Ancient Bible fragments revive the forgotten history


A new study discovered a forgotten chapter in the history of the Bible, providing a rare glimpse into the life and culture of the Byzantine Jews.

An analysis conducted by researchers at Cambridge University, suggests that, contrary to long-established views, Jews continued to use the Greek version of the Bible in synagogues for many centuries. In some localities, the observance of the biblical canon remained effective almost before the days remaining living memory.

The key to the new discovery lay in manuscripts or fragments of some of them that have been discovered in an old synagogue in Egypt and brought to Cambridge at the end of the 19th century. The so-called Cairo Genizah manuscripts found since then in the library of the University of Cambridge.

Now, the complete collection of manuscripts, texts and comments on them in the online version first became available to other scientists.

"It is said that the translation of the Bible from Hebrew into Greek in the period between 1 and 3 centuries BC. Oe. Was one of the long-term achievements of the Jewish civilization - without it, Christianity could not spread as quickly and as successfully as it happened" - explained Nicola de Lange, Professor of Jewish Studies of the Faculty of Divinity, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, who led the three-year analysis to a reassessment of the history of the Greek Bible fragments.

"It was believed that the Jews for some reason stopped using Greek translations and chose to use the original version of the text in Hebrew for public reading in the synagogue and for private study. This continued until the modern period, when the pressure exerted to make speak the local language, promoted its introduction in many synagogues. "

Close study of manuscripts Cairo Genizah, by Professor De Lange, has led to the discovery that some parts of the Bible written in Greek Hebrew letters. Other parts of a lost Greek translation was made by converting to Judaism, called Akylas in the second century BC. e. What is remarkable is that the fragments date from the year 1000 after the original translation into Greek, suggesting that the use of the Greek text was still the case in the Greek synagogues in the Byzantine Empire and elsewhere.

Manuscripts in other libraries confirmed the apparent authenticity of the fragments of Cambridge and supplemented with many new features. It became clear that the Greek translation of the various options used among the Jews in the Middle Ages.

The new study not only offers a rare chance to look at the life and culture of the Byzantine Jews, but also illustrates the overlapping views and teachings of the Jewish and Christian biblical scholars during the Middle Ages. "This is an exciting discovery for me because it confirms a suspicion arose in me when studying Genizah fragments 30 years ago" - said Professor De Lange.

Online resources makes it possible to compare each word of the text in Hebrew and Greek translation known as the Septuagint translation or translation 70 elders, as well as fragments of Akylas and other Jewish translations from antiquity.

The resource has been created thanks to the collaboration between the research groups of the University of Cambridge and King’s College in London.

Original: Physorg Translation: M. Potter

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