Spotlights: A Shorter Goliath

Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

Recently printed Bibles tell us Goliath stood about 6-foot-6 (“four cubits and a span”) — an imposing Philistine, to be sure, but one whose physical existence is easier to accept than the 9-foot-9 (“six cubits and a span”) listed in many earlier translations of 1 Samuel 17:4.

Goliath’s revised height is one of the products of the Dead Sea Scrolls translation recently completed by Eugene Ulrich, O’Brien Professor of Theology, and colleagues. The researchers spent nearly 25 years translating and analyzing 230 scrolls written between 250 B.C. and 70 A.D., a full millennium before the Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts that form the basis of all Christian Old Testaments and the Judaic Tanakh.