LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s tiny, just 2 centimeters by 4 centimeters, but a group of archeological and biblical experts say it’s one of the biggest findings in a long time.
“It proves that the text was in existence very early, in what we would call the Late Bronze II period” from about 1400 B.C. to 1200 B.C., said Scott Stripling, director of excavations for Lancaster County-based Associates for Biblical Research and director of the Archaeological Studies Institute at The Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas.
Stripling announced the findings Thursday morning in Houston.
Excavators unearthed the tablet during a big dig in the 1980s, but Stripling found it while sifting more carefully in 2019 — using new scanning technology — through what he described as biblical Joshua’s “discards.”
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In other words, his garbage?
“Well, yes, we as archeologists love garbage,” Stripling said. “I mean, it’s a good day for me is what I’m getting to go through garbage, and Joshua’s garbage is better than anybody’s.
The significance of the tablet’s writing, according to Stripling, which he described as the earliest-known “morphing of hieroglyphs into phonic representations” — ancient Hebrew?
“When people have argued that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch” — the first five books of the Old Testament, which Jews call the Torah — “because there was no alphabetic script with which to do that, we now know that that’s just simply not accurate.”
The other major development, according to Stripling: “This is the oldest example we have, and the only example we have from the land of Israel itself, from this early time period, of the name Yahweh” — God — in writing.
According to researchers, the small artifact’s text, translated to English, reads:
“Cursed, cursed, cursed — cursed by the God YHW.
You will die cursed.
Cursed you will surely die.
Cursed by YHW — cursed, cursed, cursed.”
The tablet came from Mount Ebal, known as the biblical “mountain of the curse” — but at a prayer altar within the mountain. Stripling said, sure enough, the tablet contains a curse, imposed by the people who wrote it on themselves. But within the curse, they gave themselves a chance of redemption.
The significance of the altar? “It’s where you find forgiveness,” Stripling said. “So even though they’re guilty of a curse, if they will repent at the altar, then they don’t get those consequences of the curse.”
To decipher the text, Stripling collaborated with scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germany, and the University of Haifa in Israel.