Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tiny Silver Scrolls (or Amulets) = Oldest Biblical Text

Today when asked about the oldest available evidence for any part of a text from a biblical book, it is not unlikely the response may be, “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” While these Scrolls do contain many ancient treasures, treasures which preserve among other things various forms of the name of the God of Moses in special, but often very recognizable and quite pronounceable forms (unlike what we read in many modern English Bibles such as the NIV, for reasons that are not altogether unknown). But when it comes to the most ancient of all presently known biblical texts, be sure not to forget these tiny silver scrolls or amulets dated to the late 7th/early 6th century BCE, and known variously as the “Ketef Hinnom Scrolls” or “Amulets.”

However, with all otherwise due deference to the site linked above for hosting images of these treasures, the site has also meaningfully hidden the greatest treasure, that is, the treasure within the text itself. While the actual images of these silver scrolls are fine (which is why I use this link to show them), the translation of their preservation of Numbers 6:24-26 (among other texts), three times using “Lord” rather than an actual form of the name used in these texts, is a great mistake in the representation of this God.

Further, at least one other popular site’s translation of these silver scrolls (last accessed on September 15, 2011) uses a form of the divine name (“Yahweh”) which is not at all based on the best available evidence, but which is nonetheless popular and used and misused in place of other, better forms of the name, including the Anglicized forms “Jah,” “Jaho(h),” “Jaho(h)-ah” and even the more popular “Jehovah” (see notes 3 and 6 on pages 2 and 4, respectively, in Chapter 1 of my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition [available online here]).

The form of the name “Yahweh” is really in large part the product of inaccurate assumptions about the pronunciation and use of the divine name by ancient Jews of various periods, as well as the result of assumptions about the origin of the name itself. In fact, such a pronunciation of the name (“Yahweh”) contradicts nearly all known (certainly the best available) evidence having to do with the history of the pronunciation of the name by both Jews and non-Jews, of similar and different times, and in similar and in different locations. See, again, my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, Chapter 1, in particular pages 28-56; see also my more recent, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God,” Watching the Ministry (April 2, 2011).

Christian Witnesses of Jah base pronunciations of the divine name on the best phonetic evidence; we do not assume anything (other than for convenience after already having presented our good reasons/evidence) about the forms of the name; we intend to consider what can be shown through credible means to be the best available evidence. Evidence which for the divine name involves multiple forms throughout history (three in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic alone [namely, YHWH, YHW, and YH]), but all of which can be traced through quite a reasonably accurate extent (better than many if not better than most other, similar ancient names’ histories can be traced) from ancient Semitic and other languages of the ancient world through to the present. That is why we should consider the best available evidence: It is very good and it is available!

I believe the best available evidence, which I have regularly presented (see the links throughout this article and also under “D, Divine Name,” in the Elihu Books Topical Index), supports by far the recently Anglicized form, “Jaho(h)-ah,” as the form which English speakers should use. It provides great utility to the user, allowing anyone to represent the pronunciation of all three of the best English pronunciations in this one form, namely, “Jaho(h)-ah” itself, “Jah,” and “Jaho(h),” the last of which is the least known form/pronunciation of the divine name, yet it is perhaps in line with the best available evidence, as explained most recently in my Addendum, “On the Use of ‘Jah,’ ‘Jaho(h),’ and ‘Jaho(h)-ah’ as Anglicized Pronunciations of the Divine Name,” a little past the middle of my online article, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God.” 

Each of the three forms of the divine name can be seen and pronounced appropriately, in a given language, just from just the use of the one form (in English), “Jaho(h)-ah.” That is why I try most often to use this form of the name, along with the already familiar form, “Jah.”


None of these phonetically based forms of the divine name require any disassociation of any of the verbal ideas otherwise and everywhere associated with the God of Moses in biblical and in any other accurately related histories. Compare R. Laird Harris, who also wrote the divine “Name is explained by the attributes of God revealed in the” Bible (see “The Pronunciation of the Tetragram,” in The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis, ed. John H. Skilton [Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1974], page 223). An assumed verbal root is not needed for the name that is, in fact, best supported by the available phonetic evidence and which name at all times, also, conveys all of this God’s “revealed” attributes to those who know him. These attributes are those so known or understood in relation to his person and to Jaho(h)-ah’s historical acts, such as those done through Moses and others including, we believe, Jesus of Nazareth. For reliable, historical evidence of the latter’s fulfillment of the role of biblical “Messiah” or “Christ,” see my online article, “Micah 5:1(2): Reliable Prophecy and Real Personal Preexistence,” Watching the Ministry (November 24, 2010).

But, remember, when it comes to biblical writings the oldest available text is presently that which is preserved on tiny silver scrolls (or amulets) which are 400-600 years older than the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, namely, several texts which are dated to the 2nd century BCE (examples include 4LXXDeut and PRyl458). Other credible evidence roughly equal or better in age and in quality also exists to support many biblical accounts, including the Nabonidus Cylinder (555-540 BCE), the Moabite Stone (or Mesha Stele) dated to the early 9th century (around 890) BCE, and other documents or findings from the ancient world which more than reasonably verify the history of the ancient people “of the house of David” and the God, theophorically named on these late 7th/early 6th century BCE clay seals, whom they and others have at various times formally worshipped. Still other evidence may further and strongly support various biblical accounts or claims, but some of this evidence is not yet above the level of critical review to use or to accept fully, yet. See, “Oldest Hebrew Text Is Evidence for Bible Stories?” by Mati Milstein in Elah Valley, Israel for National Geographic News (November 3, 2008); and, “4,000-Year-Old Tombs Found Near Jerusalem Mall,” by Mati Milstein for National Geographic News (November 21, 2006).

For more on some of these and other features of biblical history and texts like those found on these tiny silver scrolls or amulets, see the second page of the PDF of the tract, “Beliefs Based on the Best Available Reasons.” See also the listings in the Elihu Books Topical Index under “A, Archaeology: Biblical.” For further, extended discussions of issues related to the history, use, and pronunciation of the name of the God of Moses, see my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, Chapter 1 (available online here), along with my more recent online article, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God.”