Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ketef Hinnom

In the newest issue (vol. 35; nos. 4/5) of Biblical Archaeology Review (which, by the way, I highly recommend to anyone interested in the history of the Holy Land), there is a very interesting article about an archeological site in Israel called Ketef Hinnom. The most interesting finds at this site, for me, are two very small silver scrolls which contain the oldest known quote from any passage of Holy Scripture. They were both found in a tomb at the site (such as the one pictured here, which is from the same site) and were buried along with a deceased individual to act as amulets warding off evil and offering prayers to God on behalf of the deceased. They are, then, similar in style, purpose, and content to similar scrolls still deposited in the graves of deceased loved ones by members of some Jewish sects and to the wreath with the Trisagion prayers printed on it which is put on the forehead of departed Orthodox Christians. These two scrolls date to about 650 BC, making them approximately 400 years older than the next oldest Biblical texts which we have, the Dead Sea Scrolls. It may be shocking for those Protestants who are opposed to prayers for the dead to learn that the oldest known reference to verses from the Bible is contained in these prayers for the dead. Here's the content of the two tiny scrolls, some of which, at the edges of each scroll, was decayed and had to be restored by archeologists:

Ketef Hinnom I
...]YHW ...
...
the grea[t God who keeps]
the covenant and
[G]raciousness towards 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
[may he] keep you.
[May] YHWH make
[his face] shine ...

Ketef Hinnom II
[for PN, (the son/daughter of) xxxx]h/hu.
May h[e]
sh[e] be blessed by YHWH.
the warrior and
the rebuker
of [E]vil: May YHWH bless you,
keep you.
May YHWH make
his face shine
upon you and
grant you p[ea]ce.

The Biblical references contained in these scrolls are from Numbers 6:24-26 and Deuteronomy 7:9.
"The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26
"Know, therefore, that only the Lord your God is God, the steadfast God who keeps his covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love him and keep his commandments." - Deuteronomy 7:9

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