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World’s Oldest Torah Scroll Found In Italy
May 29, 2013
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AP Photo/Alma Mater Studiorum Universita' di Bologna

A researcher in Italy has found what is believed to be the oldest complete scroll of the Torah - the most important text in the Jewish faith.

Apparently, it was mistakenly filed at a University of Bologna library, and was thought to be only a few hundred years old. It had been labelled "scroll 2" by a librarian in 1889, who didn't recognize its antiquity.

But after doing carbon dating tests, it's now believed this copy of the Torah dates back more than 850 years to sometime between 1155 and 1225.

Mauro Perani, a professor of Hebrew in the University of Bologna's cultural heritage department, was updating the library's Hebrew documents when he noticed something was amiss.

He says it was common for labeling mistakes to happen in the 1800s as the "science of manuscripts was not yet born."

Perani heads up a project which locates and files Hebrew manuscripts. He said it's not clear where this Torah had been copied but that it was probably done in the Middle East.


The scroll contains the full text of the first five books of Hebrew scripture and is made up of 58 sections of soft sheep leather each sewn together, most of them with three columns of script.

Stephen Phann, acting president of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said if accurately dated, the scroll is a rare and important find.

"We don't have anything much from that period," Phann tells the Associated Press.

There are many fragments of the Torah that are older, but this one is complete, containing the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

And finding complete scrolls is extremely rare.

Perani tells The Telegraph, most were eventually destroyed after being used in Jewish liturgies.

"When the manuscripts became worn out, it was considered that they lost their holiness" said Perani. "They could no longer be used for religious ceremonies and they were buried."

There is a long history of Jewish culture in the city of Bologna and the university first began teaching Hebrew studies in the 15th century.

However, a papal bull issued in 1555-56, relegated Jewish people to the city's ghetto where they were constantly monitored and barred from other parts of the city.

Via The Telegraph and Globe & Mail


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