3772Re: Use of Codex format by Jews
- Mar 6, 2012Good questions, with few definitive answers thus far. See my comments below.
Bob Kraft, UPenn Emeritus
On 3/6/2012 10:35 AM, everard johnston wrote:
> Dear Bob,
> Once again I am seeking your assistance, this time regarding the issue
> of the use of the codex form by Jews for manuscripts of the LXX/Old
> Greek. I base my query on a quotation from one of your papers, which
> is available online:
> "Of course, if Jews were producing and using biblical /codices/ in the
> late 2nd and into the 3rd centuries, the argument/assumption that "if
> it's a codex, it's Christian" is seriously jeapordized, and the
> unasked question of when Jews began to use codices becomes even more
> relevant. " (From "Early Jewish and Christian Artefacts")
> As far as mss in Hebrew are concerned, I have read that "The earliest
> written evidence of the appearance of the codex among the Jews comes
> from the eighth century, but most likely it was in use some time
> before that." Also that ". According to the Halakha (Jewish religious
> law), a Bible in codex form is not acceptable for public reading in
> the synagogue. For that purpose scrolls continued to be used, and it
> was forbidden to add vocalization and cantillation marks to them."
> (www.aleppocodex.org <http://www.aleppocodex.org>)
> My questions are as follows:
> 1. Has research conducted either by yourself or by others since you
> published the paper cited above raised and attempted to answer what
> you described then as "the unasked question of when Jews began to use
> codices...?" If so, could you please point me to where I can locate
> the results of such research.
To my knowledge, the most recent relevant publication would be Roger
Bagnall's Early Christian Books in Egypt (Princeton U. 2009), especially
p.80: "there is, as Kraft admits, not a shred of evidence that the use
of the codex came from Judaism, for the simple reason that the surviving
fragments of possible Jewish codices come from a period no earlier than
the period (late second century) from which also come most of our early
Christian codex fragments." At least, Bagnall leaves open the
possibility of Jewish origin and/or influence.
> 2. If, as you seem to suggest, Jews and "Christians" (using this
> latter term anachronistically) began using the codex form
> simultaneously; and if "Christians" might even have adoped the
> practice from the Jews, what might have been the motivation/s for the
> Jewish innovation?
Bagnall sees the codex as part of "Romanization" in the period (our
earliest evidence for codices comes from Martial in Rome, and the use of
notebook codices in Roman contexts seems widespread), which could apply
to Jews as well as the Jesus groups. Unfortunately, we know too little
about Judaism(s) in Rome in the relevant period. I currently think that
the (widespread) use of codex notebooks (waxed wood pages, etc.) is most
likely to have led to flexible paged codices both in Rome and elsewhere.
Such an innovation could have caught fire in various contexts, including
booksellers (as in Martial) and "education" (see Raffaella Cribiore,
Gymnastics of the Mind [Princeton U., 2001]), in Rome and elsewhere in
the Graeco-Roman worlds. But "smoking gun" evidence is still not
available. IT is also noteworthy that codices seem to have been used
fairly early in legal materials and in astronomy-astrology-"religion"
circles, apart from Judaism or Christianity. More precise work needs to
be done in researching such areas.
> 3. I have also read somewhere that there is evidence that in some
> parts of the diaspora the LXX of the Torah was read in the
> synagogues. If that is indeed so (I have never been able to locate
> published evidence for this), might one assume that as with the Hebrew
> mss. after the eighth century, use of the Scriptures in codex form
> would have been prohibited in the context of synagogue worship?
One argument for "official" and/or "liturgical" use of LXX/OG materials
in Judaism comes from the impression that the Rylands Deut fragments
(see also the Fuad materials) come from a professionally produced scroll
likely to have been other than a private copy. Of course, we know so
little about "libraries," whether private (e.g. at Pompei) or
institutionally connected (as with synagogues or other "public"
settings), that to jump from a "luxurious" scroll to synagogue "liturgy"
(as different, perhaps, from synagogue based "educational" functions) is
quite a leap. Where were similarly professionally produced copies of
Homer (etc.) used or kept? But later, when Justinian issued his
"Novella" dealing with Jewish use of Greek scriptures, it seems clear
that his advisors assumed that Jews were using Greek scriptures in their
worship. After the 8th century we have little evidence for Jewish use of
Greek -- see now the work of Nicholas DeLange on the subject. And when
Jewish codices in Hebrew began to be used, was it only in "educational"
and/or private settings? The Rabbinic "prohibition" concerning
scroll/format has perhaps been given too much influence in assessing the
evidence (e.g. from the Cairo Genizah; see also Lieberman's old excursus
that I cite somewhere in my online collection).
> As before, I should be very grateful for your assistance (as indeed
> that of anyone in the LXX group) in responding to these questions.
> With thanks for your attention and with every good wish.
> Everard Johnston.
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