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newsBiblical Archaeology

Rare Psalm inscription uncovered in Judean Desert

The Christian epigraph paraphrases part of Psalm 86.

The Hycrania fortress evacuations. Photo by Michael Haber/The Hebrew University.
The Hycrania fortress evacuations. Photo by Michael Haber/The Hebrew University.

A unique inscription written in Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, was unearthed by Hebrew University archaeologists during excavations at the Hyrcania Fortress, about three miles west of Qumran in the Judean Desert.

Paraphrasing Psalm 86, the inscription reads, “Jesus Christ, guard me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you.” The first section of the original psalm reads “Lord” instead of “Jesus Christ.”

It was found on the side of a large building stone painted in red under a cross, most likely created by a monk from the Kastellion, a small Byzantine monastery that was built on the ruins of the Hasmonean fortress at the end of the 5th century CE.

The Koine Greek inscription. Photo by Shay Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority.

Oren Gutfeld and Michal Haber of the Hebrew University directed the excavation in cooperation with Tennessee’s Carson-Newman University and the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery that helps veterans transition back to civilian life through archaeology.

Avner Ecker of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, who helped to decipher the inscription, said, “This is one of the most common psalms used in the ancient Christian liturgy. It appears that one of the monks drew a graffito of the cross on the wall and underneath it, he penned a prayer he knew well. Based on the style of the script, the inscription dates back to the first half of the 6th century CE.

“Several grammatical errors in the transcription suggest that the writer did not speak Greek as his native tongue, but rather, he might have been a local, perhaps even a native of the region, and spoke Aramaic or another local language,” Ecker said.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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