Oldest Torah

The oldest complete Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, has been found in the library of the University of Bologna. It is believed to be more than 800 years old:

The University of Bologna in Italy has found what it says may be the oldest complete scroll of Judaism’s most important text, the Torah.

The scroll was in the university library but had been mislabelled, a professor at the university says.

It was previously thought the scroll was no more that a few hundred years old.

However, after carbon dating tests, the university has said the text may have been written more than 850 years ago.

The university’s Professor of Hebrew Mauro Perani says this would make it the oldest complete text of the Torah known to exist, and an object of extraordinary worth.

Texts that old almost invariably have minor variations from the standard texts used today. It will be interesting to see what’s found in this one.

One thought that this brings to mind is that we really don’t know just what’s sitting around, gathering dust, in the libraries and museums of the world. There are still lots of exciting finds being made in the field but the most exciting archaeological find ever made might be sitting in some collection somewhere, unidentified, uncatalogued, and unknown.

Another thing this brings to mind is a subject I’ve returned to from time to time here. Most people don’t realize how very few manuscripts we have from antiquity. Most of what we know about the ancient world is from medieval manuscripts of sketchy provenance. I wonder what the provenance of the Torah manuscript they’ve found might be. My guess is that they have no idea.

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