I’ve decided to read through the entire Bible myself. I’ll be posting the things I find interesting, weird or lesser-known along the way. My goal is to think about these things more from the ancient writer’s perspective than the modern religious interpretation.

• The Book of Genesis
The oldest known copies (fragments) of the book of Genesis were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls which are approximately 2,000-years-old. These writings are virtually identical to the versions we have today.

• Who Was God Talking to During the Creation of Man?
Genesis 1:26 states, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” link:

Who is “us”?

Some traditional christians believe that God was talking to Himself in this passage as the Trinity, but its unlikely the ancient scribe of Genesis was aware of the trinity theology when he wrote this. Perhaps this writing implies something else.

The Genesis creation story never attempts to explain the creation of angels, or any other spiritual being. I think the author of Genesis might have believed that other entities existed before man and that our world is just one of God’s many creations. Whoever these beings were, they were apparently present during God’s construction of our world… and it sounds like they may have helped in humanity’s creation.

Were they angels? Maybe something else?

• Long Life in Ancient Times
Methusela is the oldest person in the Bible who is said to have lived 969 years! According to the 5th chapter of Genesis, the first humans didn’t have children until they were at least in their 60s and they lived to be hundreds of years old.

The Bible isn’t the only ancient writing that claims humans once lived much longer. The ancient Sumerian “Kings List” states that before the great flood, kings lived for thousands of years. These antediluvian rulers were said to be god-like. In both the biblical and sumerian records, the “great flood” marks a time when men began to live shorter lives.

There are some interesting theories on how man could have lived longer before the flood.

“The earth changed dramatically after the great flood. The differences included the altering of the climate, atmospheric changes, changes in the hydrologic cycle, geologic features, a significant increase in harmful radiation reaching ground level…

The first century historian Josephus asserts that pre-flood man did live very long lifespans. He attributes their longevity to God’s mercy and the fact that the food they ate was much better at extending their years on earth than it was after the deluge (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 3).”


• Enoch, The Man Who Never Died
Genesis 5 lists a genealogy of men starting with Adam. At the end of each man’s account the number of how many years he lived is listed. Every man has a number of years except Enoch. At the end of Enoch’s life it says, “he was no more, because God took him away.”

Enoch is briefly mentioned a few other times in the Bible, but these references (Hebrews 11:5 & Jude 1:14) aren’t talking about the Genesis account of Enoch, they are talking about a book that isn’t even in the Bible… they are referring to the Book of Enoch.

The Book of Enoch has a fascinating history and was considered lost for hundreds of years. It was only re-discovered in 1946 among the Dead Sea Scrolls. This book is very mystical and describes Enoch being taken into the future and into the heavens by an angel. He describes many strange things that people have interpreted as skyscrapers and even black holes. Chapter 7 of this book tells of fallen angels coming to Earth (see Genesis 6) and teaching humans the knowledge of many things from astronomy, to sorcery and even abortion.

The book of Enoch and the mythology within is renown among esotericists. For example, John Dee was an ancient magician who claimed to receive an entire language from angelic beings. He called this language the Enochian language. Dee believed this was the earliest language, the one that Enoch used to write his book.

Part 2:
Parts of Dead Sea Scrolls, world's oldest biblical manuscripts, are for sale _ in tiny pieces

JERUSALEM –  Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale — in tiny pieces.

Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers — fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years.

Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank. But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions in the U.S. have forked out millions of dollars for a chunk of this archaeological treasure. This angers Israel’s government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls, claims that every last scrap should be recognized as Israeli cultural property, and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market. Read more.

Israel, Google partner to put Dead Sea Scrolls online

Israel and Google have partnered to put 5,000 images of the Dead Sea Scrolls online, The Associated Press reports.

The digital library contains the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the second listing of the Ten Commandments, and a portion of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, dated to the first century B.C.

AP reports that Israeli officials say this partnership is part of an attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts — often criticized for allowing them to be monopolized by small circles of scholars — to make them broadly available.

Photo: A copy of a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls is presented during a joint Israel Antiquities Authority-Google news conference in Jerusalem today. (Dan Balilty / AP)

John Collins, author of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography, tells Terry Gross about how his scholarship gives him the long-view of religion:

One of the things — especially if you study The Old Testament — one of the things that it gives you is freedom to criticize your religious tradition. … One of the classes I’m teaching at the moment, we’re going through the prophets and the prophets criticize the temple and the king and the use of tradition and just about everything else in sight, and they do so with the vehemence that the Vatican has never dreamed of. There isn’t a prophet in The Old Testament who wouldn’t be excommunicated if he were a member of the contemporary Catholic church for the sheer vehemence of their criticism of the tradition.

Image of Qumran Cave 4 where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Randall Niles via Flickr.

The oldest known crown in the world dates back to the Copper Age between 4000-3500 B.C. It was discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1961. Researchers believe it played in a role in burial ceremonies for people of importance. It is one of 442 copper, bronze, ivory and stone artifacts known as the Nahal Mishmar Hoard that were found in the cave. Other items include mace heads, scepters, tool, powder horns and weapons.
Quietly, Google Puts History Online

When the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, reopened last year after an extensive renovation, it attracted a million visitors in the first 12 months. When the museum opened an enhanced Web site with newly digitized versions of the scrolls in September, it drew a million virtual visitors in three and a half days.

The scrolls, scanned with ultrahigh-resolution imaging technology, have been viewed on the Web from 210 countries — including some, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, that provide few real-world visitors to the Israel Museum.

“This is taking the material to an amazing range of audiences,” said James S. Snyder, the museum’s director. “There’s no way we would have had the technical capability to do this on our own.”

» via The New York Times (Subscription may be required for some content)

Excerpt from The Apocalypse of Peter


“For evil cannot produce good fruit. For the place from which each of them is produces that which is like itself; for not every soul is of the truth, nor of immortality. For every soul of these ages has death assigned to it in our view, because it is always a slave, since it is created for its desires and their eternal destruction, in which they are and from which they are. They love the creatures of the matter which came forth with them.”

“But the immortal souls are not like these, O Peter. But indeed, as long as the hour is not yet come, it (the immortal soul) shall resemble a mortal one. But it shall not reveal its nature, that it alone is the immortal one, and thinks about immortality, having faith, and desiring to renounce these things.”

“For people do not gather figs from thorns or from thorn trees, if they are wise, nor grapes from thistles. For, on the one hand, that which is always becoming is in that from which it is, being from what is not good, which becomes destruction for it and death. But that which comes to be in the Eternal One is in the One of the life and the immortality of the life which they resemble.”

“Therefore all that which exists not will dissolve into what exists not. For deaf and blind ones join only with their own kind.”

The Dead Sea Scrolls' Scribes

No one knows for certain who wrote these mysterious artifacts, though the best guess is Essenes, a mystical sect of Judaism active before and during the Roman occupation of Israel. Archaeological evidence from the site Qumran, where the scrolls were found, indicate that a community of observant Jews lived there. And the “Community Rules” text among the scrolls sounds similar to a contemporary account of the Essenes’ practices. There are multiple other hypotheses, though, including early Christians and Jews fleeing Jerusalem, who left the scrolls behind to save them.

Dead Sea Scrolls: Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but differs significantly from the others. Whereas the other scrolls are written on parchment or papyrus, this scroll is written on metal and its Hebrew, orthography, palaeography and date (c.50-100 AD) differ from the others. Furthermore, it is not a literary work, but a list of locations at which various items of gold and silver are buried or hidden.

The text is an inventory of 64 locations; 63 of which are treasures of gold and silver, which have been estimated in the tons. 

The following English translation of the opening lines of the first column of the Copper Scroll shows the basic structure of each of the entries in the scroll. The structure is 1) general location, 2) specific location, often with distance to dig, and 3) what to find.

1:1 In the ruin that is in the valley of Acor, under
1:2 the steps, with the entrance at the East,
1:3 a distance of forty cubits: a strongbox of silver and its vessels
1:4 with a weight of seventeen talents. KεN.

It has been suggested that the Ancient Romans found the treasure, however, there is no conclusive proof of this and, as such, it is likely the treasure has never been found.

John Collins tells Terry Gross about what kind of Messiah people who collected the Dead Sea Scrolls expected:

Most people wanted a big strong warrior who would drive out the Romans, who would smash heads. So, if you look at this then from the viewpoint of TheNew Testament, the question is, ‘Why would anybody have thought that Jesus of Nazareth fit that description?’ And actually I think that bothered his followers, too, and if you read the through The New Testament, the answer they come up with eventually is, 'Well, he wasn’t first time round but when he comes back: watch out.’ And in the Book of Revelation, you know, Jesus comes as a warrior with a sword coming out of his mouth to strike down the wicked and that’s kind of the classic view of the messiah at the time.

Image by 00nanga via Flickr

Israel building center for ancient artifacts

Israel’s Antiquities Authority says it is building a national archaeological center to house nearly two million ancient artifacts, including the world’s largest collection of Dead Sea Scrolls.

The authority said Tuesday the center in Jerusalem will serve as a research center for Israeli archaeology and history, and will house a library of some 150,000 books, archives on local excavations from the past century, and conservation and restoration labs. Some 15,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments, currently in government custody at the Israel Museum, will also be stored there.

The center, designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, is being built next to the Israel Museum and will be inaugurated in 2016. It will eventually serve as the authority’s headquarters.

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation of Cleveland is funding the project. (source)