By DANIEL K. EISENBUD
Tue, 12 Apr 2016, 08:05 AM
Inscriptions dating to 600 BCE suggest widespread literacy at the time of Kingdom of Judah, say Tel Aviv University researchers.
Photo by: MICHAEL CORDONSKY
Scholars have long debated how much of the Bible was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah, in 586 BCE.
While experts agree that key biblical texts were written starting in the 7th century BCE, the exact date of the compilation of these books remains in question.
Now, a groundbreaking new study by Tel Aviv University (TAU) published in theProceedings of the [US] National Academy of Sciences this week, sheds important new light on the debate.
“There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts,” said Prof.
Israel Finkelstein of TAU’s Department of Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations, who led the research with Prof. Eliezer Piasetzky, of the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
“But to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period? And what were the literacy rates later on, under Persian rule?” According to the study, the researchers determined that widespread literacy was required for the massive undertaking, and it provides empirical evidence of that literacy in the final days of the Kingdom of Judah.
A profusion of literate individuals in Judah may have set the stage for the compilation of biblical works that constitute the basis of Judahite history and theology, such as the early version of the books of Deuteronomy to Second Kings, according to the researchers.
Using cutting-edge computerized image processing and machine learning tools, the TAU team analyzed 16 inscriptions unearthed at an excavation in the remote fort of Arad, and deduced that the texts had been written by at least six authors.
The content of the inscriptions disclosed that reading and writing abilities existed throughout the military chain of command, from the highest echelon, all the way down to the deputy quartermaster of the fort.