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Studying Ancient Handwriting Reveals Biblical Texts are Older Than Estimated

Studying Ancient Handwriting Reveals Biblical Texts are Older Than Estimated

By using handwriting analysis technology, Israeli scholars from a number of fields have concluded that certain ancient biblical texts are older than originally thought. reports that a Tel Aviv University team of doctoral students in mathematics, math professors, archaeologists, and a physicist used technology similar to that used by intelligence agencies and banks in analyzing signatures in order to examine the ancient handwriting.

The handwriting itself is not from a biblical text, but is made up of inscriptions on ceramic shards which were discovered at the site of an ancient military fortress in southern Israel.

The scholars used multispectral imaging to reconstruct Hebrew letters that had been erased with time. They then applied a computer algorithm to analyze the handwriting. 

The inscriptions detail troop movements, expenses for provisions, and other practical matters. The fact that people of varying ranks and statuses would have inscribed this information suggests that literacy in ancient Israel was more widespread than originally thought, which would further suggest that biblical texts of the time could have been written at an earlier date.

Scholars have long debated over whether certain biblical texts--from the book of Joshua through the book of Second Kings--first began to be compiled before or after the Israeli exile to Babylon in 586 B.C. It was originally thought that the texts were written after the exile, when the people of Israel had time to reflect on what had happened to them. The findings from the handwriting analysis, however, suggest that the texts were written before the exile to Babylon.

"It's the first time we have something empirical in our hands," said Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein.

Publication date: April 12, 2016