A rare Hebrew text dating back to the 9th century has been unveiled by a collector of rare biblical artefacts – and it is believed to be the world’s oldest Jewish prayer book.
The 50-page binder was found in Jerusalem and following carbon tests by experts and scholars, the book is believed to have been made around 840 C.E. The Green Collection, which announced the finding, claims the book predates the earliest Torah scrolls ever found by around 400 years and could be an important link between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and medieval Judaism.
Dr Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, a research arm of The Green Collection said: ‘This find is historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life. ‘This Hebrew prayer book helps fill the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other discoveries of Jewish texts from the ninth and 10th centuries.’
The complete parchment which contains Hebrew script so archaic that its founders claim it ‘incorporates Babylonian vowel pointing’ – is similar to Old or Middle English when compared to the current English language. It was this early vowel marking that researchers to date the prayer book in the times of the Geonim; Babylonian and Talmudic leaders that were around during the Middle Ages.
The oldest-known Torah scrolls recently dated by Italian scholars originated between the 12th and 13th centuries, which is 300 and 400 years after the latest Jewish prayer book.
Research on the prayer book – which the Green Collection claims could the Jewish equivalent of a complete, early edition of the Christian Book of Common Prayer – will be released by early 2015.