Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new geniza on the Silk Road?

A NEW GENIZA on the Silk Road?
Scholarly world abuzz over Jewish scrolls find
12/31/2011 17:24

Ch. 2: If authenticated, historical find in Afghanistan may be on par with Cairo’s Geniza

The Jewish scholarly world is abuzz over the discovery of ancient Jewish scrolls in a cave in Afghanistan’s Samangan province, Channel 2 reported on Friday.

According to Arab Affairs correspondent Ehud Yeari, if validated the scrolls may be the most significant historical finding in the Jewish world since that of the Cairo Geniza in the 19th century.

“We know today about a couple of findings,” Haggai Ben-Shammai, Professor Emeritus of Arabic Language and Literature at Hebrew University was quoted as saying. “In all, in my opinion, there are about 150 fragments. It may be the tip of the iceberg.”

The scrolls, which were part of a geniza, a burial site for sacred Jewish texts, date from around 1,000 years ago and are in Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and ancient Persian.

So far they have identified a dirge and "an unknown history of the ancient kingdom of Judea, passages from the book of Isaiah and some of the works of Rabbi Saadia Gaon, a medieval sage." Also rings inscribed with names in Hebrew.

It would be nice to find some Judeo-Arabic fragments of Jewish pseudepigrapha or Hekhalot literature. We'll see. But let's get past the "if authenticated" part before we get too excited. It sounds as though we may be dealing so far with fragments on the antiquities market rather than anything excavated in situ.

(HT Christopher Rollston on FB.)