Oldest Jewish Prayer Book

Collector Reveals World’s Oldest Jewish Prayer Book

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A rare Hebrew text containing an archaic form of Hebrew and dating back to the 9th century has been revealed by a collector of rare biblical artefacts - and it is believed to be the world's oldest Jewish prayer book.

It has 50 pages of Jewish blessings and is still in its original binding which shows Babylonian vowel markings. Experts have dated the text to around 840 AD, which makes it 400 years older than the earliest Torah scrolls every found.  This could make it an important link between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and medieval Judaism.

The inside of the book is divided into six sections that discuss topics including the End Times and the Passover Seder. The first of these sections features a set of 100 Jewish blessings.

Dr Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, a research arm of The Green Collection which owns the text said: “This find is historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life.”

The Hebrew script is so archaic that its founders claim it “incorporates Babylonian vowel pointing” and is similar to Old or Middle English when compared to the current English language.

Research on the prayer book  will be released by early 2015. It will form part of the Brill Series on Early Jewish Texts and Manuscripts edited by Pattengale and Dr. Emanuel Tov. The series will feature in-depth examination of some of the world’s oldest and most rare biblical texts, including portions from the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Micah, Daniel and the Psalms.

“The research conducted by Green scholars the world over will bring to light the contents of valuable early Jewish texts - from Dead Sea Scrolls and Cairo Genizah leaves to rare manuscripts still being identified,” said Pattengale.

The announcement by the Green Collection does raise some question about whether such valuable texts should be in the possession of private collectors.

By April Holloway

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