Dead Sea Scrolls and The Bible

Some time ago, an article titled, “The Reason God tested Abraham, and other revelations from a half century of Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship” appeared in U.S. News and World Report. In the article was a suggestion that parts of the Bible are missing, while some things in the Bible are spurious. The author wrote:

“Roughly half the Old Testament texts at Qumran contain passages that do not appear in modern translations, or they omit passages that appear in later texts.”

Further on the article mentioned, “A provocative rewrite of the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac. In the traditional Bible, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. At the last second, an angel stays Abraham’s knife and points to a ram trapped in a thicket as a substitute sacrifice. The biblical tale, says James VanderKam, a scroll editor and professor at the University of Notre Dame, has always posed a difficult theological question; “How could God tempt Abraham to slay his son? The Qumran text,” says VanderKam, “attempts to ‘soften the blow of God’s action’ by introducing a Satan figure, called Mastemah or ‘prince of malevolence,’ who goads God into the test. God thus does not originate the evil but merely countenances it and permits Abraham to prove his faithfulness.”

Both the magazine article and the good professor from Notre Dame are wrong. There is fundamental flaw in the professor’s reasoning in this alleged “goading” of God to countenance evil. A professor from Notre Dame (the most prominent Catholic University in the world) should surely be familiar with the passage, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man...” (James 1:13). While the word tempt is sometimes used as a test or trial, this can hardly be the meaning in the Qumran text, for to goad God into commanding Abraham to do what the evil one would desire is tempting God with evil.

For years men have tried to make the Bible more fiction than fact. To rely on the Qumran Community as an explanation of why God required Abraham to offer Isaac is a good example of human reasoning that seeks to explain away things men refuse to believe. The most reliable proof that our Old Testament is genuine is found in the New Testament. When Jesus quoted books of the Old Testament he put his sacred sanction on them. When inspired writers of the New Testament referred to Old Testament events, we can be sure the Holy Spirit sanctioned the Old Testament records that report them.

The account of Abraham’s great faith in obedience to a command that men find repugnant furnishes an example of this sort of reasoning. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we read: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19). The event is also mentioned in James. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21). The Holy Spirit did not need the Qumran edition of the event to reveal the truth.

The Old and New Testaments are completely reliable and authentic. God has not allowed his word to become corrupt. Mormons are wrong when they claim the Bible has become corrupt because “many plain and precious things” have been removed by it. They blame the Catholic Church for the corruption of the Bible (Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:26-29). The difference between Mormon attitudes toward the Bible and professor VanderKam is indeed slight.

There is no need to doubt that all the books that are in the Bible are supposed to be there and nothing is omitted that God intended for us to have. Peter wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:3-4 -- see also 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

We have the same confidence expressed again by Peter. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: bur holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). The phrase “not by the will of man” rules out the Qumran Community.

The Psalmist wrote, “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever” (Psa. 12:6-7). The confidence Jesus had in the Old Testament, as we have it right now, and the sanction given to it by the Holy Spirit, assures us that God’s word is alive and well and that we have it exactly as God has preserved it for us. - DRS

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