oldest hebrew writing

The University of Haifa

Naturally, every time some news comes out of the field of Israeli archaeology, there has to be some sort of connection to the Bible, whether the Old Testament or the New, often with excited shouts about Jesus soon to follow. In this case, a new debate centers around a potsherd with what is being claimed as the oldest example of Hebrew writing ever found. The Israeli professor who figured out this Hebraic enigma has purportedly come to the conclusion that this scrap proves the Bible was written centuries earlier than modern mainstream scholarship accepts.

In the first place, we are greatly relieved to understand from this report that mainstream scholarship has set the composition of the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament or Tenakh as having occurred initially in the 6th century, during and after the so-called Babylonian Exile. Many millions of believers fervently aver that the Bible was written by the people it claims as its authors: E.g., the first five books or Pentateuch were authored by Moses himself in the 13th century BCE. As demonstrated in such scholarly works as The Bible Unearthed, the earliest provable time when these texts could have been produced was indeed the 6th century BCE. Few others than Christian apologists and evangelicals believe that Moses really wrote the Pentateuch.

While this new discovery may prove that Hebrew was actually physically written down at some point far earlier, possibly as early as the 10th century, from what has been released so far, it certainly does not prove the Bible was in existence by that time or that its authors were those who its purports them to be. In other words, it’s still a safe bet that Moses – who is patently a compilation of characters, some mythical – did not write the Pentateuch.

Interestingly, the Bible claims that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, at the end of which it reports his death, saying that “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”  (Deut 34:1-12) Such language is strongly indicative that this text was written long after Moses purportedly existed! Indeed, it is pretended that the Mosaic law – containing the 10 Commandments and so many other codes, rules and laws pious Jews are supposed to follow – was “lost” for centuries and only discovered “again” during the reign of Josiah.My suggestion in The Christ Conspiracy for this lost-and-found episode was as follows:

In order to explain why the Hebrews kept going after other gods, the biblical writers pretended that the “book of the Law” of Moses had been “lost” and found 600 years later (622 BCE) by Josiah’s high priest, Hilkiah…

The tale is obviously fictitious as, in reality, it cannot be explained why, if Moses had been real and had such a dramatic and impactful life, his Law would have been “lost” in the first place.

The truth is that Hilkiah’s book of law was created in his time or afterward in order to consolidate the power of the priesthood, in particular that of the Judean Levites.

There is obviously much more to this story…

When Was the Bible Really Written?

By decoding the inscription on a 3,000-year-old piece of pottery, an Israeli professor has concluded that parts of the bible were written hundreds of years earlier than suspected.

The pottery shard was discovered at excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley in Israel — about 18 miles west of Jerusalem. Carbon-dating places it in the 10th century BC, making the shard about 1,000 years older than the Dead Sea scrolls….

The inscription is the earliest example of Hebrew writing found, which stands in opposition to the dating of the composition of the Bible…

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, current theory holds that the Bible could not have been written before the 6th century B.C.E., because Hebrew writing did not exist until then.

The penultimate sentence here sounds a bit slippery and slanted towards the conservative tilt of Fox News, as in reality the Hebrew writing in question apparently has nothing to do with the Bible, so it could not “stand in opposition” to the date of said text. Even if the Latin script existed in the first century of the common era, that fact doesn’t mean the works of St. Jerome were penned at that time as well – does the existence of Hebrew in the 10th century prove the existence of biblical writings also by then? No, it does not.

The contention that the earliest Hebrew writing existed in the 6th century is incorrect, as there is, for one example, the Siloam inscription, which dates to the 8th century. In this regard, the dating of the Bible has been contingent not upon this notion of Hebrew existing no earlier than the 6th century but in reality upon the circumstances of the Babylonian Exile.

The find is interesting in itself. It is too bad our minds must constantly be turned towards bibliolatry.