Guest / Limited Access /

Five lines of ancient script on a broken piece of pottery, first spotted by a 17-year-old excavation volunteer in the summer of 2008, have been proclaimed as one of the oldest known examples of Hebrew writing. An Israeli historian believes they also testify to the formation of the kingdom of Israel and the writing of Hebrew Scriptures.

The ostracon (a piece of pottery with writing on it, the ancient equivalent of note paper) was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the 3,000-year-old ruins of a city on a ridge above the Valley of Elah. The ruins overlook the valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath roughly 3,000 years ago.

Professor Gershon Galil, the chair of the Department of Jewish History at Haifa University, has released a reading of the ostracon which he says confirms that the Kingdom of Israel existed in the 10th century B.C. (the time of King David), and that the biblical Scriptures were written centuries earlier than many modern scholars believe.

Whether other scholars will accept Galil's reading after it's published in a scholarly journal remains to be seen. Some already believe he has overstated his case.

"The problem is not that his readings are impossible," said Seth Sanders, a professor of Religion at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and the author of a new book called The Invention of Hebrew. "It's just that none of the most exciting parts of his readings are clearly there in the text."

The ink on the six- by-six-and-a-half-inch sherd is faded, and the text is broken in many places. Three top Israeli epigraphers have already released contrasting translations. "None of them found the full range of words and ideas that Galil did," observed Sanders.

"Whenever a text is found by archaeologists in Israel, it is ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended33 Under 33
Subscriber Access Only 33 Under 33
Meet the Christian leaders shaping the next generation of our faith.
TrendingReligious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
The legal context for what's happening at Gordon College, and how Christians can respond despite intense cultural backlash.
Editor's PickMeet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
Meet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
J. R. Briggs sympathizes with church leaders who don't live up to expectations.
Comments
Christianity Today
Archaeology: What an Ancient Hebrew Note Might Mean
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

January 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.