Jewish Theological Seminary Uncovers 10th Century Manuscripts

Twenty books written between the tenth and eleventh centuries and considered to be among the oldest post-Talmudic works in existence today have come to light through the painstaking research of an Israeli expert, Dr. Shraga Abramson, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, it was announced here today by Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor.

The 20 volumes, none of which is complete, have heretofore been known by title only, or were completely unknown. Studied as a group, these thousand-year-old manuscripts provide a wealth of knowledge about the lives and works of famous Hebrew scholars who lived during the so-called “Gaonic epoch” of Jewish history, which extended from the seventh to eleventh century in what is now Iraq.

Dr. Abramson has made his important discoveries on the basis of his identification of hundreds of age-eaten fragments purchased by the Seminary in 1923 from the library of the late Dr. Elkan Adler. A noted bibliophile, Dr. Adler obtained the documents from Egyptian bookdealers who, in turn, found them in secret hiding places.

Dr. Alexander Marx, director of the Seminary’s library, and other Hebrew scholars have studied many of the fragments since the Seminary’s acquisition of the collection, but until the arrival of Dr. Abramson last year, thousands of documents could not be read. The Israeli researcher’s familiarity with Arabic has enabled him to fill wide gaps and to correct inconsistencies in the information now available on four important Jewish sages of the Gaonic epoch who lived in Babylonia and Spain.

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