September 28, 2004

Dating of Priestly Benediction confirmed

The words are among the most familiar and ecumenical in the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity. At the close of a worship service, the rabbi, priest or pastor delivers, with only slight variations, the comforting and fortifying benediction:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."

An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. - some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

But problems with condition and legibility led to doubts; recent reexamination, however, has confirmed the dating, and has permitted reading of many formerly obscure passages. Full article in the NY Times.

Posted by David on September 28, 2004 1:11 AM

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