New Light on Early Religious Jewish Thought Cast by Ten-year Study of Manuscript

New light is thrown on the origins of Christianity and on the religious thought of the Jews of the First Century C.E. in a painstaking study of a hitherto unknown 900-year-old Latin manuscript by Dr. Guido Kisch, Visiting Professor of History at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

The illuminated parchment manuscript is the oldest and most complete and accurate version of the Biblical history “Biblical Antiquities” in existence. The unknown author is commonly referred to as Pseudo-Philo because the work had been ascribed erroneously during the Middle Ages to the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria.

Written originally in Hebrew by a Jew in Palestine around the year 70 A.D., it was translated soon afterward into Greek, and in that form it was accepted, copied and disseminated by the Catholic Church. It was translated into Latin later, and it has come down to us only in the Latin translation, both the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts having disappeared more than 1,000 years ago.

Of great importance for the history of early Jewish thought and Christian origins, the “Biblical Antiquities” includes numerous otherwise unknown legends and inventions on the story of the Bible from Adam through the death of King Saul. Probably a product of the same school as the Fourth Book of Esdras and the Apocalypse of Baruch, it is contemporary with some of the New Testament writtings, and throws light on them as well as on the religious thought of the Jews of the period.

The Admont Codex, as the present manuscript find is called, was copied from an older manuscript in the Austrian menastery of Admont not long after its foundation in 1074. It was preserved there for almost 900 years until 1936, just before the Nazis marched into Austria, when it was placed in the hands of a London dealer. Howard Lehman Goodhart of New York, a collector, purchased the Admont Codex, and he made it available to Dr. Kisch for study ten years ago.

Dr. Kisch has disclosed his findings in a book, “Pseudo Philo’s Liber Anti-quitatum Biblicarum,” published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Prof. Kisch, who taught jurisprudence at the Universities of Leipzig, Koenigsberg, Prague and Halle, has been engagod in teaching and research in this country for the past 15 years. The editor of “Historica Judaica,” he has published volumes on religious, historical, legal and sociological subjects and, in addition to the Pseudo-Philo volume, has had three other books published during the past year.

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