The following article is from Biblical Archaeology Review and was brought to my attention by Professor Jim Davila’s post at The article addresses the significant issue of errors that have been found in the biblical text and how this affects the versions we read today.  The study is based on comparisons between the biblical texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and later examples of the biblical manuscripts. To see the full text of this article, please go here.

Searching for the Better Text

How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them

by Harvey Minkoff

Isaiah’s vision of universal peace is one of the best-known passages in the Hebrew Bible: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

But does this beloved image of the Peaceable Kingdom contain a mistranslation?

For years many scholars suspected that it did. Given the parallelism of the phrases, one would expect a verb instead of “the fatling.” With the discovery of the Isaiah Scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls, those scholars were given persuasive new support. The Isaiah Scroll contains a slight change in the Hebrew letters at this point in the text, yielding “will feed”: “the calf and the young lion will feed together.”

This is just one of numerous variations from the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In some cases the traditional text is clearly superior, but in others the version in the scrolls is better.

Thanks to the scrolls, more and more textual problems in the Hebrew Bible are being resolved. The notes in newer Bible translations list variant readings from the scrolls, and in some cases, the translations incorporate these readings in the text as the preferred reading. No one has ever seriously suggested that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain anything like an eleventh commandment; but the scrolls do help clarify numerous difficult phrases in the Hebrew Bible, and for textual scholars that is more than enough.

Before we list other examples of how the Dead Sea Scrolls influenced—or altered—Bible translations, we need to understand how ambiguities crept into the text of the Hebrew Bible in the first place. And we must also familiarize ourselves with the ancient versions of the Hebrew Bible on which modern translations rely (for good reason scholars call these ancient versions “witnesses” to the biblical text).


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