The World’s Oldest Torah Scrolls

The Library of Congress recently acquired a fragment of a Torah scroll dating to around the year 1000 CE. While it is not the single oldest such object extant, it is among the oldest, as Gary Rendsburg writes:

Readers . . . are likely aware of the approximately 220 biblical manuscripts from among the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, along with the related documents from Masada, Naḥal Ḥever, Wadi Murabba‘at, and other sites, which date to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. But what about the ensuing centuries, until we reach the date of the Library of Congress portion at approximately 1000 CE? What scrolls, or portions of scrolls, do we possess?

The oldest document is the Ein Gedi scroll, which was recently digitally “unrolled” through remarkable micro-CT scanning, revealing the text of Leviticus 1-2. Archaeological evidence suggests the date of the Ein Gedi synagogue [where it was found] is approximately 500 CE, but carbon-14 testing reveals that the scroll itself is much older, dating to ca. 300 CE. The scroll was found in the Torah niche of the Ein Gedi synagogue during excavations in 1970, so we may conclude that it was used for the liturgical reading of the Torah. Then, as now, Torah scrolls were sometimes used for centuries.

But the Ein Gedi scroll commences with a blank sheet, so we can be certain that this was not a complete Torah scroll but rather contained one, two, or three books only (that is, Leviticus only, or Leviticus and Numbers, or at most Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy). I mention this because it relates to a parallel question: at what point did Torah scrolls come to contain all five books of the Pentateuch? There is no definitive answer to this question, but the blank sheet offers a clue. . . . The Ein Gedi scroll shows that by the 4th century CE there was not yet a requirement or custom that all five books of the Pentateuch be united into a single scroll. . . .

Next in age come the London and Ashkar-Gilson sheets, which derive from the same scroll, dated ca. 700 CE, [followed by] the fascinating Florence manuscript, a palimpsest [or book written on reused parchment]. The overtext is a Greek manuscript, dated to the 13th century CE, but much of the undertext in the second half of the manuscript is made up of sections of six old Torah-scroll sheets, dated to the 10th century CE, cut up and reused for the production of the overtext.

Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: ancient Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, History & Ideas, Torah

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University