A Hoard of Hebrew Manuscripts II (cont.)
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According to some writers Christianity formed the intermediary stage by which Aquila passed from paganism to Judaism. This would be a very natural process. But the matter, as represented by some Fathers of the Church, is not very flattering to Judaism. Their story is somewhat as follows: Aquila, abiding in Jerusalem, by the order of the Emperor, and seeing there the disciples of the Apostles flourishing in the faith, and doing great signs in heal- ing and other wonders, became so deeply impressed therewith that he soon embraced the Christian faith. After some time he claimed the "seal in Christ," and obtained it. But he did not turn away from his former habit of believing, ---- to wit, in vain astronomy, of which he was an expert, ---- but would be casting the horo- scope of his nativity every day, wherefore he was re- proved and unbraided by the disciples. However, he would not mend, but would obstinately oppose to them false and incoherent arguments, such as fate and matters therewith connected; so he was expelled from the Church as one unfit for salvation. Sorely vexed at being dishonoured in this way, his mind was goaded by wanton pride, and he abjured Christianity and Christian life, became a Jewish proselyte, and was circumcised. The best historians, however, give preference to the Jewish account, which tells us nothing about Aquila's Christian days. In this he figures as Akylas the proselyte, the disciple of R. Eliezer and R. Joshua. With the former he is said to have had a rather bad
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encounter. Perusing the passage in the Scripture, "For the Lord your God ... he does execute the judgment of the fatherless and the widow, and loveth the stranger (Ger) in giving him food and raiment" (Deut. 10: 17-18), Aquila exclaimed: "So, that is all which God has in store for the Ger? How many pheasants and peacocks have I which even my slaves refuse to taste" (so satiated are they with delicacies)? To be sure, modest wants and frugal habits are no great recommendation for a religion. At least, it can- not under such circumstances aspire to the dignity of the church of a gentleman. R. Eliezer resented this worldliness in his pupil, and rebuked him with the words: "Dost thou, Ger, speak so slightingly of the things for which the patriarch (Jacob) prayed so fervently?" (Gen 33:20). This harshness of R. Eliezer, we are told, nearly led to a relapse of the proselyte. He found, however, a more patient listen- er in the meek and gentle R. Joshua, who by his sympathetic answer reconciled him to his new faith. The work which brought Aquila's name to pos- terity is in his Greek version of the Old Testament, which he undertook because he found the text of the Septuagint greatly disfigured, both by wilful inter- polations and by blundering ignorance. It was pre- pared under the direction of the two Rabbis just men- tioned (R. Eliezer and R. Joshua) and their fellow- disciple R. Akiba. The main feature of Aquila's ver- sion is an exaggerated literalism, which, as one may imagine, often does violence to the Greek. It is
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such awkward Greek that, as somebody has said, it is almost good Hebrew. The alternative which lay before Aquila was, as it seems, between awkward Greek and bad and false renderings, and he decided for the former. One of the Church Fathers, when alluding to this version, says: "Thereupon (after his conversion to Judaism) he devoted himself most assiduously to the study of the Hebrew tongue and the elements thereof, and when he had completely mastered the same, he set to interpreting (the Scrip- tures), not of honest purpose, but in order to pervert certain sayings of Scriptures, hurling his attacks against the version of the seventy-two interpreters, whith a view to giving a different rendering to those things which are testified of Christ in the Scriptures." Now, so far as one can judge from the little retained to us his version, Aquila's perverting activity did not go much farther than that which engaged the Revision Committee for many years, who also gave different renderings, at least in the margin, to the so-called Christological passages. It is true that Jews prefered his version to the Septuagint, which at that time became the playground of theolo- gians, who deduced from it all sorts of possible and impossible doctrines, not only by means of interpreta- tion, but also by actual meddling with the text. One has only to read with some attention the Pauline Epistles to see with what excessive freedom Scriptural texts were handled when the severest rules exegesis were abandoned. Some modern divenes even exalt
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these misquotations and wrong translations as the highest goal of Christian liberty, which is above such paltry, slavish considerations as exactness and accu- racy. Aquila's version may thus have interfered with theological liberty. But there is no real evidence that he entered upon his work in a controversial spirit. His undertaking was probably actuated by purely scholarly motives. As a fact, the most learned of the Church Fathers (e. g. St. Jerome) praise it often as a thorough and exact piece of work. As the Rabbis, tradition records, that when Aquila put his version before his Jewish masters, they were so delighted with it that they applied to it the verse in Psalms: "Thou art fairer than the children of men, grace is poured in thy lips (45: 3)." The Rabbis were, indeed, not entirely insensible to the grace of the Greek language, and they interpreted the verse in Genesis 9: 27, to mean that the beauty of Japeth (the type of Greece), which is so much displayed in his language, shall by the fact that the Torah will be rendered into the Greek tongue, find access to the tents (or synagogues) of Shem (represented by Israel.) In the case of Aquila, however, the grace admired in his version was, one must assume, the grace of truth. To the grace of an elegant style and fluent diction, as we have seen, it can lay no claim. For most of our knowledge of Aquila we are indebted to Origen. We know his amiable weakness for universal salvation. He thought not even the devil beyond the possibility of repentance. Accord-
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ingly, he saved the "Jewish proselyte" from oblivion by inserting several of his renderings in his famous Hexapla, which, however, has come down to us in a wrecked and fragmentary state. The Aquila frag- ments discovered in the Genizah represent, in some cases, Piyutim, in others, the Talmud of Jerusalem, and the Greek under them is written in unicals, stated by specialists to date from the beginning of the sixth century. They are the first continuous pieces coming, not through the medium of quotations, but directly from Aquila's work, and must once have formed a portion of a Bible used in some Hellenistic Jewish synagogue for the purpose of public reading. The Tetragrammation is neither translated nor transcribed, but written in the archaic Hebrew characters found in the Siloam inscription. Considering that Aquila's version is so literal that the original is always trans- parently visible through it, these fragments will prove an important contribution to our knowledge of the state of the Hebrew text during the first centuries of our era, and of the mode of its interpretation. A part of these fragments have been already edited in various publications, by Dr C. Taylor, the Master of St. John's College, and Mr. Burkitt, the fortunate dis- coverer of the first Aquila leaf. But more leaves have since come to light, which will be edited in course of time. To return to the liturgical fragments found in the Genizah. Under this head may be included the di- dactic poetry of the synagogue. It is a peculiar mix-
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ture of devotional passages and short epigrammatic sentences, representing, to a certain extent, the Wis- dom literature of the Synagogue in the Middle Ages. Sometimes they are written, not unlike the Book of Proverbs in the old Bible manuscripts, in two cloumns, each column giving a hemistich. The examination of this class of fragments requires great caution and close attention, not so much on account of their own merits as because of their strong resemblance to Ecclesias- ticus both in form and in matter. You dare not neg- lect the former lest some piece of the latter escape you. The identification of the Ecclesiasticus frag- ments is, indeed, a very arduous task, since our knowl- edge of this apocryphon has been till now attainable only through its Greek or Syriac disguise, which amounts sometimes to a mere defaced caricature of the real work of Sirach. But I hardly need to point out that the recovery of even the smallest scrap of the original Hebrew compensates richly for all the labor spent on it. Apart from its semi-sacred char- acter, these Sirach discoveries restore to us the only genuine document dating from the Persian-Greek period (from about 450 till about 160 B.C.E.), the most obscure in the whole of Jewish history. And I am strongly convinced that with all his "Jewish prejudices" he will prove a safer guide in this laby- rinth of guesses and counter-guesses than liberal- minded "backward prophet" of the Nineteenth Cen- tury, whose source of inspiration is not always above doubt.3 I am happy to state that my labours in this
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department were rewarded with several discoveries of fragments from Sirach's "Wisdom Book." They will soon be submitted to the necessary study preceding their preparation for the press, when they will appear in a separate volume. The Rabbinic productions of the earlier sages, teachers, and interpreters, as they are embodied in the Mishnah, the Additions, and the Talmud of Jerusalem and the Talmud of Babylon, formed the main subjects of study in the mediæval schools of the Jews. it is thus only natural that the Genizah should yield a large number of fragments of the works mentioned, and they do, indeed, amount to many hundreds. Some of these are provided with vowel-points, and occasionally also with accents, and thus represent a family of manuscripts hitherto known only through the evidence of certain authorities testifying to the fact that there existed copies of early Rabbinic works prepared in the way indicated. But what the student is especially looking out for is for remainders of the Talmud of Jerusalem, which, though in some respects more important for the knowledge of Jewish history and the intelligent conception of the minds of the Rabbis than the "twin-Talmud of the East," has been, by certain untoward circumstances, badly neglected in the schools, and thus very little copied by the scribes. Its real importance and superi- ority above similar contemporary productions was only recognized in the comparatively modern centu- ries, when the manuscripts, as just indicated never
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very ample, had long disappeared. The Genizah opens a new mine in this direction, too, and the number of fragments of the Jerusalem Talmud increasing daily, also amounting to a goodly volume, will doubtless be published by some student in due time. Where the Genizah promises the largest output is in the department of history, especially the period intervening between the birth of Saadya (892) and the death of Maimonides (1205). This period, which gave birth to the greatest of the Eminences (Gaonim), Rabbi Saadya, Rabbi Sherira, and Rabbi Hai, which witnessed the hottest controversies beteen the Rab- binites and the Karaites and other schismatics, and which saw the disintegration of the great old schools in Babylon, and the creation of new centres for the study of the Torah in Europe and in North Africa, forms, as is well known, one of the most important chapters in Jewish history. But this chapter will now have to be re-written; any number of conveyances, leases, bills, and private letters are constantly turning up, thus affording us a better insight into the social life of the Jews during those remote centuries. New letters from the Eminences addressed to their contem- poraries, scattered over various countries, are daily coming to light, and will form an important addition to the Responsa literature of the Gaonim. Even entire new books or fragments of such, composed by the Gaonim, and only known by refrences have been discovered. Of more significance are such documents
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as those bearing the controversy between Rabbi Saadya and his contemporary Ben Meïr, the head of the Jews in palestine, which prove that even at that time the question of authority over the whole of Jewry, and of the prerogative of fixing the calendar, was still a contested point between the Jews of Pales- tine and their brethren in the dispersion. The con- troversy was a bitter one and of long duration, as may be seen from another document dating from the Eleventh Century, the Scroll of Abiathar, which, at the same time reveals the significant fact that the antagonism between the Priestly and Kingly, or the Aaronide and Davidic families, had not quite died down even at this late period. Some of the docu- ments are autograph. It is enough to mention here the letter of Chushiel ben Elhanan (or Hananel) of Kairowan, addressed to Shemariah ben Elhanan of Egypt, written about the year 1000. To these two Rabbis, legend attributes a large share in the trans- planting of the Torah in North Africa, so that our document will prove an important contribution to the history of the rise of the Yeshiboth outside of Babylon. Looking over this enormous mass of fragments about me, in the shifting and examination of which I am now occupied, I cannot overcome a sad feeling steal- ing over me, that I shall hardly be worthy to see all the results which the genizah will add to our knowledge of Jews and Judaism. The work is not for one man
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and not for one generation. It will occupy many a specialist, and much longer than a lifetime. How- ever, to use an old adage, "It is not thy duty to com- plete the work, but neither art thou free to desist from it."

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