Bible Text Discovery is the Oldest Yet

TEL AVIV, Saturday (Reuters) - Israeli archaeologists have announced the discovery in Jerusalem of a 2,600-year-old biblical text; the oldest yet found.

The passage was engraved in ancient Hebrew on tiny remnants of two silver amulets excavated from a burial cave on the Jerusalem-Bethlehem road.

A Tel Aviv University archaeologist, Mr. Gabi Barkai, said, "This is the oldest biblical text in our possession. The most ancient scriptures had dated to the third century B.C."

He said the amulets were among 1000 artefacts found in 1983 in a cave under the Scottish church about 1 km from the biblical Temple Mount.

It took experts until now to decipher the inscriptions, and they have dated the amulets to the time of the first Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which was built by King Solomon in 940 B.C. and destroyed in 587 B.C.

State television described the find as the most important since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, which included scriptures dating to 100 B.C.

The text on the amulets is the priestly benediction from NUMBERS 6:22-27.

The Old Testament text reads:

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."

It is the first time the name of God - Jehovah (in Hebrew) - has been found in scriptures excavated in Jerusalem.

Mr. Barkai said that the burial chamber contained more archaeological treasures than had been discovered in digs conducted in Jerusalem in the last 120 years.

The amulets, now only slivers of silver, measure 97 mm by 27 mm. They will go on display next month in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Source: 'The Canadian Times' (22.06.86)