New Research Appears to Affirm the Antiquity of the Book of Psalms

The biblical book of Psalms consists of 150 devotional poems, which—according to the Talmud—were composed by ten different authors, most prominent of whom was King David. Based primarily on the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many modern academic scholars have concluded that, while some of the individual psalms might be quite old, the precise selection and ordering that appear in the Tanakh did not emerge until a relatively late date. Instead, they argue, a variety of collections proliferated during the Second Temple period, with overlapping but not identical contents. But a group of researchers based in the Netherlands, who have been subjecting the Dead Sea Scrolls to new forms of technologically sophisticated analysis, have come to different conclusions. Rossella Tercatin writes:

The Dead Sea Scrolls collection presents some 40 scrolls containing the text [of Psalms]. “Some of them are just one tiny fragment; some are collections of many large fragments,” Drew Longacre, [one of the scholars conducting the new research], said. “Maybe fifteen or so are substantially preserved.” . . . The preliminary results of the analysis carried out using paleographic and radiocarbon dating have revealed that some of the scrolls might actually be more ancient than previously thought.

“One of the manuscripts presenting texts in roughly the same order as medieval manuscripts could have been dated as early as the 3rd century BCE, which could be very challenging for those who say that the current Psalter is a much more recent creation,” Longacre said.

Longacre [also] believes that a clear distinction existed between artifacts created for public use and community reading and those manufactured for personal use, a distinction somewhat comparable to the modern difference between a Torah scroll used for public reading in synagogues and a ḥumash, a [printed] book containing the Pentateuch, usually used for learning purposes, or between hardcover and paperback books.

The difference between formal and informal manuscripts also could offer a fundamental key to interpret discrepancies between contradictory versions of the texts, Longacre said.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Bible, Psalms

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf