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Dropsie College Professor Doubts Antiquity of Scroll Claimed to Be Book of Isaiah

The recent discovery by a wandering Bedouin ancient scrolls comprising the book of Isaiah and other Hebrew writings, which used a sensation in scholarly circles, was declared to be “not an important discovery, but possibly a hoax,” by Dr. Solomon Zeitlin, Professor of Rabbinical Literature at Dropsie College. Dr. Zeitlin, one of the world’s leading authorities on the second Commonwealth, the era proceeding the time of Jesus; made this change in an article, appearing in the current issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review published by Dropsie College, of which he is co-editor.

The new discoveries, which have been hailed by Dr. John C. Trever of Duke University, Professor Millar Burrows of Yale University, and Professor Eleazar L. ###kenik of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as belonging to the pre-Christian era, would, if authentic, make them the earliest Biblical writings in existence. Hitherto, the earliest Biblical manuscript known dated from the eighth century, C.E. These recently unearthed scrolls, including the “Book of Isaiah,” the “Commentary on Habak###uk,” and the “Sectarian Document” were reported by Dr. Trever to have been discovered ###y a wandering Bedouin in the vicinity of a cave near the northern end of the Dead Sea. The scrolls were enclosed in Jars.Dr. Zeitlin said that if these scrolls are of authentic pre-Christian era vintage, “this discovery could well be rated as one of the greatest discoveries in modern times,” He explained that if this material were written before the time of Jesus, it would change a great deal of our interpretation of Jewish history in the period immediately preceding the Christian era. But, he said, “these claims to antiquity are not only open to doubt, but it is difficult to defend their validity once the document are subjected to critical analysis.” He advances a number of scholarly hypotheses to prove that the documents discovered were from the Middle Ages rather than the pre-Christian era.

Declaring that there is “a clear indication” that these documents date back the Middle Ages, Dr. Zeitlin expressed the fear that Professors Trever and Burrows “in the tremor of excitement that they were handling the most ancient copy of Isaiah,” had accepted, without proof, the statement that the Bedouin had found them in Jars in a cave near the Dead Sea. “It is indeed extremely regrettable,” Dr. Zeitlin said, “that the Bedouin was not thoroughly interrogated by scholars. There is not sufficient evidence to establish that the scrolls came from the cave. More regrettable is the fact that we do not have the Jars in which the Bedouin stated the scrolls were found.”

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