by Bill Nugent
The Old Testament books of Isaiah and Daniel were favorite targets of the critics. This was probably because these two books in particular contain much predictive prophecy. They contain many messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Up until 1947, the earliest manuscripts that we had of Isaiah and Daniel in their original languages, only dated from the tenth century A.D. These were part of the Masoretic text of the Old testament. The Masoretic text was transcribed by very meticulous, religious Jews called Masoretes (“transmitters”) who were amazingly thorough in their copyist protocols.
Liberal textural criticism of the Bible was dealt a major blow when, in January of 1947, Mohammed ed-Dib, a Bedouin goat herder, stumbled upon a cave in an area called Qumran, just northwest of the Dead Sea. He found ancient manuscripts stored in clay jars in the cave. He took some of them back to his village and hung them on a pole and later took them to several antiquities dealers who offered a variety of opinions as to their worth.
These first manuscripts were passed around perilously for months among various antiquities dealers and religious authorities. Due to the instability of the region and the intervention of the Israeli War of Independence in 1948-49 it was about two years before what was to become known as Cave 1 was explored by archaeologists. The gem of Cave 1 was a superb scroll of the book of Isaiah which was well preserved and over 24 feet long.
Ten other caves containing ancient manuscripts were discovered and excavated up until 1956. Cave 4 was the outstanding find and yielded more manuscripts and fragments than all of the other caves put together. Cave 3 yielded the famous copper scroll.
Almost a quarter of the manuscripts and fragments are of Old Testament Bible books. Every one of the 39 Old Testament books is represented except the book of Esther. The other manuscripts and fragments are of apocryphal books, sectarian teachings and commentaries.
Most of the Hebrew is written in the Hebrew block script which is of an ancient style yet is similar to the Hebrew script that is still in use today. The Hebrew block script is actually the same as the Assyrian Imperial Aramaic script. This script was adopted by the Jewish people during the captivity in Babylon in the sixth century BC. Ironically, this means that the Hebrew script used today is actually of Gentile origin. Hebrew and Aramaic use the same alphabet.
A small percentage of the Hebrew is in the old Paleo-Hebrew lettering which was used, according to scholars, as far back as 1000 B.C. I suspect that the Paleo-Hebrew style of lettering was used as far back as Moses himself.
I went to an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan some years ago. It was thrilling to see the manuscripts on display with their ancient lettering and parchment. If there is ever such an exhibition near you, I highly recommend you make every effort to view it.
What concerns us is the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the accuracy of the transmittal of the Bible’s ancient manuscripts by the ancient copyists. The book of Isaiah, of which 22 manuscripts were found, is more than 95% word for word the same as the Masoretic text. The other 5%, which contain minor variants, is mostly spelling differences and apparent slips of the pen that do not alter doctrinal teaching.
The famous 53rd chapter of Isaiah, which consists of a strikingly predictive messianic prophecy in which it is predicted that the coming Messiah would bear the sins of the people and die and rise from the dead, contains several spelling variants and the addition of one word. The extra word found in the Dead Sea Scroll version of Isaiah 53 is just three letters long and is the Hebrew word for “light” and it appears in verse eleven of that chapter.
Verse eleven of Isaiah 53 in the New American Standard Bible reads “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied . . . “ The word ‘it’ in this verse is where the Hebrew word for “light” appears in the Isaiah scrolls of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New American Standard translators make the notation: “Another reading is, light” in the margin of their Bible, regarding the word ‘it’ in this verse.
Bible scholar Michael L. Brown and others believe that a reading of Isaiah 53:11 “He will see light and be satisfied” could be a reference to the resurrection of Christ. The only other prediction of the resurrection of Christ that I can see in Isaiah 53 is in verse ten which reads in part “He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days” (Is. 53:10 NAS). The phrase: “Prolong His days” can be taken as clearly implying the resurrection.
The eight partial manuscripts of Daniel do much to buttress the high position of Daniel as a divinely inspired book of the Bible. Daniel is the only book of the Old Testament that is partially written in Aramaic. The Aramaic portion of Daniel in the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts is clearly the more ancient form of Aramaic. This serves to place the original writing of Daniel in the sixth century BC which is consistent with conservative Bible scholarship. The older Aramaic of Daniel is very distinct from the Aramaic of the Dead Sea scroll’s second century BC nonbiblical manuscripts.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have had and continue to have a strong impact on biblical Jewish and Christian scholarship. The evidence clearly supports a high view of the accuracy of Bible manuscript preservation and transmittal. The Dead Sea Scroll manuscript evidence refutes the critic’s claim that prophetic portions of the Bible were written after the fulfillments. We have predictive prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ actually on parchment that is dated before the birth of Christ! This is a gift of God to the modern world and serves to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
Only Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Bible prophecies that foretold that the Messiah would die for our sins. Forgiveness of sins is given only through faith in Christ because Christ is the only person in all of world history who took upon Himself the penalty of our sins. Invite Jesus into your heart today. Receive Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord!
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!