In early 1947, just before Israel miraculously became an independent nation, two Bedouin boys found the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century — the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Considered the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, they date back to at least 150 BC. These amazing scrolls are still considered to be some of the most important historical and religious documents ever discovered.
The Dead Sea scrolls include commentaries and extra-Biblical writings that give us insight into the time of Yeshua and before. They confirm that the Bible we have today has survived unchanged from antiquity.
IT IS NO COINCIDENCE that as God rebirthed the independent nation of Israel, He gave His people a birthday gift — proof that His promises have been accurately recorded throughout the centuries — including those promises that give the land of Israel to the Jewish People.
Among the proof and promises is the entire manuscript of Isaiah, which has been dated to before the time of Yeshua (Jesus).
In it this Hebrew prophet foresees the miracle of the rebirth of Israel as an independent nation:
“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” (Isaiah 66:8)
And Israel was miraculously rebirthed in one day — on May 14, 1948 — just as Isaiah foretold.
But for those who doubt that this promise applies to Israel, Isaiah also declared:
“’The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:6–8)
David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly reads the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism.
In one year, God began the restoration of His treasured possessions: His land, His people, and His written Word.
The restoration of His Word did not only include the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also brought back to Israel the Aleppo Codex, known in Hebrew as the Keter Aram Tsova, the Crown of Aram Tzova.
Aram Tzova is the Biblical name for Aleppo, a town in Syria.
The Aleppo Crown has been the most beloved and trusted Bible codex (a book format rather than a scroll) by Rabbinic scholars since it was scribed about 1,000 years ago in Jerusalem.
It later made its way into a special wooden chest in Aleppo’s main synagogue.
It seemed as if this special codex were linked to the Holy Land itself when it came under threat in November 1947 following the United Nations General Assembly vote to partition Palestine into adjacent Jewish and Arab states.
In response to the vote, anti-Jewish violence erupted in Syria and Aleppo’s main synagogue was ransacked and burned. The Crown was thought to be lost forever.
Jewish People around the world felt the loss of this important handwritten Bible manuscript.
There are at least 10 accounts of how the codex was saved. Among them is the story of the synagogue’s sexton, Asher Baghdadi, and his son who apparently returned to the burned synagogue and gathered the scattered pages.
The value of the codex would increase in the eyes of the Syrian government when an American antiquities expert offered $20 million for the manuscript. Nevertheless, locals continued to protect the location of the codex, believing they would fall under a curse if it left Aleppo.
Throughout its lifetime, the codex had developed its own lore and mystery, since inscribed in the holy book itself were curses pronounced on anyone who would sell, steal, or pawn it.
In 1952, Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, sought a rabbinical ruling to annul all curses on the book, which some hoped would enable the transfer of the Aleppo Codex back to Israel.
Ben-Zvi arranged for the codex to be smuggled to Israel in 1958.
A Jewish merchant from the city, Murad Faham, was chosen by two Aleppo rabbis to deliver the Aleppo Crown into the hands of the chief rabbi of Aleppo Jews in Israel.
The previous caretaker of the codex brought it in a sack to the Faham household, where Faham’s wife wrapped it in cheesecloth and blankets before hiding it in a washing machine.
In the meantime, between 1949 and 1956, archaeologists raced to explore the rest of the Qumran area, finding 10 more caves that were hiding about 800 Dead Sea manuscripts dated from approx. 200 BC to AD 68.
Fragments from every book of the Tanakh (Old Testament) except for the Book of Esther were found along with one complete copy of the scroll of Isaiah and an ancient treasure map dubbed “the Copper scroll” because the scribe penned it on metal sheets.
While these two national treasures are now housed in the climate controlled Shrine of the Book museum in Jerusalem, they are also treasured outside Israel.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) just listed the codex in the International Memory of the World Register.
Interest remains high in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well.
Almost 2,000 years after they were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the Israel Antiquities Authority is digitizing the thousands of tiny Dead Sea Scroll fragments using high-resolution imaging to put them together, much like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle.
“While the longest scrolls we have are around 11 metres (36 feet) in length, the smallest are less than a square centimetre. Some are very small indeed, yet these very small fragments can be the most important as these are from texts that are still unknown,” Dr Pnina Shor, curator and director of the Project, told MailOnline.
This Bible will reveal to the Jewish People the prophetic basis for faith in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah.
No Bible Society in the world has ever had the tools that we are creating.
It will revolutionize the way Jews and Christians study the Tanakh, giving non-Hebrew readers and the world’s 2.1 billion Christians the opportunity to learn to read the Bible from the original Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Aleppo Codex.
It is a tremendous undertaking and we are grateful to those who partner with us in bringing this critically needed Bible to fruition.
Don’t miss the exciting conclusion in part 2 next week. We are quite certain that you will find the remarkable history and mysterious journey of the Aleppo Codex and Dead Sea Scrolls back home to the reborn state of Israel just as fascinating as we do.