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] (less dan fisty)Two Obscure, Obsessive Jewish Groups Created And Saved This 1,000-Year-Old Bible
by Helen Chernikoff November 10, 2019The 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible that went on public view for the first time
last week would not exist at all, or have survived this long,
without the obsessive efforts of two obscure Jewish groups:
the Masoretes and the Karaites.
The Masoretes were a mysterious group of scholar-scribes, who starting in
the Sixth Century worked to create a complete, accurate text of the Five Books of Moses.
The Karaites, who emerged a bit later, are a Jewish religious movement
that derives its laws and customs solely from those five books,
rejecting the legal authority of the rabbis who shaped the tradition
after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
“These two groups were focused on the text,” said Herschel Hepler,
a curator at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
“Their efforts turned the text into a huge, heavy sacred object,
and as a result, the text got preserved.”
The Bible that just went on display is one of a dozen roughly complete
Hebrew manuscripts that are this old and contain the full Torah,
and only one of two in the Americas.
The other, located at the University of Michigan, is so fragile only scholars have access to it.
This Bible, formerly called “MS 3” and now known as the Washington Pentateuch,
was originally written around the year 1000, probably in
the town of Tiberias in what is now modern Israel.
About 20 pages written in 1141 were added later, although experts aren’t sure when.
It was in the in the Middle East until around the 1400s and 1500s, when
it was bound in a style that’s typical of that region.
Somewhere between the binding and 1835, it was moved to Ukraine
and then about fifty years later to Russia.
After that, it passed through the hands of various collectors until
it ended up in the private collection of an Israeli who lives in London.
The Green family, evangelical Christians who own the Hobby Lobby
chain of craft stores and founded the Museum of the Bible,
purchased the manuscript from that collector.
The sale price has not been made public, Hepler said.
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