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An extremely fragile ancient Hebrew scroll has been digitally unrolled for the first time, revealing the oldest copy so far found of an Old Testament scripture of the Bible, researchers said Wednesday.
This manuscript is part of the "En-Gedi Scrolls" and it contains the text of Leviticus and has been dated between the third and fourth centuries, although it is highly probable that they are prior to these dates, according to the report published in the journal Advances Science.
The deciphering of its content is described in this magazine as "a significant discovery in biblical archeology«.
Despite its dating, it is not the oldest that has been found. That honor belongs to the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating from the 3rd century BC. until the 2nd century AD
Radiocarbon analyzes of the En-Gedi manuscripts date the 3rd or 4th centuriesAlthough some experts believe that they would be earlier than this based on analysis of the writing style and the way of drawing the letters, which suggest that they could date from the second half of the 1st century or the beginning of the 2nd.
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Discovered by archaeologists in 1970 at En-Gedi, a site where an ancient Jewish community lived, its content had been impossible to fully decipher until the use of this new digital technology since because of a fire in the 6th century, it was impossible to touch them without dissolving into ashes. Its fragments have been preserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority for decades.
«The main structure of each fragment, completely burned, had turned into pieces of coal that disintegrated every time they were touched."The researchers reported, so advanced digital scanning tools have been used that"practically unwrap the manuscript and allow you to view its contents, without having to touch it«.
«Much of the text is fully readable or very close to the most readable Dead Sea Scrolls«.
At first, experts believed that it could be a torah scroll, but when they saw the images they discovered that it was the Leviticus book, making it the oldest book of the Pentateuch (the first five books of Jewish and Christian scripture) found so far.
«We were immediately struck by the fact that this passage in the En-Gedi manuscript is identical in all its details, both in its typography and in the division of sections, which we call the Masoretic text, the authorized Jewish text up to the today"Said Michael Segal, director of the Faculty of Philosophy and Religions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The uniformity of these medieval texts It surprised researchers who said it was 100% the same, both in its consonants (vowel symbols were not introduced into Hebrew until the 9th century) and in its paragraph divisions. «We have never found anything as amazing as this"Exclaimed Emanuel Tov, emeritus professor in the Department of the Bible at the same University. «It is quite surprising to us that in 2,000 years this text has not changed«He added.
Researchers now hope that techniques developed to read these manuscripts are used on other scrolls, among them in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls that remain indecipherable until now, and others that are kept very well cared for due to their very poor state of preservation, such as those that suffered the eruption of Vesuvius in Pompeii.
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