If you have a ‘read the Bible in a year’ plan, you’re probably hitting the book of Leviticus about now. That’s tough reading and seems so far removed from today. Yet, God has preserved his Word for us. A thousand years before Christ, David sought refuge from Saul among the rocks and caves along the Dead Sea in a spot called Ein Gedi. There, he was safe from attack and supplied by a freshwater spring. Five hundred years after Christ, a little Jewish town had sprung up in that very same spot. Not long after that, a fire destroyed it and the inhabitants moved away. In 1970, the town was re-discovered by archaeologists. Among the discoveries was the local synagogue. Inside the burned-out ruins, they found ancient parchment scrolls of Scripture which had been badly damaged.
Among the find was a small, carbonized scroll that was too fragile to read or even attempt to open. The scroll, which looked more like a little briquette, was left to sit in a storage box for another 45 years. New technology developed by the University of Kentucky was used to determine the contents. Using new digital imaging software they developed, scientists were able to see the different layers of the scroll and recreate it in a two-dimensional format. The text is from Leviticus chapters 1 and 2. The clearest verses are the first eight from chapter one. Ironically, Leviticus begins with a section on burnt offerings.
Archaeologists have good reason to appreciate this discovery, but it’s even more encouraging for Christians. Our modern Bible was translated into English not from original copies (which have never been found), but from the oldest available copies dating back to the 10th century A.D. This has led some critics of the Bible to claim that the Bible we have today has been changed or altered along the way. However, this little fragment found in Ein Gedi (written before the 4th century) conforms in every respect to the Masoretic Text from which we translate our Bible. This means that for over several hundred years, the text was copied with careful accuracy – nothing changed or altered. This gives further proof that God has preserved his Word and we can have confidence in the Scriptures we read today.
The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
You, O Lord, will keep them (Psalm 12:6-7a)
It might seem like a little thing, but I find it’s the little things along the way that help strengthen our faith.