Using Cutting-Edge Technology, Scientists Make an Ancient Torah Scroll Readable

Sept. 23 2016

In 1970, Israeli archaeologists discovered an ancient synagogue in the oasis of Ein-Gedi in the Negev. Its ark contained charred lumps that had once been Torah scrolls, destroyed in a long-ago fire, which are the oldest extant manuscripts of the Pentateuch besides the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since even touching the scrolls would cause them to disintegrate, they have remained a mystery until recently, when a team of researchers used “virtual-unwrapping” technology to produce a legible scan of the texts. Nicholas Wade writes:

The scroll’s content, the first two chapters of the book of Leviticus, has consonants—early Hebrew texts didn’t specify vowels—that are identical to those of the Masoretic text, the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible and the one often used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles.

The Dead Sea Scrolls . . . contain versions quite similar to the Masoretic text but with many small differences. The text in the scroll found at the Ein-Gedi excavation site . . . has none, according to Emanuel Tov, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We have never found something as striking as this,” Tov said. “This is the earliest evidence of the exact form of the [Masoretic] text.”

The date of the Ein-Gedi scroll is the subject of conflicting evidence. A carbon-14 measurement indicates that the scroll was copied around 300 CE. But the style of the ancient script suggests a date nearer to 100 CE. “We may safely date this scroll” to between 50 and 100 CE, wrote Ada Yardeni, an expert on Hebrew paleography. . . . Dr. Tov [also] said he was “inclined toward a 1st-century date.”

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at New York Times

More about: Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, History & Ideas, Masoretes, Synagogues, Torah

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism