The Vibe of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a bunch of ancient texts placed in large stone jars and hidden in caves in a place called Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. Some of the scrolls contain chunks of the Old Testament and were written over a 300 year period leading up to 68AD when Jerusalem was besieged by Romans, after which the scrolls were hurriedly hidden. Bible boffins believe that the scrolls were written by an ultra-strict sect of hairy monastic vegans called the Essenes, and that Qumran was their library. The scrolls include almost a thousand separate texts and were written on a mixture of papyrus, animal skins and copper in a number of different languages including Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. After spending almost two thousand years enjoying the view of the Dead Sea, they were discovered by a young shepherd in 1947 when one of his flock disappeared into their cave. Needing money, the shepherd grabbed some of the jars and sold them to a local merchant for £5. Since then, the scrolls have had an adventurous life, passing from hand to hand and finally ending up in their own special museum in Jerusalem. As for the vibe of what is written on the scrolls, there are chunks of every Old Testament book apart from Esther. Apparently the Essenes weren’t pleased that she married a Persian and so she was excluded from the vibe. There are also some other bits and bobs that give rules and regulations of how to live and behave in the Qumran community. What makes the Scrolls special to those who believe in God is that, until their discovery, the earliest Hebrew Bible texts were from around 900AD. Amazingly, many of these texts are almost identical to those written on the Dead Sea Scrolls, almost one thousand years earlier. It appears that, with the Old Testament, the vibe is the vibe and despite not having the ancient texts to copy from, Bible scribes never strayed from the plot.

General Vibe of the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Very Old Testament

Factvibe: The shepherd who found the scrolls forgot where the cave was and it wasn’t found again for another two years.

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If a beast like this hadn’t wandered into a cave, we would have no Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Vibe of Cornelius

A leader of an occupying military force makes for an improbable ‘good guy’ but the vibe of Cornelius proves again that it’s the unlikeliest people who become heroes in the Bible. An Italian soldier based in Caesarea, the capital city of the Roman province of Judea, Cornelius is a centurion; an officer in charge of at least eighty men and perhaps as many as five hundred. His vibe comes to life shortly after the death of Jesus. Jesus’ right hand man, Peter is in the town of Lydda, just south of modern day Tel Aviv and a stone’s throw from Caesarea. Here, his prayers have just brought a dead woman, Tabitha, back to life – an event that wins the Christians many new followers. Despite not sharing an ounce of Jewish blood between them, Cornelius and his family have also recently converted to Christianity and God decides that it’s time for the family to meet the man who has spent three years by Jesus’ side. In a vision, an angel congratulates Cornelius for all his good works and tells him where he can find Peter. The next day, Peter has a vision of his own where he is shown a menu of delicious food that is forbidden for Jews to eat. In the vision, God tells him that if an animal is made by God, then eating it is godly. The vision repeats itself another couple of times and just after the third screening, Cornelius’ men arrive inviting Peter to meet their leader. Peter accepts the invite but is clearly uncomfortable entering a gentile home. Still, he goes with the vibe and finds himself in the middle of a large gathering pulled together by Cornelius. The centurion explains his vision and Peter realizes that God sees no boundaries nor does he pick favourites – his message is for everyone. Peter then tells everyone about Jesus and the vibe is so powerful that the Holy Spirit makes an appearance and people who had never heard about God start to feel the vibe in a big way. Baptisms follow and for the first time, Jesus is no longer a Jewish Messiah, the cat is properly out of the bag and his vibe begins to spread throughout the whole world.

General vibe of Cornelius: Gateway to the gentiles

Factvibe: Cornelius is the first recorded gentile convert

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The vibe of Cornelius, as a plastic figurine

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The Vibe of the Canaanites

The lush fertile coastal plain that spreads east from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan is such prime real estate that Moses spends forty years leading several million people to settle there. Advertised to Abraham as a ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, Canaan is there for the taking. Unfortunately for the Canaanites, their vibe turns sour early on in their history. After a night on the wine, Noah falls asleep naked and is discovered by his son Ham. Instead of making the old man decent, Ham blabs to his brothers and for his indiscretion, Noah curses him, telling him his sons will forever be slaves. Ham’s son is Canaan and it is his back yard that the Israelites have in their gun sights when looking for a new home. The Canaanites don’t help themselves by worshipping the pagan god, Baal and it is for this reason that their cities are utterly destroyed by zealous Israelites wanting to establish a pure nation whose focus is on God. Once the settlement is a success, the Land of Canaan is renamed the Land of Israel but despite being conquered, many surviving Canaanites choose to stick around. Thanks to a proliferation of seaports, the Canaanites become known as skilled merchants, exporting oil, cedar wood and wine to Egypt and Greece and bringing back Egyptian linen and Greek pottery. They are also famous for their craft vibe – it is the Canaanites who build and design Solomon’s Temple. The Canaanites even invent the first alphabet with letters we recognize today. To the Ancient Greeks, the Canaanites are known as the Phoenicians and their vibe covers an area which today includes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and western Jordan. So despite a few bad religious choices and a thorough kicking when the Israelites first arrive, the defeated Canaanites generally thrive and live peacefully and profitably alongside their new landlords.

General vibe of the Canaanites: the pagans next door.

Factvibe: Papyrus scrolls imported from Egypt to the Canaanite port of Byblos were called Biblia, giving us the word Bible.

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We have the Canaanites to thank for our alphabet. Thanks Canaanites!

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The vibe of Blasphemy

The vibe of blasphemy is all bad. No good can come from such a thing. Blasphemy suggests that God is wrong, or imperfect, or not all that good. Believers are certain that God is immaculate and all powerful, which is why they have very little time for anyone who thinks otherwise. In a world ruled by those who believe in God, blasphemy is a dangerous game. Early blasphemers learn the error of their ways in brutal fashion: they are taken outside the Israelite camp in the Sinai desert and bashed to death with rocks. From then on. The Bible has no time whatsoever for people who want to insult, alter or otherwise mess with the program. With its irreverent vibe, blasphemy sits comfortably alongside heresy (not sticking to the script), apostasy (no longer having faith in God) and infidelity (never having faith in the first place). Christians believe that the name of God is holy, and so any instance where this name is simply being used to make a point (For God’s sake! Jesus! Cor Blimey!) amounts to blasphemy. In other words, it is a crime against God, which is the very worst crime in the bag. Consider that next time you want to shriek “OMG OMG!” because you just won a competition on a radio phone-in.

General vibe of Blasphemy: Badmouthing God

Factvibe: As late as 1922, salesman John William Gott was jailed for blasphemy in Edinburgh.

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Ok. You’re happy/surprised/shocked. We get it. Enough already

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The vibe of Noah’s Ark

The ark is a giant boat built by Noah and his sons in order to escape a flood sent by God to wipe out the human race. That’s a lot of responsibility for one boat and the demands don’t stop there. Not only must the ark be large enough to accommodate Noah, his sons and everyone’s wives for over a month, it has to have enough space to store two of every kind of animal currently on Planet Earth. With his limited workforce, Noah constructs a vessel so huge that its vibe is not surpassed until Brunel’s Great Eastern is launched in 1858. The ark itself is made from an unidentified type of wood referred to as ‘gopher’ and is lined with a resinous substance called pitch. The ark has three decks and measures 450 feet long, 50 feet wide and 45 feet high. It is clearly waterproof and seaworthy, managing to stay afloat without major mishap until the floodwater recedes. How Noah manages to keep his floating menagerie fed while everyone is incarcerated is not mentioned in the Bible, it is the fact that the humans and animals survived that is important, not the details of their eating and toilet arrangements. Interestingly, the ark has no sails and no rudder – navigation is left to God. It simply floats until the floodwater recedes, finally coming to rest in a mountainous region of Eastern Turkey, where Noah, his family and countless animals disembark two by two and begin life on earth all over again.

General vibe of the Ark: Floating zoo

Factvibe: The ark was twice as long than a tea clipper but only half as long as an ocean liner, or in other words, 450 ft. (137m)

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No one told the unicorns the ark was leaving.

The Vibe of the Apocrypha

Crammed between the Old and New Testament and often forgotten altogether, the Apocrypha has an ‘almost made it but not quite’ vibe. That’s not to say that the Apocryphal vibes aren’t taken seriously – many were considered authentic enough to stay in the Bible until as recently as three hundred years ago. Some mention characters who also appear in the real Bible, some are written by people whose books appear in the Bible, others seem a little far fetched. However, their general absence from most Bibles suggests a ‘could try harder’ vibe, or even a vibe of not being one hundred per cent on the money. The word ‘apocryphal’ suggests a story that has no truth to it and is itself a product of the Apocrypha not being an official part of the Bible. As for the books themselves, 1 and 2 Esdras is really just the book of Ezra over again plus some visions that appeared to the scribe. The book of Tobit details Tobit’s adventures with the angel Raphael, Judith seduces her way into her enemy’s tent and chops his head off, we have a few extra chapters from the book of Esther, some more proverbs from the Books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, Baruch is written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Song of the Three Children refers to the three young men who survived the Fiery Furnace, Susannah survives a sex scandal in which she is wrongly accused, Bel and the Dragon concerns a god (Bel) who Daniel refuses to worship and a dragon (yes, a dragon) who he slays, a king apologises for worshipping other gods in the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Maccabees describe the Jews’ revolt against the Greeks and their defeat of the Syrians under their rebel leader Judas Maccabeus. All in all, a racy bunch of vibes whose shoes still weren’t quite shiny enough to be let into the Bible by those who make the rules.

General vibe of the Apocrypha: The Bible’s also-rans

Factvibe: There are no phrases in everyday use that have been taken from the Apocrypha

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The Apocrypha has everything it. Even dragons.

The Vibe of Aaron

Brother of Moses, High Priest and worker of miracles, Aaron still manages to blend into the background of the Bible. Left behind by his mother Miriam when she is dragged off to Pharaoh’s palace to look after his baby brother, Moses, he clearly harbours no bad feelings and is happy to jump into action as Moses’ spokesman and PA. As well as being the mouthpiece for his tongue-tied brother, Aaron is chosen to be the High Priest for the Israelites as they wander in the Sinai desert in search of the Promised Land. As priest, Aaron must wear an elaborate costume, arguably one of the most intricate suits of clothing ever made. The vibe is that God, being God, deserves the very best. And sadly, this is where Aaron lets God and himself down. While Moses is having a lengthy one-to-one with God on the top of Mount Sinai, the Israelites get homesick for their years of captivity in Egypt and force Aaron to construct an idol made of gold. Fortunately for him, his little brother is on such good terms with God that he persuades him not to destroy everyone. Aaron also has in his possession a staff that has magical powers, a little like a Biblical light saber. To demonstrate to Pharaoh that God is with the Israelites, Aaron’s staff turns into a snake. Later, Aaron waves his rod like a wizard’s wand and brings plagues on Egypt. Finally, the stick blossoms and sprouts almonds, suggesting that Aaron and his descendants should be Israel’s High Priests forever. Sadly for Aaron, as he and Moses get impatient with God for not bringing them into the Promised Land sooner, they both die before they get there. A useful, behind the scenes stage management vibe, albeit a bit of a shabby one.

General vibe of Aaron: Moses’ big brother

Factvibe: Along with the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments and some manna, Aaron’s rod now resides in the Ark of the Covenant (wherever that may be)

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Almonds. One of the many amazing by-products of Aaron’s magical walking stick

The Vibe of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

These three vibes are packed carefully in camels’ saddlebags and transported across the Arabian Desert to Bethlehem by an unspecified number of mysterious astrologers known only as the Magi. The vibes are expensive – gold is as rare in Bible times as it is now and frankincense and myrrh are also precious and hard to come by.  These are gifts that are suitable for a king, and the Magi could be forgiven for thinking that something as grandiose as the Star of Bethlehem must be, at the very least, the portent of a royal birth. Gold is expensive yet universal, but frankincense and myrrh are much harder to find: both are aromatic tree resins whose vibe is found only in the southern Arabian Peninsular and in the northern part of East Africa. However, Bible boffins believe that these are not just high status gifts for a king, the gold, frankincense and myrrh have a special symbolism too. As the ultimate precious metal, gold represents kingship and Jesus is later heralded as King of the Jews. Frankincense is a specially consecrated perfume, one of the few that is allowed to be burned in the Temple and so it may be seen as a nod to Jesus’ eventual role as ultimate High Priest. Myrrh was used during the process of embalming and this gift can therefore be seen as a flash forward to Jesus’ death. History doesn’t relate the reaction of Mary and Joseph to such extraordinarily opulent gifts, or whether the Baby Jesus enjoyed playing with them.

General vibe of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh: The first Christmas presents.

Factvibe: In 243BC, Greek king, Seleucus II Callinicus, presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus.

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So this is what myrrh actually looks like. Who knew?

The Vibe of the Star of Bethlehem

Cosmic events are afoot in Bethlehem and the world needs to know about them. Seven hundred years before the Chinese invented fireworks, the only practical way of doing this is to arrange for a brand new and very bright star to appear in the skies above Bethlehem. Some argue that the star might have been a planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in 6BC while others suggest that God, being God, can invent any star he wants to. Boffins agree that the star is actually a comet, a slow moving ball of rock dust, ice and gas that appears to hang in the sky, its vapour trail acting as a gigantic arrow pointing to the small Galilean town as if to say ‘Something big is happening here’. The comet is first spotted by Chinese astronomers in 5BC, adding credibility to it being ‘a star from the east’ – given that many think that the Magi came from Babylon and China is to the east of Babylon the star certainly seems to have an eastern origin. The star ‘goes ahead’ of the Magi, suggesting again that its vibe is very similar to that of a comet which travels slowly through the night skies. Like a solar powered satnav, the star guides the wise men directly to their Bethlehem Stable destination. It’s job done, the star slash comet moves off into the heavens and out of the narrative of the Bible.

General vibe of the Star of Bethlehem: He’s down here!

Factvibe: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the star is satanic as it first leads the Magi to Herod who then plans to kill Jesus

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It’s work done, the Star of Bethlehem now earns its keep as a Christmas tree decoration.

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The Vibe of the Shepherds

Despite shepherds being a pretty consistent vibe throughout the Bible (they appear over 200 times) and despite Jesus himself likening himself to a good shepherd, this vibe belongs to a very special bunch of herdsmen – the shepherds tending their sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem on the night that Jesus is born. These men are not the obvious candidates to be the first on the scene to witness cosmic events unfolding, and given that it is census time, Bethlehem is full of every kind of priest and dignitary you could possibly wish for. Still, God loves an underdog and these chaps are such underdogs that they live on the outskirts of society and keep antisocial hours while surrounding themselves with livestock. The shepherds’ life changing moment is also a world changing one – a choir of angels announces that the Messiah has been born. However, the vibe is brought quickly down to earth when the shepherds learn that the saviour of mankind can be found in a nearby stable. They hurry into the town, find Mary and Joseph and pass on everything that the angels have told them. The couple is no less surprised than the shepherds, particularly given their somewhat rustic surroundings. From then on, the shepherds disappear from the story but their vibe lives on in Christmas Carols and Renaissance paintings, despite no one actually knowing any of their names, or how many of them showed up.

General vibe of the Shepherds: Bunch of nobodies gate crash a birthday

Factvibe: Given that the weather was nice enough for sheep to stay out all night, the Nativity was probably in late summer or early autumn.

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Despite no records existing, everyone is 100% agreed that this is exactly how a Nativity shepherd would have looked

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