Monday, March 25, 2019

Ghost Hebrew in the earliest Hexapla fragment?

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (MARCH 2019): The Oldest Fragment of Origen's Hexapla: T-S 12.182 (Benjamin Kantor).
In the middle of the third century CE in Caesarea, the church father and biblical scholar Origen compiled the Hexapla (ἑξαπλᾶ ‘six-fold’), so named for its format of six parallel columns. It may in fact be the world’s first parallel Bible. The first column contained Hebrew in Hebrew letters, the second column contained Hebrew in Greek letters (i.e., transcription), the third column contained the Greek translation of Aquila, the fourth column contained the Greek translation of Symmachus, the fifth column contained a version of the Septuagint (LXX), and the sixth column contained the Greek translation of Theodotion. The original probably looked something like this (see further below for the relation of this format to T-S 12.182):

There has been scholarly debate about whether or not there really was a first column (Hebrew in Hebrew letters) as part of the Hexapla, since there are no remains of the first column in any of the extant witnesses. It is only attested in ancient authors’ descriptions of the Hexapla. On the basis of the precise measurements and proportions of this Genizah fragment (T-S 12.182), however, it has been persuasively argued that this palimpsest originally did contain a Hebrew column (see further below).

The Hexapla was flagged in my original Wish List of Lost Books post back in 2005. Let's hope we find more of it, whether in the Geniza or elsewhere. As we like to say, bit by bit, a letter at at time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links.

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