Nine Unopened Dead Sea Scrolls Found In Israel Antiquities Authority Storeroom

Great find!

Nine tiny but mighty Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered — or more accurately, re-discovered — within the vaults of at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), The Times of Israel reported.

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The rolled scrolls (in the second row) and their empty cases from Cave 4.While searching through the Israel Antiquities Authority storerooms one day in May 2013, Dr. Yonatan Adler, a lecturer at Ariel University and post-doctoral researcher at Hebrew University, came across an unmarked phylactery case.

He had the case scanned on the suspicion that it might contain an undocumented scroll and in December continued investigating for unopened scrolls while on a visit to the IAA Dead Sea Scrolls labs. There he found two scrolls inside a tefillin case that had been documented after the original 1952 discovery but never examined.

Adler eventually found seven more previously unopened scrolls, all of which are believed to have been included in the discoveries in Qumran Cave 4. Phylacteries, also called tefillin in Hebrew, are pairs of leather cases containing biblical passages and traditionally worn by Jews during prayer.

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A phylactery case from Cave 5.These newly re-discovered scrolls are among more than two dozen tefillin scroll fragments discovered in the Qumran caves, and among thousands of scrolls and scroll fragments found containing biblical and secular texts.

Due to the scope of the scrolls’ initial discovery, curator and director of the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Projects Pnina Shor told The Huffington Post, it is reasonable to assume these nine “new” finds will not be the last.

“With the progress of research on the one hand and our digitization project on the other we hope ‘new’ finds will keep ‘popping up’,” Shor said. “Since we intend to image and eventually treat and preserve every single fragment/item, we hope to find many more such treasures, that have gone unnoticed and have not been deciphered yet.”

Although no major revelations are anticipated form the new scrolls, some of the tefillin cases from the Qumran caves that have been opened have revealed fascinating insights into Jewish life in that era (roughly the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century AD), Shor told HuffPost.

“These parchment slips, folded and placed in capsules, are understood to be the “frontlets between your eyes.” mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:8). The texts are in principle the same as those required by later Rabbinic Halakha and those in use today. Since these tefillin – phylacteries from the Judean Desert caves are the only examples we have from the Second Temple period, we do not know whether their distinctive features reflect the traditions of a specific community or whether they represent a more widespread tradition. Perhaps these “new” ones will shed more light on this matter.”

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A phylactery scroll after it was opened and preserved.Professor Hindy Najman of Yale University also commented to The Times of Israel:

“We have to be prepared for surprises. On the one hand there’s tremendous continuity between what we have found among the Dead Sea Scrolls — liturgically, ritually and textually — and contemporaneous and later forms of Judaism. But there’s also tremendous possibility for variegated practices and a complex constellation of different practices, different influences, different ways of thinking about tefillin.”

Shor will oversee the task of opening and reading these new scrolls, but it will take time and patience, she said. “We need to do a lot of research before we start doing this,” Shor told The Times.

Shor is simultaneously spearheading a project to digitize the entire Dead Sea Scrolls archive for access to a mass audience. She expects IAA to complete the imaging within the next two years, and these nine new scrolls may very well be included in the database

 

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Jesus

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CNN

With Easter approaching, and the movie “Son of God” playing in wide release, you’re going to hear a lot about Jesus these days.

You may hear revelations from new books that purport to tell the “real story” about Jesus, opinions from friends who have discovered a “secret” on the Web about the son of God, and airtight arguments from co-workers who can prove he never existed.

Beware of most of these revelations; many are based on pure speculation and wishful thinking. Much of what we know about Jesus has been known for the last 2,000 years.

Still, even for devout Christian there are surprises to be found hidden within the Gospels, and thanks to advances in historical research and archaeological discoveries, more is known about his life and times.

With that in mind, here are five things you probably didn’t know about Jesus.

They are here, and include:

1.) Jesus came from a nowhere little town.

2.) Jesus probably didn’t know everything.

3.) Jesus was tough.

4.) Jesus needed “me time.”

5.) Jesus didn’t want to die.

 

Every Dream in the Bible…

and what they mean. An infographic:

Infographic: every dream in the Bible (and what they mean)

 

Biblical Waters: Can the Jordan River Be Saved?

Nat Geo has a look.

With the swelling ranks of Syrian refugees in Jordan, an overstressed river is at risk of going dry.

Aerial photo of the Jordan River.

The Jordan River, seen here, is now mostly saline water and liquid wastes.

Rest here.

 

Ancient Rural Town Uncovered in Israel

On the outskirts of Jerusalem.

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… archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2,300-year-old rural village that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

Trenches covering some 8,000 square feet (750 square meters) revealed narrow alleys and a few single-family stone houses, each containing several rooms and an open courtyard. Among the ruins, archaeologists also found dozens of coins, cooking pots, milling tools and jars for storing oil and wine.

“The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards,” Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director for the IAA, explained in a statement.

Archaeologists don’t know what the town would have been called in ancient times, but it sits near the legendary Burma Road, a route that allowed supplies and food to flow into Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The rural village located on a ridge with a clear view of the surrounding countryside, and people inhabiting the region during the Second Temple period likely cultivated orchards and vineyards to make a living, IAA officials said.

The Second Temple period (538 B.C. to A.D. 70) refers to the lifetime of the Jewish temple that was built on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to replace the First Temple after it was destroyed. Archaeological evidence suggests this provincial village hit its peak during the third century B.C., when Judea was under the control of the Seleucid monarchy after the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire. Residents seem to have abandoned the town at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty — when Herod the Great came into power in 37 B.C. — perhaps to chase better job opportunities in the city amid an economic downturn.

“The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod the Great’s succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea,” archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained in a statement. “And it may be related to Herod’s massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects.”

The discovery was made during a salvage excavation ahead of a construction project that began last year; a 21-mile-long (35 kilometers) gas pipeline was supposed to run through the site, but engineering plans were revised to go around the ruins, IAA officials said. Salvage excavations are common in Israel to avoid building over ancient sites. For instance, remarkably well-preserved Byzantine church mosaics were recently revealed ahead of the construction of a park, and an ancient Roman road connecting Jerusalem to Jaffa was uncovered ahead of the installation of a drainage pipe.

 

A Crisis of Biblical Proportions

HT

Church Leader Decries Spread of Prosperity Gospel in South Africa

 

In the Christian Post:

While South Africa can be called a “churched nation” demographically, prosperity gospel, or a “parallel, post-biblical Christianity,” is spreading throughout the country, warns the rector of a reformed evangelical Anglican church who has ministered in Durban City for 17 years.

A churched nation is not the same thing as a “gospeled” nation, writes Grant Retief, the rector of Christ Church Umhlanga just outside of Durbin, in a blog post. Eighty percent of South Africa is Christian, according to the 2001 census.

When people from well-known bigger churches attend his church for a little while, the rector says, “they tell us they are surprised to regularly hear in the preaching and the liturgy that they are sinners.”

That is because of the prosperity gospel phenomenon, of what Retief calls a “parallel, post-biblical Christianity.” “When you stop to look inside these churches, you hear Christian-like things and you see Christian-like activities … Sermons aren’t built on biblical theology, but employ an occasional verse to springboard toward the preacher’s pre-chosen point,” he laments.

Their meanings of biblical terms are vaguely assumed, or are informed not by theology but psychology, he adds. For example, “sin” might be described as the failure to achieve your goals, not as rebellion against an Almighty God.

“All this produces nice people instead of godly people,” Retief argues.

Of course, prosperity gospel churches vary considerably along the theological and socio-economic spectrum, he says. But the various versions of this kind of Christianity are spreading throughout South Africa. “Superficially, it looks alive because it’s vibrant and growing … The gospel is assumed, personal godliness is optional, and theological education is held in suspicion.”

In middle class suburbs, people are generally suspicious of authority, establishment and tradition, he points out. Formal theological education is seen as unnecessary, even harmful by some.

Therefore, there’s a churchscape dominated by independent charismatic churches, Retief writes. “Their leaders are exceptionally gifted, invariably young and powerful motivators and predictably trendy. Yet I cannot think of one that I know of who has had any formal theological training.”

The rector adds: “It is my conviction that the greatest danger posed by these prosperity gospel churches is not only that they get the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit wrong, which they almost always do; they get the doctrine of the work of the Son wrong.”

As he concludes the blog post, Retief offers a solution. It’s found in the New Testament, he says. “It is not macro-organizations or reformed evangelical denominations, as helpful as those may be. It is gospel-preaching local churches.”

Prayers are needed that God would raise up more churches “where the clear gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ remains front and center – come what may!”

HT:  Fr David MacGregor

 

The First Photographs Ever Taken of Jerusalem

Smithsonian has released the first ever photographs taken of the Jerusalem as seen and taken in 1844 by Philibert Girault de Prangey. Simply stunning…

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More of the Holy City then, here.

 

Inter-Religious Dialogue

HT

 

Natural Disasters: Is God in Control?

Via Joy’s January Edition:

The number of natural disasters striking the earth today is unprecedented; monthly we hear of an earthquake or hurricane ripping through entire islands and countrysides. The devastation that follows is usually so systemic, that is takes years, if not decades, for people and countries to recover. And yet as each new disaster hits, the same age-old question emerges (asked by believers and non-believers alike): “Why would God allow such a catastrophe?”

For some Christians, the irrefutable answer is that God is Sovereign and can do what He pleases, and we can rest in the knowledge that it is ultimately part of His great plan for bringing mankind to a place of reckoning and for those who accept it, redemption.

Is God in control of the weather? For other believers though, the notion that God would either actively cause such tragedy, or that reactively, He would allow it, is incongruous with the belief that He is a good God who came “to give us life abundant” (John 10:10).

Rather, for those who view God this way, they would say that because the world is fallen and cursed, that natural disasters are in fact just that – either caused by the effects of nature at war with itself, or by the devil who, as “the prince of this world” has authority to unleash evil and destruction (1 John 5:19) as part of his purposes “to steal, kill and destroy.”  (John 10:10).

Jesus-centred view For others, though God may allow some natural disasters, and even cause them, He is not specifically involved in each one. They base this on the notion that Jesus (as God incarnate on earth) demonstrated a love for people that supersedes the immediate call for judgement (through natural disasters or other means). One respected theologian noted in response to the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, that, “the Jesus revealed in the Bible healed, restored, and raised to life.

Indeed He did warn and admonish, but never with destruction and death. He rebuked the disciples who wanted to call down fire from Heaven on His detractors (Luke 9:54). When one of His followers cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear, Jesus admonished the disciple and healed the man’s ear. Throughout Scripture we see that God always warns before He destroys or judges a nation. If there was no distinct warning from God, then I do not believe the Japanese tsunami was an act of punishment or judgement.”

For a prominent Christian pastor, it is critical to realise that the devil has power in this world (though admittedly it is power granted to him for an allotted time by God.)

This pastor explains, “The Old Testament story of Job is a classic example of how God sometimes allows satan to bring calamities. Job lost his cattle, crops, and family to vicious attacks, a killer hurricane, and firestorm. Job’s friends said these disasters came from God, but a careful reading of reveals that it was satan who brought these evils. (Job 1:1-12).”

Another perspective For another theologian (I withhold names because often as Christians we polarise our responses to difficult theological questions and lose the point of the message when we know of the messenger), God is most certainly in control of the weather and can work His purposes for good, in the midst of hopeless destruction.

Acknowledging the laws of nature In a response to the recent typhoon that ravaged the Philippines, he had this answer for the journalists questioning God’s role: “Tragedies cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is distressing that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature (Gen 1:1).

Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

The consequences of the Fall The Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ holds all of nature together (Col 1:16-17). Could God prevent natural disasters? Absolutely! Does God sometimes influence the weather? Yes, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:17 and James 5:17. Numbers 16:30-34 shows us that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgement against sin. The book of Revelation describes many events which could definitely be described as natural disasters (Rev 6, 8, and 16). Is every natural disaster a punishment from God? Absolutely not.

In much the same way that God allows evil people to commit evil acts, God allows the earth to reflect the consequences sin has had on creation. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The Fall of humanity into sin affected everything, including the world we inhabit. Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” Sin is the ultimate cause of natural disasters just as it is the cause of death, disease, and suffering.

Why would God allow this? We can understand why natural disasters occur. What we do not understand is why God allows them to occur. Why did God allow the tsunami to kill over 225 000 people in Asia?

Why did God allow Hurricane Katrina to destroy the homes of thousands of people? For one thing, such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity.

Saving the lost Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realise how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant. What we do know is this: God is good!

Many amazing miracles occurred during the course of natural disasters that prevented even greater loss of life. Natural disasters cause millions of people to re-evaluate their priorities in life. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to saving faith in Christ!

Resting in His love One of the greatest challenges we have as Christians is to somehow continue to believe God and to trust Him in the midst of horrendous devastation. When you see children being separated from their fathers and mothers, when you see hundreds of people dead, it is very natural to ask, “Where is God?”

We can wrestle with these questions till Christ returns, and we can attempt to answer the critics of Christ in all sincerity, but ultimately, the ways of God are higher than the ways of man; His thoughts supersede our reasoning. Ultimately this is what we know: God loves us, He died for us and offers to those who follow Him, a glorious eternity. 

To think about:

Do you believe God is in control of the weather?

• Are natural disasters a punishment of the nations?

• Does satan have authority over the weather at all?

• Do you believe the world will end in our lifetime?

HT:  Fr David MacGregor

 

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