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Bible was likely written earlier than thought

PTI
Published : Apr 13, 2016, 4:04 am IST
Updated : Apr 13, 2016, 4:04 am IST

Many of the earliest texts of the Bible may have been written by at least 600 BC in the ancient Kingdom of Judah, according to the latest study that throws new light on the dating of old testament tex

Many of the earliest texts of the Bible may have been written by at least 600 BC in the ancient Kingdom of Judah, according to the latest study that throws new light on the dating of old testament texts.

The findings help resolve a longstanding debate over whether the first major phase of biblical text compilation took place before or after the destruction of Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem, in 586 BC. Researchers found that early sacred texts of the Torah, known in part as the Old Testament, were written shortly before that fateful event, when Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and forcibly exiled the people of Judah, Discovery News reported.

“Several (biblical) texts refer to events which best fit the reality in the years just before the fall of the Kingdom of Judah,” said Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

Finkelstein, lead author Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin and their team made use of novel image processing and computer analysis to investigate 16 inscriptions from the desert fortress of Arad, located west of the Dead Sea. The inscriptions date to 600 BC and were made by putting ink script on ceramic shards. “There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts,” said Finkelstein.

“But to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period And what were the literacy rates later on, under Persian rule ” Finkelstein said.

Scholars have long debated how much of the Hebrew bible was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. While they agree that key biblical texts were written starting in the 7th century BC, the exact date of the compilation of these books remains in question. The study published in the journal PNAS suggests that widespread literacy was required for this massive undertaking and provides empirical evidence of that literacy in the final days of the Kingdom of Judah.

Location: Israel, Jerusalem