Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ancient Copiers - Talmudists 100 AD - 500 AD

One of the many blocks in Christian faith is that of the accuracy of the bible.  Over the past few thousand years there have been many hands that have touched the bible and without the use of photo copiers the amount of work to get a successful product is tremendous.  But the part that is killer for believers is the exercise that I am sure many of you have tried in school as a kid.  Lets say there are 20 people in a circle. The first person whispers something to the person on the right. Then that person whispers what he thinks was what the first person said to the person on his right, and so on..  By the time the story makes it around the room is the story exactly the same.  Most of the time it is not.  By looking at this it really makes it hard to believe that after all these years Bible is accurate.  Guess what after all odds it is remarkably accurate.  Here is just a small piece of the puzzle that helped keep the accuracy.

The Talmudists were a group of Hebrews that cataloged Hebrew Law from around 100 AD to 500 AD.  They were known to have the strictness and quality required to produce accurate documents for the people of the times.  If any kind of copies were to be made these were the individuals who would do the work and the document had to be certified.  If a document was not of successful quality it would be destroyed.  Here were the rules that they had to follow.

Synagogue Scroll

  1. Must be written on the skins of clean animals
  2. A Jew must prepare for the particular use of the synagogue.
  3. Skin must be fastened together with the strings taken from clean animals;
  4. Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.
  5. A column must not extend over less than 48 or more than 60 lines
  6. Breadth must consist of thirty letters
  7. The whole copy must be first lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless.
  8. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, 
  9. Ink must be prepared according to a definite recipe
  10. An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.
  11. Nothing is to be written from memory the scribe must look at the codex before him.
  12. Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene.
  13. Between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants.
  14. Between every book, three lines.
  15. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.
  16. The copyist must sit in full Jewish dress.
  17. Wash his whole body.
  18. Not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink.
  19. And should a king address him while writing that name, he must take no notice of him.
As you can see from the rules they had they were very strict.  But here is the cool part, a little validation.  This is only a small time period of 400 years in the life of the world that the text was copied.  Throughout time the books of Bible have always been a document that people have taken and gone great links to protect.  In today's time we have uncovered numerous copies of the scrolls made.  The oldest known up until 1947 was a Massoretic copy of the bible that was estimated for 916 AD.  In 1947 a brilliant discovery in some Qumran caves happened.  Archaeologists found The Dead Sea Scrolls.  This was the find of a lifetime for christian believers.  Within these clay pots were scrolls of the bible that dated to around 125 BC. That is a little over 1000 years before the latest copy of the bible previously found.  You can probably guess whats next, scholars immediately compare the scrolls to the others and the accuracy is phenomenal.   There was only 1 word of 3 letters in question.  

Conversation Starters
  • Have you ever tried the experiment to pass a story around to see how it changed?
  • Do you see evidence that God provides Truth, and Truth will always resound over time?
Things to Try
  • Research into the Massoretic period, and see what all they did in keeping accuracy in the bible.
  • Look at the evidence for the New Testament.
  • Take a look at other old documents that scholars consider accurate, from authors like Homer and Plato.  Use those metrics and see how the bible holds up for old documents.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Many great facts here! Thank you for sharing!