I gently opened the elegant wooden door, internally bursting in anticipation, and stepped into the cool, quiet room. I reverently drew in my breath at the sight directly in front of me: a stunningly accurate replica of a tattered ancient scroll of the book of Isaiah rolled out beneath the glass of a graceful wooden display case. Last week, I enjoyed getting to see a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit near my local area. One of the most interesting things they had there was a facsimile of the Great Isaiah Scroll containing all 66 chapters of the book of Isaiah.
There are at least 22 Isaiah manuscripts represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls (including a total of over 200 Biblical scrolls), but the Great Isaiah Scroll is the only complete manuscript of a Biblical text found in these caves. Although there are some differences, these Isaiah manuscripts help support the Masoretic Text from which we get our English Bibles. An especially interesting thing about comparing the Masoretic Text the Great Isaiah Scroll is that Hebrew language did not have written vowels until the Masoretes started adding vowel markings, called “neqqudot”, around the year 600 AD to preserve traditional pronunciation. Before this time, they had the consonants written out and the vowel sounds were just understood by a reader who would presumably already be fluent in the language. These “neqqudot” are little marks that look like a cross between Braille and Morse code placed below, above, or to the left of the Hebrew consonants so that the original words are not altered.
Finding the entire book of Isaiah is important not only because it confirms the reliability of the Scriptures, but also because the book of Isaiah prophesies extensively about the Messiah – Jesus. According to a presentation by Dr. Michael Martin of Lubbock Christian University, there are three main parallels among the books of Isaiah, Exodus, and Mark: subduing the sea, wilderness experience, and a mountaintop experience. In Exodus the subduing of the sea is the parting of the Red Sea, while in Mark Jesus calms the Sea of Galilee and drowns the enemy (the legion of demons in the swine), and in Isaiah 43:1-2, 16-18 we are reminded that the Lord will be with us when we pass through the waters. Similarly, in the wilderness God feeds the children of Israel with manna, Jesus feeds the five thousand, and Isaiah 49:9-12 speaks of God gathering and providing for His people. The mountaintop experiences are Moses on Sinai, the transfiguration of Jesus, and the mountain where the Lord holds a feast in Isaiah 25:6-8
As Christians, saved by grace, it can be easy and comfortable for us just to focus on reading and studying the New Testament and books like Psalms or Proverbs in our personal lives. But the whole Bible is the Word of God, and there is a great depth of richness that we can glean from even some of the more difficult to understand verses (yes, even the genealogies). Although we are not under the law or Old Testament sacrificial system, there is a lot beauty, depth, and even practicality to many of the things we read about in the Old Testament.
Dr. Michael Martin in public academic presentation, The Gospel according to Isaiah: Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus as the Fulfillment of Isaiah’s New Exodus, given at Lubbock Christian University on October 25, 2014.
Basics of Biblical Hebrew, Second Edition, by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2014. Used with permission.