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God’s Word from Antiquity

Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the highlights of our being in San Diego last week was Thursday evening when we drove to the Natural History Museum in beautiful Balboa Park and viewed the stunning display of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

As you probably know, the The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouin herders on the shores of Israel’s Dead Sea in 1947, and is considered one of the most important archaeological finds in recent history. After the original discovery, archaeologists took charge of the area and between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran they found thousands of fragments which they pieced together into over 900 separate documents including biblical books, hymns, prayers, and other important writings.

4Q41-981. A Dead Sea Scroll manuscript. Photo courtesy IAA
4Q41-981. A Dead Sea Scroll manuscript.
Courtesy IAA. Click on image for larger view.

The Dead Sea Scrolls date from 250 BCE to 68 CE. Among them are some 230 biblical manuscripts representing nearly every book in the Hebrew Bible; more than 1000 years older than any previously known copies. There are also apocryphal manuscripts (texts excluded from the biblical canon) previously known only in translation or not at all.

Jars with lids, ©IAA
Jars with lids, © IAA

Most scholars believe the scrolls were copied and composed by a group that broke away from mainstream Judaism to live a communal life at Qumran. This group, known to us from ancient writers, saw themselves as the “true Israel” and viewed those living in Jerusalem, including the priesthood at the Temple, as corrupt. The sectarian scrolls—non-biblical texts—reflect a wide variety of literary genres: biblical commentary, religious legal writings, liturgical (prayer) texts, and compositions that predict a coming apocalypse. They reveal the fascinating transition between the ancient religion of the Bible and Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

CoinWhen the Romans invaded Qumran around 68 CE, the community hid their manuscripts in nearby caves. Their brand of Judaism did not survive the destruction, though many of their practices made their way into both Judaism and Christianity.

When we first entered the exhibit we were handed ear phones and paraphernalia that enabled us to go at our own pace from exhibit to exhibit and to hear clear descriptions of the material. Beautiful, large pictures and other displays of the fauna and flora of Israel were mounted on the handsome walls as we neared the actual scrolls. The scrolls was beautifully presented, and although the lighting is dim so as to prevent damage to these documents, the scrolls themselves were adequately illuminated and situated at a comfortable height and angle so that one could properly examine them. The movement of the people slowed as we stood near the treasures and gazed at the ancient, precious writings. A profound quiet and sense of reverence pervaded the atmosphere.

I was struck by the phylacteries and the infinitesimal writings therein. I saw displayed Holy Writings from the books of Nahum, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Deuteronomy and parts of the Ten Commandments. Non-Biblical writings included community rules which set down guiding principles for the lives of the people of the settlement where were found the scrolls:

Where do we fit in God’s plan? How should we live our lives? How will the world end? What will happen to us?

It was last week in San Diego, yet from antiquity, that I was profoundly moved again by God’s Word. As I stared at those ancient fragments and considered the fine and careful strokes with which some long-stilled hand had scribed His Word, I was deeply stirred.


My devotional blog is here.





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Christmas 2007 in Review Part 3

Seth and Aunt Becky, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.
Some of Steve’s out-of-town friends were in on the secret and had arranged a motorcycle ride that would end at the Harley-Davidson store in National City–a San Diego suburb. As I understand it, the store routinely serves hamburgers to its clients on the open air roof-top veranda. Dearrah had the brilliant idea of utilizing this area, and arranged Steve’s 50th birthday party there. Caterers cooked hambugers, prepared other food and drinks, and decorated the tables. Not sure who supplied the cute birthday cake.
The tall heaters helped knock off the chill as we stood about visiting with friends and relatives and awaiting the arrival of the birthday boy. After a bit we heard loud motors and the riders roared onto the parking lot. Cameras in hand we gathered about the elevator, but in a minute someone screeched, “There he is,” and sure enough he had arrived on the opposite side from where we were.
It was great fun, the hamburgers were delicious, the coffee was smooth and robust, but we weren’t able to taste the cake. We had a drive back to Lake Havasu of more than five hours, so after saying many good-byes, we went to our car, took Andrew home, said good-bye to our little people there, and headed for Arizona. (We had given Steve his birthday gift while he was at our home for Christmas, but Jerry had a special gift he gave Steve privately at the party. I’ll write about that later.)
At 10:30 on Saturday night, we pulled into our parking space at DJs RV in Lake Havasu.  Tired, we fell into bed. Church would start at 9:00 on Sunday morning. Christmas was finished. (But then again, Christmas is never finished…it lives and breathes…because He does!)
My devotional blog is here.


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Christmas 2007 in Review Part 2

Christmas had passed, friends and family had come and gone, but we were forced to linger in California, for on Sunday, Steve, our eldest, would turn 50 and a surprise party was planned for Saturday. Anyway, we hadn’t visited and exchanged gifts with Andrew and his crew yet, so it was down to San Diego for us. We couldn’t let Steve know we were still around, and Andrew’s house is tiny, so we had to find a hotel. I found the best deal at the Harbor Island Sheraton, and it turned out that we had a beautiful room at a very reasonable price.

We did a lot of running around those couple of days in San Diego, as we exchanged more gifts with our family, but when we were in our room, we quite enjoyed the stunning view–both during the day and at night. San Diego is a magnificent city.

Shawnna’s sister Tena and her family were still in San Diego and they joined us for some activities in the city. One of the famous restaurants at the downtown San Diego harbor is Anthony’s, which actually consists of three venues–a moderately priced family indoor restaurant with huge windows looking out to sea, a fine dining facility next door, and another place where situated are picnic tables and a walk-up window where great fish and chips are served. We opted for the outdoor place…scrumptious. It was chilly though, and we searched for tables near the tall heaters, and wrapped our jackets tightly.

After we had eaten, we walked Harbor Drive toward Seaport village  where between the cruise ship terminal and Seaport Village is the famed ship, the Midway. In a later post I will write of that magnificent and honored vessel.

My devotional blog is here.