Archaeology, z438
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Does a small chalkstone help confirm Jesus’ writing on the ground in John 8?

A 2,000-year-old financial receipt found near ancient Jerusalem’s Pilgrimage Path.
Credit: Eliyahu Yanai/City of David/Israel Antiquities Authority

A chalkstone with inscriptions carved in it discovered in archaeological excavations associated with the City of David’s Pilgrimage Path is clearly hitting above its weight, the Times of Israel reports.

The piece said to be 2,000 years old and dated to Christ’s day was found in debris from a marketplace along the 600-meter route that pilgrims took entering Jerusalem for one of Israel’s annual feasts.

There was no significant message written on the stone and in fact, it is this insignificance that actually elevated its importance.

Archaeologists often find state-sponsored monuments with extensive writing on them, but some have questioned how widespread writing was among the common people.

Though there were only a few words scratched on the small chalkstone, it was obviously intended as a ledger keeping track of some type of financial arrangement.

One of the lines reads ‘Shimon’, a term used to describe Herod’s Temple, and the second word ‘mem’ is an economic term, an abbreviation of the Hebrew word, ma’ot, for money. Along with this, several numbers were also scraped into the stone.

This was a receipt recording a sale or as Bar Ilan University Prof. Esther Eshel suggested it may have involved someone keeping track of money owed his employees.

Whatever the case, the simplicity of the text reveals that the common people knew how to write and were using it in their daily life.

“The more we find inscriptions from daily life — versus monumental, state-sponsored texts — the more I think that there were many who knew to read and write during this period, especially simple instructions such as found in this inscription,” Eshel explained in an interview with the Times of Israel.

In the Gospel of John, we are told that the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Christ asking if she should be stoned.

Jesus was able to defuse the situation by writing in the dirt on the ground. We are not told what was written, but it eventually resulted in the woman’s accusers slinking away one by one.

Some have questioned if Jesus, as a simple carpenter or more likely a stonemason, would have the ability to write (John 8:3-9).

Along with this, we also know that Jesus could read, as He read from the book of Isaiah in a visit to the synagogue recorded in Luke 4:16-21.

This simple chalkstone reveals that in Jesus’ day, Jews from every facet of life were utilizing writing in their daily life.

READ: 2,000-year-old ledger found in City of David points to widespread 2nd Temple literacy

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