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Hidden Script Discovered in New Look at Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Oren Ableman examines ink traces, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

JERUSALEM, Israel – As Israel marks the 70th anniversary of its re-birth, it's also marking the 70th anniversary of one of the most amazing biblical archaeological discoveries of all time – the Dead Sea Scrolls.  

The scrolls are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, and 70 years later they are still revealing new facts, telling the story of their ancient past.

A fragment of Deuteronomy after IR imaging at the scroll lab, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

"In our storeroom we have a lot of boxes of fragments that, as far as I could tell, had never been sorted, never been investigated," said Oren Ableman of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

As part of the IAA's project to digitize the scrolls, some of these fragments were pulled out and examined by Ableman, who chose a box from "Cave 11" of the Qumran Caves where the scrolls were discovered.

Conservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

"At first this looked like it was garbage," Ableman told CBN News. "It didn't look like anything was here. You couldn't really see anything with your own eyes."

But with the help of advanced imaging technology developed just for the scrolls, Ableman was able to find script that was previously hidden.  

Dead Sea Scroll Fragment, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

"I worked on comparing the handwriting on these fragments that I found to other manuscripts to Cave 11… and I very quickly started finding matches between the handwriting of the scribes," he said.

Ableman examined 82 fragments. Two examples stood out.

Dead Sea Scroll fragments, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

"Probably the best example that I had…where the word that I read there is 'zamra' in Hebrew, which means a song," he explained. "And this in the Hebrew Bible is actually a very rare word."

He continued. "Based on the handwriting of the scribe, I could tell that this fragment belonged to what's called The Great Psalms Scroll, which is actually one of the largest scrolls we've found," he continued.

The scroll is a collection of different Psalms and the word is rare in the Bible. This fragment belongs to Psalm 147:1, he said.   

Another fragment indicated there must have been an additional scroll that has not been identified previously in that cave, Ableman added.

Pnina Shor, curator and director of the Dead Sea Scrolls project, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

Pnina Shor, head of the IAA's Dead Sea Scrolls project, told CBN News there was a great deal of symbolism in the discovery of the scrolls at the same time that the State of Israel was being re-established.

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments, Photo, IAA, Shai Halevi

"On the eve of the 29th of November [1947], when they were voting at the UN for the Partition Plan [creating a Jewish and Arab state in Palestine], the son of Professor [Eleazar] Sukenik – who was then one of our first pilots and who was killed in the War of Independence – was counting the votes on the radio while Professor Sukenik was sitting with one of the scrolls and realized he was holding a scroll from Second Temple Times," Shor said.

"What could be more symbolic than as we're voting for the Partition Plan for the State of Israel to hold in [his] hands a manuscript 2,000 years old," she added.

MUST SEE: This year marks 70 years since the reestablishment of Israel as a modern nation. CLICK HERE for more about CBN’s new movie, “To Life,” on the positive global impact of Israel.

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