Today I had a friend (Joseph Dumond) email me a website that contained articles concerning the 26 Tombstones that were excavated at Zoar, an area located on the southern side of the Dead Sea. Of the 26 Tombstones that were found – 24 are written in Aramaic and the one that I read up on is the only one that is bilingual – Greek and Aramaic. The article was taken from a book (online) titled “A Bilingual Tombstone from Zo’ar (Arabia) (Hecht Museum, Haifa, Inv. No. H-3029, Naveh’s List No. 18)” by Hannah M. Cotton and Jonathan J. Price. pp. 277 – 283 and can be found through this link:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/20190821 OR this link http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/20190821?id=3739776&uid=2134&uid=2482786383&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=2482786373&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=21104402442603
I was extremely happy to find this because I had trouble finding any information on these tombstones, let alone they be translated into English.
There are no pictures of this tombstone within the article, only a description. The authors have written that the tombstone contains two texts – 5 lines of Greek followed by 4 lines of Aramaic. The tombstone is decorated with red menorahs with nothing on the backside of the stone. Some of the Greek text is hard to read. The authors reproduced J. Naveh’s text and translation of the Aramaic which says: “This is the grave of Mousis (Moshe) son of Marsa who died in year three of the Sabbatical cycle, in the month of Kislev, on the twenty seventh day of it, which is the year 290 after the destruction of the Temple.” (Emphasis mine)
The authors of the article reconstructed the translation of the Greek text and according to the Greek text this man died in the year 253 (of the province of Arabia). They write: “The most intriguing feature of this as well as of the other tombstones from Zo’ar is the presence of several systems of dating in the same monument. In the Aramaic tombstones there are generally two, but in our bilingual inscription there are three such systems. ONE IS REMINDED IMMEDIATELY OF THE THREE SYSTEMS OF DATING IN ARAMAIC, NABATEAN AND GREEK papyri written by Jews from Mahoza (Mahoz ‘Eglatain), a village in the district of Zo’ar, in the first half of the second century CE: the emperor’s regnal year, the Roman consular year and the era of the province Arabia.” (Emphasis mine)
So with the conflict of dates, there were different ways of reckoning time: The authors write: “The 27 of Kislev, the day and month given in the Aramaic text on our tombstone, of the year 253 of the era of the province of Arabia is most likely to have fallen in December OF THE JULIAN YEAR 358 – or, if the end of the month of Kislev fell quite late that year, in early January 359….However, two other systems of reckoning are used in the Aramaic part of the inscription: the era from the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and the year in the seven-year sabbatical cycle. The destruction of the second Temple is known to have taken place on 9 Ab (July/August) of the year 70 CE.”
Unfortunately, these two scholars have overlooked a critical point. The renewed Hebrew year begins on Aviv 1, not according to Rabbinic Judaism’s date of Tishri 1 and they are using the modern Rabbinic dating rather than the Biblical reckoning of time. They are also using Zion Walcholder’s tables and calendar of Sabbatical Cycles that has been proven to be in error by the authors of ‘The Sabbath and Jubilee Cycle’ Qadesh La Yahweh Press. PDF book can be found here: http://www.yahweh.org/publications/sjc/sabjub.pdf
One thing that is encouraging, the majority of the 26 tombstones fits an era of the destruction of the Temple which starts on 9 Ab 70 CE – NOT 69 CE. Based on the many findings and confirming evidence of Sabbatical years found outside of the Bible (162 BCE, 134 BCE, 43 BCE, 36 BCE, 22 BCE, 42 CE, 56 CE, 70 CE, 133 CE, and 140 CE) these other Tombstone inscriptions of 439 CE (5th year of Shmittah) and 515 CE (4th year of Shmittah) and now 360 CE (3rd year of Shmittah – 290 years + destruction of the Temple in 70 CE = 360 CE) show that indeed the Shmittah was being kept continually and accurately well into the 6th century. If we plot these numbers, along with other documented dates (701 BCE, 456 BCE) we can see that the last Shmittah occurred in 2009 and the next Shmittah will be starting in Aviv 1, 2016.
For further teachings concerning the Shmittah and Yovel, click here for part 1, and here for part 2 (video teachings).
Tombstones of Zoar and Confirming the Sabbatical Years