2000 year old biblical texts, coins, 10000 year old basket, found in cave in the Judean desert

One of you long-time readers sent me a link to this fascinating story in the Jerusalem Post. Great photos in the piece.

2,000-year-old biblical texts found in Israel, 1st since Dead Sea Scrolls
6,000-year-old child skeleton found together with world’s oldest woven basket in Judean Desert cave • First discovery of this kind since Dead Sea Scrolls.

A 2,000-year-old biblical scroll has been unearthed in the Judean desert, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday. The groundbreaking discovery marks the first time that such an artifact has been uncovered in decades, since the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The two dozen fragments were found in a cave in the Judean Desert, as a result of a several-year-long breathtaking rescue operation with the purpose of surveying all the caves of the area, carried out by the IAA in cooperation with the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration.

The scroll was written in Greek, but God’s name appears in paleo-Hebrew. It contains passages from the Minor Prophets, including Nahum.

Besides the manuscript, the cave harbored several other unique findings, including a trove of coins from the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt, the skeleton of a child dating back to some 6,000 years, and a 10,000-year-old exceptionally well-preserved basket which experts say might be the earliest item of this kind ever uncovered.

“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate – declares the Lord,” one of the fragments reads, featuring an excerpt of the biblical book of Zechariah.


The cave, known as “the Cave of Horror” in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever, stands some 80 meters below the clifftop and can be accessed only by clinging to ropes.


The conditions of the region remain challenging to this day. Some 80 kilometers of caves have been surveyed within the operation, including very remote and inaccessible hollows. Drones and mountain equipment have been employed; about half of the area is still to be explored.


Definitely go there and read the whole thing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. KateriK says:

    Thank you, Father, for posting this. You’re right…the photos are incredible. What a wonderful discovery! I found it most interesting how well preserved the remains of the child and the basket are. This is a phenomenal window into our past.

  2. CanukFrank says:

    WOW! Just, WOW, Fr. Z!! I happen to have started reading James Michener’s ‘The Source’ (after finding a copy for $1.00 at a local thrift store), while coming to an end of Lynn Austin’s ‘Restoration Chronicles’ series AND after having discovered a treasure trove of air-mail letters from my 12 weeks on an Israeli kibbutz in 1979 describing my day-to-day work (picking olives, irrigating fields, chasing stray cattle in the Gilboan mountains, gathering chickens for packing, etc), the stunning sunsets and scenery as well as the field trips we took to Bet Shean, Megiddo, the Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, etc. This video clip just adds another layer of texture to it all!

  3. Semper Gumby says:

    CanukFrank: Now that’s a kibbutz experience you described, I’ve only overnighted. In case you missed it, check out Fr. Z’s videos from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year. Israel is a fascinating place to visit, one soon forgets (temporarily) about biscuits, bacon and sausage gravy for morning chow and tucks into fish, yogurt and eggs. A bowl of olives are best in the evening alongside a bottle of Arak, with a platter of sizzling merguez (grilled sausage) or shashlik (shish kebab) inbound.

    The Source is a fun read, you might also be interested in Amihai Mazar’s “Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000–586 B.C.E.”

  4. AutoLos says:

    They say not to put all your eggs in one basket. But if you HAD to, that’d be the basket.

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    “The scroll was written in Greek, but God’s name appears in paleo-Hebrew.”

    The Paleo-Hebrew, or Old Hebrew, script was used by the Jews for writing until the Babylonian Captivity, when Hebrew was then written in the Aramaic “square” script. This scroll appears to have been written in 1st- or early 2nd-century Greek with God’s name written in Paleo-Hebrew, a script used during the time of the First Temple, possibly earlier.

    The Izbet-Sartah Ostracon, probably a scribe’s practice tablet, was discovered in 1976 and dates to about 1200 BC. The Ostracon depicts 22 different letters in line 5, the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. Possibly, line 4 of the Ostracon is the name of the scribe, “Oreph son of Nahum.”

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    – Inscriptions discovered in 1905 at an ancient turquoise mine in Sinai, Serabit al-Khadim, indicate a Semitic language was written in a proto-Semitic script or alphabet (i.e. not hieroglyphs or cuneiform) around 1800-1600 BC. (This script is generally known as “proto-Sinaitic”).

    – Near the mines at Serabit al-Khadim is a Temple of Hathor (an ancient Egyptian goddess eventually “absorbed” by Isis) which features inscriptions, naturally, in hieroglyphs.

    – Exodus 2:10 reads “And she [Pharaoh’s daughter] adopted him for a son, and called him Moses, saying: Because I took him out of the water.” This probably means Moses was educated at the “royal nursery” (transliterated from ancient Egyptian as “k3p” or “kap”).

    – The Pentateuch has multiple references to writing and literacy, e.g., Exodus 24:4, Numbers 33:2, Deuteronomy 24:1.

    – Acts 7:22 reads, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and in his deeds.”

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    – Many Gnostics today consider themselves Christians. However, like the 2nd-century Marcion, they believe the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament. They also consider the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as untrustworthy. For Gnostics, hidden knowledge or “gnosis” can be found in the Gnostic Gospels.

    – Thoth was the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, writing and secret knowledge. Thoth was said to have written a book (or multiple volumes of a book) containing all wisdom. A 14th-century BC inscription at Karnak attributed to the architect and scribe Amenhotep son of Hapu says, “I was introduced to the book of the god. I saw the different forms of Thoth and was equipped with the mysteries.”

    – When the Greeks arrived in Egypt centuries later they equated Hermes, the Greek messenger of the gods, with the Egyptian Thoth. This syncretism resulted in “Hermes Trismegistus” (Thrice-Great Hermes) who wrote “wisdom texts” in Greek, these texts are known as “Hermetica.”

    – Hermeticists find their “gnosis” not in the Gnostic Gospels but in the Hermetica and other esoteric texts. They will, however, make use of the Bible when it suits their purposes. Hermeticists point to Acts 7:22 and claim Moses for Hermeticism.

    – Important to both Gnostics and Hermeticists is Abraxas, a demonic creature whose legs are serpents, as depicted on this amulet known as a “Gnostic gem”:


    – The Gnostic Gospels were written over several centuries after the time of Jesus Christ. Hermeticists and other occultists focus not on the Gnostic Gospels but on other esoteric writings, such as the Greek Magical Papyri or “PGM.”

    – The PGM are occult spells written in Greek, Demotic (cursive hieroglyphs) and Coptic from the 2nd-century BC to about the 5th-century AD and were circulated around the Mediterranean. The PGM include references to Homer (e.g. Odyssey, Book XI, the Ghosts) and to a “Liturgy of Mithras.”

    – Acts 19:19: “And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    – Cassius Dio, Roman History 49, 43: “Besides doing this Agrippa drove the astrologers and magicians from the city [Rome]. During these same days [33 BC] a decree was passed that no one belonging to the senatorial class should be tried for piracy, and so those who were under any charge at the time were set free, and some were given a free hand to practice their villainy in the future.”

    – Suetonius, Twelve Caesars, II, 31: “Finally, on assuming the office of Chief Pontiff vacated by the death of Marcus Lepidus [13 BC] — he could not bring himself to divest his former colleague of it, even though he were an exile — Augustus collected all the copies of Greek and Latin prophetic verse then current, the work of either anonymous or little-known authors, and burned more than two thousand. He kept only the Sibylline Books, and edited even these before depositing them in two gilded cases under the pedestal of Palatine Apollo’s image.”

    In 10 BC Augustus transported an obelisk from Heliopolis to Rome (Pliny, NH, 36).

    – The Emperor Hadrian while in Egypt in 130 rewarded the Egyptian magician Pachrates. (Greek Magical Papyri IV, 2443-2508)

    “The vase represents a form of the Egyptian god Osiris depicted as a jar topped by a human head known as Osiris-Hydreios, or commonly Osiris-Canopus because it was originally exclusively connected to the Canopic region of Egypt. It was discovered in the middle of the 18th century and is now in the Vatican Museums (Gregoriano Egizio: Vatican inventory no. 22852). It is thought to have come from the Antinoeion, a temple complex devoted to Antinous located along the monumental entrance of Hadrian’s Villa that led to the Vestibule. A number of pieces of Egyptian-style sculptures were found at the Antinoeion during the excavations in 2002, including Egyptianizing architectural fragments and a small head with pharaonic headgear.”



    – Cassius Dio RH, 72, 8: “The Romans [Legio XII Fulminata] accordingly, were in a terrible plight from fatigue, wounds, the heat of the sun, and thirst, and so could neither fight nor retreat, but were standing and the line and at their several posts, scorched by the heat, when suddenly many clouds gathered and a mighty rain, not without divine interposition, burst upon them. Indeed, there is a story to the effect that Arnuphis, an Egyptian magician, who was a companion of Marcus [Aurelius], had invoked by means of enchantments various deities and in particular Mercury, the god of the air, and by this means attracted the rain.”

    A Mercury-Hermes coin of the Emperor (161-180) and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius:


    – Acts 13: [6] And when they had gone through the whole island, as far as Paphos, they found a certain man, a magician, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesu: [7] Who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a prudent man. He sending for Barnabas and Saul, desired to hear the word of God. [8] But Elymas the magician (for so his name is interpreted) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. [9] Then Saul, otherwise Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, looking upon him, [10] Said: O full of all guile, and of all deceit, child of the devil, enemy of all justice, thou ceasest not to pervert the right ways of the Lord.

    – 2 Timothy 3:8: Now as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith.

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