd Century BC/BCE.

  7. Dr G says:

    Its interesting that Tov considers himself the only one with the correct interpretation of the bible. Sometimes what may be “inconsistencies” are actually there for a reason.
    While he may be a bible scholar the bible will always be viewed from the beliefs of the one translating it which in my opinion is where it always has gone wrong.

    They should provide a word for word translation and allow interested readers to interpret it as they see it. I must it seems really odd and obnoxious to say the dead sea scrolls are a “inferior text” simply because it does not match the beliefs of Tov. Classical and amateur mistake is to discard something based solely on how one sees the world or how things should be according to them.

  8. Ben says:

    I recall reading (I think it was in BAR) that the Dead Sea Scrolls are a mix of masoretic and non-masoretic texts, with the majority being masoretic. This article makes it sound like all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are non-masoretic.

  9. Laura Elkins says:

    The oldest text I have heard of is the Allepo Codex and it was in Hebrew so I would think earlier translations would have been originally copied from it. I have read that Scribes would come from all over the World to check there texts against the Allepo to make sure there text matched it perfectly.

  10. desmond wheeler says:

    I would really like to know from did the stories of risen is taken is it real

  11. DJR says:

    It’s all greek to me

  12. Liana Fushan Ferrer says:

    Lean la Biblia Textual IV edición. Esta versión incluye esta corrección en su traducción al español en 1 Samuel 1.24:
    “Y cuando lo hubo destetado, subió con él a Silo llevando un novillo trienal, un efa de flor de harina y un odre de vino; y entró en la Casa de YHVH en Silo junto con el niño.”

  13. me says:

    new world translation of the holy scriptures

  14. Phil Roberts says:

    Love you guys. The KJV is one of hundreds of English translations of what survives of the original manuscripts, in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek — what have you. Today the Bible leaves us with a series of linguistic conundrums that can never be “solved” — which is in itself the real message of the Bible: it’s not about words, it’s about awakening to the reality of our existence in our universe and contemplating what we make of it.

  15. Twohands says:

    It wasn’t until 1,200 AD when the KJV come out that JESUS existed. He was NEVER in the ORIGINAL writings! He really NEVER EXISTED! Just like there was no such person as the Virgin mother Mary. The REAL virgin in the ORIGINAL writings was mother MARIAN, not Mary! The original writings there was NO GOD, he was YAHWEH! The catholic TRANSLATIONS will condemn you!

  16. Teresa says:

    I would like to know why is man changing the word of God constantly and I would like to know where I can get original Bible from the very beginning before man started changing it

  17. Norberto says:

    I would like to know where can i get a english copy of ancient biblical old testament text.

  18. Floyd says:

    KJV was not inspired by GOD… …but by man, do ur research!

  19. Brittany says:

    All I want:
    To have love for all my fellow brothers and sisters
    To make sure my KJV Bible is the real truth and its true origin
    Gain knowledge everyday
    Spread the truth and love

  20. Brittany Truitt says:

    Slave says: I completely agree!

  21. Joshua says:

    We Dont Need To Ague Too Much On Scriptures They Are Inspired By God Himself Thanx

  22. Slave of God says:

    Debates , confusion , translation of words and verses , please , we can’t debate the greatest commandment of them all which needs no interpretation no special language . To have LOVE amongst yourselves , to LOVE your enemy. Discussions are great , but some discussions lead to frustration and anger . If we can all master this commandment our world would be a better place for us all .

  23. Joel says:

    Is our Lord, Savior and soon comng King an idea, fable or the most authentic vessel of truth and clarity to man’s existence? Are the Holy Scriptures just a conglomoration of contaminated writings or the history and future accurately narrated of our LORD’S journey from Creator in creation; to the Babe hiding in Egypt; to the Lamb slain on the cross and finally the conquering King who shall return to judge this world? What about the recorded truths concerning Israel and “those who call themselves jews and are not”? Translations? I’m not going to get distracted by minor differences, what is important is that I know the truth and how it is going to climax and those arguments/differences have no bearing on my eternal salvation. Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

  24. Yahushua believer says:

    Why change our messiah’s name? Names donot change, westernizing or transliterating his name is blasphemy. Yahushua was not greek or latin or greek

  25. Yahushua believer says:

    I would love books translated straight from hebrew to english. There is so much kept fron us, but Yahuah is being restored as well as the saving power through his name Yahushua, chip away to reveal what has been hidden from us. Truth seeker

  26. WILLIAM says:


  27. christoper laro says:

    And oh btw, I just have to remind us all, this is Hebrew hero tale. It is a huge planet with about a million OTHER Hero tales that have nothing to do w/ Jesus. Read the other JC (Joseph Campbell) and learn of heros. Jesus’ life story, myth, PR, historical truths and hyperbole are sacred and worthwhile. But ultimate reality of our origins? No. Walk with ALL the heros. One creator force brought us all into being. But to believe in only one story, is egocentric and ignorant. The real truth, I suspect, is far more incredible than one man dying on a cross. Far more, mind blowing and far too complicated for us humans to fathom. Yet, the death and resurrection motif is so powerful an icon, it alone serves to draw us into a deeper inward journey.

  28. christoper laro says:

    Interesting history of course. However, so much competing/conflicting dogma to slog through which is why I posit this: I sit by a tree and sense if, feel it, recognize the tree as, ‘tree.’ Why then would I dwell on dogma of ‘tree,’ instead of simply, sitting with the tree? No dogma. Just, tree as she is, created by a seeding decades ago. Dogma kills the poetry. Humans eat metaphor like hungry jackals and never sit by a tree. This is why, scriptures of any kind, fail. The words of men, lowly men ne’re a deity. Or for that matter, a tree. Peace.

  29. J.R. Woods says:

    Who are the Isrealites?

  30. Running the race says:

    The word of God would have been written in the language of the original writer! Copies would have been made through time and written in other languages!! The originals most likely, wouldn’t have survived time!! What did survive are copies and so we have something to think and argue about! The word of God still hold’s it’s value as being absolutely the truth!! In the bigger picture of things, are you ready to meet the almighty God !! I just hope to hear him say well done my good and faithful servant, and I hope that along the way I have made the difference in someone life that they hear those same words as well !! GOD bless you all !!

  31. Steven says:

    My friends just believe that Jesus Christ who died on Calvary shed his blood for you, and that by shedding his blood he covered your sins and obey the 10 Commandments. My Jewish friends “Your Savior” has already come and he is coming again! God is a supernatural God and will lift the veil from your eyes if you earnestly prey for truth. Although it is next to impossible to obey “the commandments” at all times in your walk through life, God sent you a redeemer. Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Rejoice for the Angels are Rejoicing in Heaven that the time is near for our Savoir is soon to return “again”. May he open all hearts to this Truth….. Amen!

  32. Chris Watts says:

    All this intense study and you still neglect the most important fact! THE HEBREWS ARE NEGROID DESCENT. AND YAHUSHA (JESUS) WAS TOO!

  33. Jeremy Sostheim says:

    Does anyone know of research done on differences between the 5 Books of Moses as found in the Dead Sea scrolls and the ones scribed today?

  34. michael says:

    What is the government of today up to? In regards to modern changes?

  35. Patricia says:

    I have been reading the book of Job, where on earth did the wrighter of this book come up with such detailed events, seems pretty far fetched to me that they found such a complete scroll ,please let me know where I can read how this story came about.Thank you so much for your time.PL

  36. Diego again says:

    you can find thousands of books
    preach thousands of doctrines
    limit God to three when revelations mentions about the 7 Spirits of God
    but at the and a very simple teaching was left to us
    Believe in Him and be righteous

  37. Diego says:

    we are all lost and none of us can see.
    the scriptures tell us about the Messiah. Jesus full filled the profecies. It also says that Jesus teach them but and multitudes followed him. I wonder what was He teaching that only a few things got written. And what else he taught his disciples?
    No one of them took more notes of his teachings?
    The book of Enoch talks about the Son of Man. Jesus is called the Son of Man in so many verses.
    people saying Jesus is not the Messiah and that he is Satan and they say the same thing about the Book of Enoch.
    And 2 Tesalossians 2:1-12 is really powerful
    are we believing the lies?
    we think we have faith but do we?
    but one thing is for sure we all forgot about righteousness.
    and be careful of what you preach because at the they of the judgment everyone that learned from you will point their fingers to you

  38. Kurt says:

    HEBREW TEXT: The Masoretic Hebrew text used for the preparation of the English text of the Hebrew Scripture portion of the New World Translation was the Codex Leningrad B 19A (of U.S.S.R.), as presented in R. Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (BHK), seventh, eighth and ninth editions (1951-55). An update of this work known as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), 1977 edition, was used to prepare the footnote apparatus of this 1984 edition. Italicized words designated as “Heb.” are transliterated from BHS.

  39. Dominic says:

    Can you please provide specific details (title and or isbn) to what you would consider the most credible translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls? An email with this information would be greatly appreciated.

  40. alex says:

    I find mistranslations and man made stories written in Modern day bibles. The true original texts are gone. Although i do believe some is true.

  41. Jose Naim Wolf says:

    Ya he dejado antes una respuesta pero si la borran no es culpa mia.

    Creo que la Biblia es la TORÁ pero no se hebreo . Jose Naim Wolf

  42. Nick says:

    Psalm 12:6-7 the words The Lord are pure words:as silver tried in a furnace of earth,purified seven times.
    Thou shalt keep them,O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

    Hosea 8:12 I have written to him the great things of my law,but they were counted as a strange thing.

    Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;….Folks He wrote It and preserved it. There can’t be a couple hundred years with out a English written bible and if the Dead Sea scrolls are the TRUE scrolls that would be the case. Kjv 1611 niv 1978. For they DO NOT say the same thing.Satan is very powerful and very deceitful. Look at what he said to eve in the garden, Yea, hath God said,… Questioning her did God really say that. If God is the author of one who is the author of the rest?He lives He lives!!!

  43. Jesus Through Historicity and Science | When is Jesus Coming Back? says:

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  44. Robin Ward says:

    The Maseritic texts MUST be correct –hence ,no conflict. For the simple reason , the 300BCE copy called the septuigent does not exist and never did.
    all so-called “proofs” that there ever was such a document are based on ORIGENS bogus copy in the Vatican
    This copy has at least 14 “hands” correcting it
    Using Origens bogus copy to prove the existance of a 300 BCE version is CIRCULAR reasoning ; therefore WORTHLESS
    The deadf sea scroles also do not have any fragments of this BOGUS document

    Get rid of the NIV , now!!! its a jesuite based fraud , and a lousy translation to boot

  45. Kurt says:

    Reliability of the Bible and the DSS
    We’ve had recent comments about the reliability of biblical translations in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) or Septuagint Version (LXX). I guess that some perceive a possible conflict between the Masoretic Text, the LXX and the DSS.

    I consulted Geza Vermes translation of the DSS (introductory notes) and he appears to downplay any potential difficulty that might exist for how we read Scripture juxtaposed with the DSS or LXX.

    The example adduced by Tov from 1 Samuel 1:24 provides an interesting case study.

  46. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Masoretic Text, and the Septuagint | Church History says:

    […]… […]

  47. Dave johnson says:

    We are assured by God Himself that the Word will remain intact. I have complete faith that the message of the Bible is what God intends it to be.

  48. Paul Ballotta says:

    “And it came to pass, when the most blessed Mary went into the temple (called the ‘Capitol of Egypt’) with the little child, that all the idols prostrated themselves on the ground, so that all of them were lying on their faces shattered and broken to pieces, and thus was said by the prophet Isaiah; ‘Behold, the Lord will come upon a swift cloud, and will enter Egypt, and all the handiwork of the Egyptians shall be moved at His presence (Isaiah 19:1)” (The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapter 23).

  49. Rose says:

    Anyone who researches the source(s) of the Old Testament and ignores Elephantine is just presenting incomplete research. My challenge to any scholar is to draw the border between Israel and Egypt in 1000 BCE on a map. We all base our so called ‘facts’ on a virtual border that’s meaningless historically. We just imagine a border, but nobody has ever been able to draw it on a map. We don’t even know when the Delta was flooded and when it was dry, let alone a border.

    The actual archeology points to Elephantine as being the oldest Hebrew Temple we have. The oldest inscriptions of YHVH are the Shasu of YWH inscriptions in Nubia just south of Elephantine. The oldest mention of the, ‘House of YHVH’ is at Elephantine. There no evidence of a Temple in modern Jerusalem before Herod, in fact Josephus says there was only an altar of huge white stones, and that Herod removed whatever was there and built the Temple Mount.
    The stories of the return of the of the captives to the Temple in Ezra and Nehemiah are exclusively about the restoration of the Temple at Elephantine under Darius II. The names of the people and the events regarding the Temple are the same as the names and events at Elephantine.

    It’s pure ignorance to say the return of the captives was under Darius I, after all the only Darius after Artaxerxes was Darius II. Fundamentalists just say the book of Ezra is all mixed up ;-))). There never was a return to modern Jerusalem archeologically speaking; it was the restoration of the Temple at Elephantine under Darius II about 419 BCE. In fact Ezra himself literally says there was no previous Temple when the Temple was started, the foundation hadn’t been laid. Elephantine began under Cyrus the Great but was stopped sometime after the reign of Cambyses. It was later rebuilt under Darius II. Exactly as the chronology of the Book of Ezra has it.

    Ezra 3
    6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.

    Ezra 4
    23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
    24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

    Josephus records the writing of Hecateus regarding what was on the Mound in modern Jerusalem before Herod in Apion I, 22. These are most likely the stones Herod used for the base of the Temple Mount (wailing wall).

    “There is about the middle of the city a wall of stone, whose length is five hundred feet, and the breadth a hundred cubits, with double cloisters; wherein there is a square altar, not made of hewn stone, but composed of white stones gathered together, having each side twenty cubits long, and its altitude ten cubits. Hard by it is a large edifice, wherein there is an altar and a candlestick, both of gold, and in weight two talents: upon these there is a light that is never extinguished, either by night or by day.”

    As for Jesus? Long before John introduced us to the Lamb of God, there was the Prophesy of the Lamb, or Oracle of the Lamb (6 CE) in the Nile Delta. It’s a story of a Lamb sent from God to judge the world.

    “The lamb’s poetic chant of “woe and abomination” recalls biblical oracles against Egypt.”
    The Literature of Ancient Egypt, edited by William Kelly Simpson

    “The lamb concluded absolutely all of the matters to be said, and he died.”
    ~Prophesy of the Lamb

    Since this was written when Jesus was 5 years old (6CE), it would have been circulating when Jesus, Mary and Josephus went into Egypt right?


  50. Ryan James Pickard says:

    “marginal”? Hmmm… Let us not forget that there was a ‘synagogue of the Alexandrians’ in Jerusalem catering for members of the Diaspora from Egypt. As a place of pilgrimage, Jerusalem was a hotbed of sectarianism then just as it is today.

  51. D Kennedy says:

    The Elephantine texts are interesting but marginal. They come from a small Jewish community well away from the core community in Judea or in Persia. The text from Kings about Rabshakeh implies that the Judeans spoke Hebrew, not Aramaic, although the two languages are close relatives. Indeed, the relationship of Hebrew to Aramaic, as well as Edomite and Moabite, is close enough to infer that the Hebrew-speaking Israelites came from the east, not from the Canaanite or Phoenician coastal cities.

    All the First Temple-era texts from archaeological work are in Hebrew, written in paleo-Hebrew script. Aramaic did not become a lingua franca until the Persian conquest. The Persians made Aramaic one of the official languages of their empire. Before that, it was an obscure language of a small kingdom around Damascus.

    As for Jesus’ supposed quote from the LXX Isaiah, it’s far more likely that the gospel’s report of Jesus speaking is not verbatim, but copied by the evangelist from the LXX he knew in Greek. Wherever the NT quotes the Hebrew bible, it’s always the LXX. But that’s not surprising: the evangelists were Greek-speaking authors working and preaching in a Hellenistic environment that was completely Greek in language. The LXX was natural.

  52. francise5 says:

    It surprises me that up till now people discuss about Jesus when the Dead sea scrolls have proven that Jesus is a might of The Romans and a total allegory. Even the Demon whom The satanic kingdom has given power as Jesus has tried to kill me after I refused his warning not to tell people that he is not real. This is because YHWH revealed whom this entity is to me in 2007. The worst thing anybody will do is to talk about this evil name Jesus. Lack of repentance has made it impossible for YHWH to reveal hidden truth about the evil Christianity in this world. The messiah is not Jesus if you are spirit filled to see the messiah you will know that Jesus is a pagan deity (zeus) without Glory like Yahshua in spirit. Allelu-Yah.

  53. David Paul says:

    From a prophetic standpoint, and on at least some level, historical as well, the fact that the Elephantine Jewish community existed where it did makes it a dubious outlier. YHWH explicitly told Israel that they were never to return to Egypt. This community utterly disregarded that command, and so it must be taken into account that this community didn’t have a tremendous amount of internal motivation to live in complete accord with YHWH’s word, This is true regardless of the fact that they maintained a temple in honor of YHWH. This shouldn’t cause any problems of understanding–the Bible is filled with testimony that Israelites either apostatized altogether or liberally mixed YHWH worship with “pagan” religion. Historically, we have found images of YHWH with a consort, which constitutes a double transgression. Even Aaron’s golden calf was welcomed with a feast to YHWH. I’m not suggesting that Elephantine has nothing a value to offer scholars and historians, but it should be acknowledged for what it was…a rather bizarre little cult that tried to honor the God they deliberately chose to dishonor. Could it offer something of value not generally acknowledged? Possibly, but the evidence needs to be convincingly presented.

  54. Paul Ballotta says:

    Interesting that Rose brought up the issue of the Jewish community in Elephantine being mostly ignored. Their prescence at Egpyt’s southern border to provide security fit in with their pastoralist lifestyle shared by the Cushite people, “for all shepherds are abhorent to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34). It also appears this community was in fullfillment of Isaiah 19:18; “On that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan and swearing by the Lord of Hosts; one shall be called ‘City of the Sun'” (New American Bible). The temple at Abu Simbel that was built in honor of Pharaoh Ramses was oriented toward the rising sun and was adorned with statues of baboons raising their hands in adoration of the rising sun; 22 of them, like the letters of the Hebrew/Aramaic alphabet.

  55. Rose says:

    Anybody can see the Elephantine texts.

    The earliest language recording Bible verses would be Aramaic, as the Elephantine Papyrus is the oldest existing source. The Passover Papyrus is from 419 BCE during the reign of Darius II and follows the history and individuals names in both Ezra and Nehemiah.,_419_BCE

    Corresponding names are Delaiah, Sanaballatt, YHVH, Queen of Heaven, and Darius. Corresponding places are Judea, Bethel (Bethel being Elephantine in some of the texts) and the House of YHVH. Corresponding themes are the stoppage and rebuilding of the Temple, its walls and doors.

    Meaning there is a record of Bible events going back at least to 419 BCE. The oldest language that records these events in existence today is Aramaic. While this may not fit one’s axiom(s), it’s never the less actuality.

    Which comes back to the sources of the original Biblical texts. Why no mention of Elephantine? If the texts found at Elephantine were found in modern Jerusalem, Christians and Jews would be in everybody’s face about what it ‘proves’. Yet the texts are right there at the Hebrew Temple in Elephantine and Christianity and Judaism mostly brushes them under the carpet as if they were a red headed step child. Wonder why?

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  57. Dave Jacquin says:

    First written Text,? Records? Of Bible ?,and what Script? What Language?

  58. David Flug says:

    There was separation of letters between words far earlier that the writing of the Septuagint and the final version of the Masoretic text so I dont think that is the cause of the scribal error.. It is easy to see though, how the MEM might have moved to the end of PAR.

  59. Rose says:

    Good point Kelly. On the other hand the inconsistency between the texts is in itself proof that the texts were inconsistent.

    If we dissolve the axioms and assumptions like, “Jesus spoke Aramaic”, or “Greek was the lingua franca of Galilee and Judea”, and simply follow the texts, we come to a completely different conclusion. Josephus who was the Governor of Galilee between 64 CE and 66 CE says the people in Judea and Galilee only spoke Hebrew (not Aramaic or Greek) and Greek was only used by the Aristocrats and ruling class, never the Priesthood in Galilee and Jerusalem.

    Josephus clearly differentiates between the Hebrew tongue and Syrian tongue (Aramaic).

    Antiq. X, 1,
    2. …….When Rabshakeh had made this speech in the Hebrew tongue, for he was skillful in that language, Eliakim was afraid lest the multitude that heard him should be disturbed; so he desired him to speak in the Syrian tongue.

    Josephus says Greek was unaccustomed (i.e. not the lingua franca of the priesthood in Galilee and Jerusalem).

    Antiq, Preface
    2. Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study; for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures. …….. I grew weary and went on slowly, it being a large subject, and a difficult thing to translate our history into a foreign, and to us unaccustomed language.

    Josephus had to go to great pains to learn Greek.

    Antiq, XX, 11,
    2. …. For those of my own nation freely acknowledge that I far exceed them in the learning belonging to Jews; I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods;

    However this was not the case in Alexandria as Philo is only aware of the Greek Old Testament. He describes the meaning of the changing of Abram to Abraham, and Sari to Sarah using the Greek spellings of the names, Philo is clueless to the Hebrew spellings.

    Philo of Alexandria, “On the Change of Names”
    VIII, ….. the letter rho, appears to have bestowed upon men a most marvellous and great benefit; for he has called the wife of Abram Sarrah instead of Sarah, doubling the Rho,” and connecting a number of similar arguments without drawing breath, and joking and mocking, he went through many instances.

    After studying Philo and Josephus, it’s crystal clear that the Greek scriptures emanated from Alexandria, while the Hebrew Scriptures were from Judea/Galilee.

    So why is Jesus reading from a Greek Bible at a Synagogue in Nazareth?
    What language are Pilate and Jesus speaking in this image?

    As for Aramaic, it’s was the language that first recorded the Passover (Elephantine Texts), however if Josephus is to be believed (as well as the archeology), Aramaic was only in use by the Syrians according to the ancient writings themselves.

  60. Robin says:

    Interesting article — and interesting discussion between Rose and Kelly.

  61. David Rosenberg says:

    Very interesting–and contextually, very lame. The context of “the original Bible” is sadly misleading, since the original texts for the Torah were wriiten in Jerusalem, starting in the tenth century, BCE. And that’s the context most relevant to a Hebraic original, i.e. the context of the Jewish authorship.

  62. Kelly says:

    I appreciate this detailed comment. I, however, see a difference between a statement that is either included/omitted in one text or another and statements that seem contradictory as Tov cited.

  63. Rose says:

    The problem with this research is that it’s totally up to the interpretation of Tov. Additionally the text chosen for comparison in this article is kinda’ a red herring. Why not look at Isaiah 61 as it was quoted by Jesus Christ himself in Luke 4:18,19?
    What we see is that the Dead Sea Scrolls are not consistent among themselves. In the Great Isaiah Scroll we do not have the language, “recovery of sight to the blind” as part of Isaiah 61, which matches the King James Version of Isaiah. While 4Q521 does have, “recovery of sight to the blind”, which is in harmony with Christ himself who quotes, “recovery of sight to the blind” as being part of Isaiah 61. Which would mean Christ read from the LXX, not any Hebrew or Aramaic text right?.


    1) The LXX claims, “recovery of sight to the blind” is part of Isaiah 61.
    2) Scroll 4Q521 does have , “recovery of sight to the blind”.
    3) Luke claims, “recovery of sight to the blind” was part of Isaiah 61.

    4) The Masoretic Text does not have, “recovery of sight to the blind” in Isaiah 61.
    5) The Great Isaiah Scroll(s) do not have, “recovery of sight to the blind” in Isaiah 61.

    LXX Esaias 61
    1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind;

    KJ Isaiah 61
    1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

    Great Isaiah Scroll Qumran
    1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because YHWH has anointed me to preach good tidings to the weak; to bind up the brokenhearted, to call to the captives liberty, and to the imprisoned the opening of prison.

    Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent]

    Luke 4
    17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
    18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
    19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

  64. VinceC says:

    Very interesting. I have assumed that this was already been done by scholars, but perhaps not. It was also news to me that the Torah was translated in the Greek before the rest of the LXX– as early as the third century BC.

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