Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ghost letters resurrect Ben Sira

NOTES FROM THE QUAD: Ghost letters hold clue about long-lost ‘Ben Sira’ chapters (Yale University).
Scholarship around Ben Sira took a major leap forward in 1896 with the discovery in a Cairo synagogue of what were later proven to be authentic Ben Sira Hebrew manuscripts. Among them was so-called Ms A, which was hand-written by scribes around 1100 CE. Just one problem: The manuscript is missing its first folio page, which contains the first two chapters of the text and five verses of the third.

Has some of the missing page finally been discovered thanks to the realization that its letters rubbed off on a surviving page? [Dr. Eric D.] Reymond is convinced the answer is “yes,” and he is excited by the new possibilities this creates for getting a better grasp of what those first chapters contained.

“This gives us a window on the Hebrew text as it was written in antiquity, and sheds light on the history of Ben Sira’s text,” Reymond says. “Because the material is secondary, made up of interpolated verses, it cannot reflect what Ben Sira wrote himself, but rather reflects the ideas of the scribes who read and copied his book in antiquity and in the middle ages.
Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.