Deciphering the Rosetta Stone

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Deciphering the Rosetta Stone

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A little over 200 years ago, an officer in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte was searching for things of value in the Nile delta town of Rosetta in Egypt (today named Rashid). He found a stone that seemed very interesting to him, though he could not understand what he saw. In time this stone fell into British hands and ended up in the British Museum in 1802. The stone remained as an object of curiosity until 1822 when the mystery was solved. A man named J.F. Champollion had realized the true value of this remarkable rock. He realized the picture signs of the Egyptian writing system we call hieroglyphics (which in his day were still a mystery even to linguistic specialists) could be deciphered with the help of the Rosetta stone! This remarkable stone has the same message carved in three languages—hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (a simpler Egyptian script used for daily purposes) and Greek (the language of administration). This stone, carved about 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, is the key to “reading” the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. For those studying the ancient history of Egypt, the find was invaluable. Egypt has many stones with messages in hieroglyphic script. It must have been a source of great frustration for the archaeologists who could not “read” what was written and therefore a huge sense of relief and excitement when the ancient script could actually be read. An exciting door has been opened and excavations taking place even now yield far more understandable treasures of the ancient past because the language is clearer. Another mystery God tells us the Bible is written in a “language” people cannot understand. His Holy Spirit is the “Rosetta stone” that helps those whom He chooses to understand His Word. Isaiah 29:10-14 informs us that because humans do not honor God, He has closed their understanding. Isaiah 28:9-13 tells us God speaks with words that are not understood. It is as though human beings have been staring at hieroglyphics for hundreds of years and have no idea what we are actually seeing. Luke 24:27, 32 and 44-45 relates the story of Jesus explaining the true understanding of the Scriptures to men who had studied those same words daily. The Bible is a book many study, but few understand. Saying this angers many people—but it is only through the direct help God gives that the “language” of the Scriptures can be understood. Jesus explained and taught many truths to His followers. John 14:26 explains that the Holy Spirit is our Helper to understanding. It is through His Holy Spirit that God the Father and Jesus Christ live within us (verse 23). Until that point, the Bible is a closed book for humans. God opens the understanding to whomever He pleases, at the time of His choosing. His criteria for calling us include humility and obedience. The response of humility We humans are in need of humility toward God. When we learn that valuable lesson, we have taken the first steps to deciphering His code. There are many attempts to decipher and explain the Scriptures. Deep and sometimes bitter arguments have resulted when conflicting positions have been taken. The attitude of contention alone ought to tell us that God is not giving everyone true understanding (1 Corinthians 3:3). His truth sets us free—it does not shackle us (John 8:32). We humans have enormous problems understanding one another, even when we speak the same language. Many of our problems are due to the inability to listen carefully and the hindrances we have in expressing our meaning clearly and fighting our biases. Communication is a major source of troubles among people and between people and Almighty God. God is willing to do His part to help us decipher His Word. Our part is to learn. A humble and obedient spirit He will not despise (Psalm 51:17). Let us have another look at His Word with humility and seek the understanding God gives through His “Rosetta stone,” the Holy Spirit. In this gift there is life—life everlasting. Recommended reading For further reading on this vital subject, request or download the free booklet How to Understand the Bible.