Israel: 1500-Year-Old Ancient Bible Found from Charred Scroll

Using advanced digital technology, Israeli archaeologists have deciphered text from an ancient bible found 45 years ago. Though the charred scroll is only the second-oldest biblical writing after the Dead Sea Scrolls, its discovery is quite remarkable because it is the first Torah scroll to have been found in a synagogue.

Ancient Bible Found in Israel Deciphered with Advanced Technology

The Israel Antiquities Authority have announced they have deciphered a 1500-year-old ancient bible found 45 years ago. Thanks to medical advancements and digital imaging software, the scorched scroll has been virtually unrolled to reveal the first eight verses of the Book of Leviticus which are quite serendipitously about burnt offerings.

In 1970, Sefi Porath and Dan Barag headed the archaeological excavation of the synagogue at Ein Gedi. The synagogue, which was in a flourishing Jewish village in the 4th-7th centuries AD, was known for its beautiful mosaic floor and also boasted a Holy Ark.

During the excavation, many great treasures were uncovered along with the scroll including ceramic oil lamps, the community money box containing over 3,500 coins, a bronze menorah, and even vessels of perfume. However, without any kind of technology to analyze the charred scroll, the archaeologists had no idea the significance of what they had discovered–until now.

Israel: 1500-Year-Old Ancient Bible Found from Charred Scroll - Clapway

Most Significant Biblical Finding Since The Dead Sea Scrolls

Radiocarbon dating has dated the charred scroll of the ancient bible to around 500 AD. For archaeologists, this is an extremely important find as it is now the second oldest biblical text after the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Even without its comparison to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the new finding is quite significant for biblical archaeology as it is the first Torah scroll that has been found in a synagogue by an archaeological excavation. To top that, it was also found inside the Holy Ark of the synagogue. However, the importance of the discovery to biblical archaeology may not have been found had it not been for the combination of advanced medical and scientific research technologies.

How Researchers Analyzed the Burnt Writing on the Ancient Bible

The burnt ancient Torah was not an easy text to decipher. It was only through the joint collaboration of several companies, countries, and researchers that the first Torah to be discovered was decoded.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) along with Merkel Technologies Company, Ltd. first had to scan the scroll with a micro-computed tomography machine, also known as a CT scan. They then delivered the CT scans to the University of Kentucky for further analysis using digital-imaging software.

The software, an amazing creation of author Brent Seales, was able to virtually unroll the scroll to produce a flat, readable image of the text from the CT scan. What Seales found was buried deep within the many wraps of the scroll, a feat that was only possible using his astonishing software.

Pnina Shor, the director of IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Projects, had previously believed it was a lost cause to scan the scroll seeing as how it was so burned. However, she was quite excited that they gave it a go anyways, which led to the unveiling of the centuries old text.

Without the advances in software and the lucky find 45 years ago, the charred scroll may have gone undetected as rubbish rather than the magnificently historic piece of archaeology it is as the world’s second-oldest ancient bible and the first Torah scroll from a Holy Ark of a synagogue.


A Moleskine notebook allows you to create your scrolls: