Using a process called ‘virtual unwrapping,’ scientists were able to read the the text on a parchment destroyed in an ancient synagogue that burned down in 600 AD. The parchment was inside a box called the Holy Ark used by Synagogues to store Biblical scrolls.
The scrolled parchment made up of five layers was found in 1970 in a synagogue discovered in the archaeological remains of a small Jewish community referred to as Ein Gedi on the coast of the Dead Sea. The whole town apparently burned down at the same time.
Archaeologists stopped working on the scroll when it disintegrated at touch. It sat unstudied until University of Kentucky computer scientists scanned the charred parchment using a mico-CT scanner at the request of the Israeli Antiquity Authority.
They basically used this to create digital images of the scroll and then flattened the sheets. Because the Jews used an ink with metal properties the scanners were able to easily pick out the Hebrew lettering.
According to Breaking Israel News (BIN), the scroll contained text from the Book of Leviticus. It was written in a style of Hebrew used 1,700 years ago and contained only consonants (no vowels).
Remarkably the text was word for word the exact same as used in modern Bibles.
In an interview with the Times of Israel, Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem stated:
“This is quite amazing for us. In 2,000 years, this text has not changed.”
With the advent of the printing press in 1440 AD, this meticulously copied version of the ancient Bible was the basis for the modern Old Testament.
Before the printing press, the only way to reproduce the Old Testament scriptures was to copy it by hand. A group called the Scribe rose up to do this important task.
According to BIN:
“Holy texts are hand-copied letter for letter from accepted originals. Strict guidelines are given for techniques, shapes of letters, and breaks in the text striving to maintain an unbroken chain from Sinai.”
One of the methods used to verify the accuracy of the copied text with the original was to count the letters and spaces to make sure they were exactly the same number.
Because of their familiarity with the ancient Biblical texts, the scribes also became teachers of the law (Ezra 7:6). In the Gospels, the Scribes were linked with the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) and often found opposing Jesus (Matthew 26:57).
Some of the oldest versions of the ancient Hebrew Bible come from the Dead Sea scrolls dated to 300 BC found in cliff caves two kilometers north of the Dead Sea.