The Great Isaiah Scroll & the Original Bible: An Interview with Dr. Peter Flint
- Monday, May 17, 2010
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Nov-Dec. 2008 issue of Bible Study Magazine.
In 1987, as the Dead Sea Scrolls publishing controversy captured the world's attention, a graduate student by the name of Peter Flint moved from South Africa to the United States. He took a doctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame and began to study under one of the figures at the center of the controversy, Eugene Ulrich, the chief editor of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls.
By 1997, Dr. Peter Flint had published the second largest portion of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: the Psalms Scrolls. This publication was full of discoveries that soon changed bibles, Bible study, and biblical scholarship. Today, Flint is an editor of the largest intact Dead Sea Scroll: The Great Isaiah Scroll.
Since the Great Isaiah Scroll's discovery in late 1946, an Indiana Jones-like story has followed it. The scroll has journeyed through the heart of war-torn Israel, Palestine and Jordan, through the hands of Bedouins, priests and scholars.
The definitive publication of the scroll is slated to be published in the critically acclaimed Discoveries of the Judean Desert series by the end of 2008. The findings published so far hint that this forthcoming publication will have a massive impact on the way we think of the Bible.
The Great Isaiah Scroll tells the story of how we got our Bible. Because of this, nations and individuals alike have felt connected to the scroll, but very few people have felt as connected to this ancient artifact as Dr. Peter Flint.
Flint took the time to answer some questions for Bible Study Magazine about the Great Isaiah Scroll's impact on Bible study, and what we know about the original Bible.
BSM: What type of work do you do?
FLINT: I'm involved in publishing and researching the Dead Sea Scrolls. But I have a second calling—to take the Dead Sea Scrolls and demonstrate the importance of them to our lives and the Christian faith.
BSM: Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls important to the Christian faith?
FLINT: The Dead Sea Scrolls are the greatest find of our time. They affect our understanding of the Bible and they confirm the accuracy of Scripture. They enhance our understanding of Jesus and help us interpret the New Testament.
The past can be confusing, but if one understands the relevance of the Scrolls to the Christian faith, it is quite illuminating. One example of this illumination is the Great Isaiah Scroll. In many ways, the scroll affects the Christian faith and our understanding of the Bible.
The Great Isaiah Scroll contains more than 25% of all the biblical text among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is almost completely preserved. Virtually every part of all 66 chapters of Isaiah are found in the Great Isaiah Scroll.
BSM: Can you provide some examples of how the Great Isaiah Scroll affects our understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith?
FLINT: Yes. I have a beautiful example from the Isaiah scrolls. Do you remember the suffering servant of the Lord, the man of sorrows? If you go to Isa 53:11, it says, in reference to the servant, "He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many. For he shall bear their iniquities." According to the KJV, which follows the traditional Hebrew text, the servant will suffer, he will die, and he will be content. It's Good Friday, right?
Now what do we find when we turn to the scrolls? I went to the Great Isaiah Scroll in Jerusalem and I discovered there is a different reading. Not, "He shall see of the travail of his soul." Instead, there's a new word there, "Out of the travail of his soul he will see light."
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