Archaeologists are speculating that the Bible is older than it was believed, as a collection of letters has been unearthed.
The letters unearthed were written on clay, and date back to 2,500 years back. This discovery is has brought the age of the oldest biblical texts, in spotlight. A team of researchers in Tel Aviv University, Israel are claiming that the ancient Kingdom of Judah had a high literacy rate. The research team is further claiming that the ancient Judean Kingdom had a sophisticated educational system, which makes it a possibility that the earliest nucleus of the Bible were written in the First Temple period.
Tel Aviv University’s press statement which is about a year ago, but has been revealed just recently says, “There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts, but to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period? And what were the literacy rates later on?”
This research team was lead by archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, together with a physicist Eliezer Piasetzky. This team which comprised of archaeologists, physicists and mathematicians prepared imaging tools and algorithms in order to produce and digital image of a collection of inscribed potsherds which were unearthed in the 1960s. The potsherds were discovered among the relics of the stronghold of the Judahite desert of Arad, which is located between Be’er Sheva and the Dead Sea.
The articles found are few potsherds, or ostraca, which are inscribed. These date back to the First Temple period, and are among the very few surviving antiques till now. Majority of the writing of tat era had not been discovered owing to the fact that most of the writing was done on fragile papyrus sheets.
The inscribed potsherds are a collection of military mails dating back to around the year 600 BCE. The team of the Tel Aviv scientists selected 16 out of about 100 ostraca found in Arad. These ostraca were photographed and digital images of them were prepared. By using a software, the handwriting on the most frequently-used letters of the alphabet were recognized and studied.
Barak Sober- a mathematician from the research team said, “We designed an algorithm to distinguish between different authors, then composed a statistical mechanism to assess our findings. Through probability analysis, we eliminated the likelihood that the texts were written by a single author.”
“We found indirect evidence of the existence of an educational infrastructure, which could have enabled the composition of biblical texts. Literacy existed at all levels of the administrative, military and priestly systems of Judah. Reading and writing were not limited to tiny elite,” Eliezer Piasetzky- the physicist from the research team said.