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The Dead Sea Scrolls ..
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times.
They were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are comprised of the remains of approximately 825 to 870 separate scrolls, represented by tens of thousands of fragments.
The texts are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one of copper.
Most of the texts are written in Hebrew and Aramaic, with a few in Greek.
Fragments of every book of the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) have been discovered, except for the Book of Esther.
Now identified among the scrolls are 19 fragments of Isaiah, 25 fragments of Deuteronomy and 30 fragments of the Psalms.
The virtually intact Isaiah scroll, which contains some of the most dramatic messianic prophecy, is 1,000 years older than any previously known manuscript of Isaiah.
Based on various dating methods, including palaeographic, scribal, and carbon-14, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written during the period from about 200 BC to 68 AD.
Many crucial messianic manuscripts (such as psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 61) date to at least 100 BC.
As such, the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionised textual criticism of the Old Testament and Messianic prophecy.
We now have evidence that the key Messianic prophecies contained in today’s Old Testament are the same messianic prophecies that existed prior to the time Jesus walked this Earth.
This means that the over 300 Old Testament prophecies of the coming messiah were in black and white before the New Testament writers were even on the scene.
There was no contrivance ‘after the fact’.
There was no conspiracy.
Simply, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Jewish Messiah.

The People Of Israel ..
The Genesis account of Abraham and his immediate descendants may indicate that there were three main waves of early Hebrew settlement in Canaan, the modern Israel.
One was associated with Abraham and Hebron and took place in about 1850BC.
A second wave of immigration was linked with Abraham’s grandson Jacob, who was renamed Israel (‘may God show his strength’).

He settled in Shechem, which is now the Arab town of Nablus on the West Bank.
The Bible tells us that Jacob’s sons, who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel, emigrated to Egypt during a severe famine in Canaan.
The third wave of Hebrew settlement occurred in about 1200BC when tribes who claimed to be descendants of Abraham, arrived in Canaan from Egypt.
They said that they had been enslaved by the Egyptians but had been liberated by a deity called Yahweh, who was the God of their leader Moses.
After they had forced their way into Canaan, they allied themselves with the Hebrews there and became known as the people of Israel.
The Bible makes it clear that the people we know as the ancient Israelites were a confederation of various ethnic groups, bound principally together by their loyalty to Yahweh, The God of Moses.
The biblical account was written down centuries later, however, in about the eighth century BC, though it certainly drew on earlier narrative sources.

Bloodshed, In The Name Of Religion ..
The history of Jerusalem is the history of the world.
The story of Jerusalem encompasses all the vices – greed, betrayal, envy, lust and anger, as well as the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
But all too often the result was bloodshed.
The three great Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – all have common roots and share a historical claim to the Holy City.
All three religions worship the same God.
Moses experienced a divine revelation and was the first leader of the monotheistic religions.

For 1,000 years Jerusalem was exclusively Jewish.
For about 400 years Christian.
For 1,300 years Islamic.

And not one of the three faiths ever gained Jerusalem without the sword.
In the name of religion all sides played their part (and still do).
The great opportunity missed by the Palestinian Arabs was Britain’s offer in 1939 to guarantee a non-Jewish independent state within ten years.
It was rejected, and nine years later both Palestine and Jerusalem were effectively partitioned between Arabs and the Jews.
Jerusalem was unified under Jewish control, thanks to Israel’s victory in the Six Day War of 1967, but this may not be a long-term solution.
Only two separate states and a shared Jerusalem would ensure Israel’s survival and provide justice for Palestinians.

Authority Belongs To God Alone ..
The authority of The Bible is an earthly authority and therefore cannot be absolute.
Absolute authority belongs to God alone.
And even when speaking through scriptures, God does so in a way limited by the very nature of the written word and the created world within which it exists.
For us as Christians, The Bible is only one of the authorities that give us guidance.
Under God, it is coordinate with the church, whose living voice acts as the practical authority for Christians most of the time.
The great significance of the Bible is that it stands outside the present in which the church and the individual Christian live.

The Bible, because it stands outside our present, always bears witness against us, showing that we are not all that we might be or that God has prepared for us to be.
The authority of the Bible discloses itself in making us dissatisfied, in offering us new perspectives, in giving us the hope of a better fulfilment of God’s will for our humanity.
The words of scripture come to us from ages past and recount God’s dealings with people whose experience is likely to have been worlds away from ours.
Yet the very remoteness of scripture opens our eyes to see that God may deal with humanity in many ways other than the ones we ourselves have encountered.

There is a kind of dangerous contentment with the present, or at least a willingness to stay caught in it, that is the greatest possible barrier to our becoming what God intends for us.

A True Account Of The World ..
The biblical authors were dealing with the same issues that confront us – issues of faith and understanding that do not fade in a thousand years or in ten thousand.
Who is God?
What kind of world has God made?

Who are we, human spirits and souls and bodies, who find ourselves in this world?
What are the limits of our existence and our power, and what lies beyond them?
Why is suffering a part of our lives?
Why does this world not measure up to the best that we might hope of it?
And why does it give us so much more than we could have asked?
The mysteries of our existence remain with us.
The Christian claim about the scriptures is that in them we hear the word of God.
That means that, like all inspired works, the Bible gives a true account of the world.
It need not be scientifically true, in detail, nor even historically accurate.
But it must be true in the larger sense that it calls to our attention those things which are most significant in our universe and places them in a meaningful perspective.
No matter how badly we interpret it or how little we expect of it, it will not lose the ability to break through to the mind and spirit of our age, because truth cannot be kept quiet forever.
The Bible gives a fuller and truer perspective than that of any other single work.
The Christian community is dependent on the Bible for its life and integrity.
Once Christians have accepted the Bible as embodying the word of God – the message that lies at the heart of our existence as Christians – from then onward the Bible has a certain authority over against the church.
The church must interpret the Bible so that the Bible will have a living voice in each age, but the church must not use the process of interpretation merely to justify what the church itself happens to be.
The church, as the living community of faith, will always go on changing and developing, but not every change and development will be good.

The Power Of Prayer ..
In many studies the message is clear, practising religion is good for you.
They have shown religion to be as powerful, and in many cases more powerful, at extending longevity than some of the most potent medicines.
One long-term study concluded that regular churchgoers had significantly lower rates of death from cancer and circulatory, digestive and respiratory diseases.
It appears that many people know instinctively that prayer belongs in healthcare.
For people who pray, it’s enough to know that prayer does work.
Police officers have asked church-goers to pray for them, because it helps in the fight against crime.
The Christian Police Association says, “There is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that prayer may help to reduce crime”.

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