What did the early Jews do with old Bible manuscripts
that could not be used anymore? Because of their respect for
the holy Name of God, they did not throw them away or destroy
them. They stowed the old documents away in a room belonging
to the synagogue, called geniza. When there was no more room
in the geniza, they took the material to sacred ground and
buried it ceremoniously. Time decomposed the material.
In the year 1890 Solomon Schechter discovered such a
geniza in Cairo, Egypt. He found a tremendous amount of manuscripts,
including Bible fragments. This geniza was found intact because
the documents were placed in brickwork - in this way hidden
for centuries. Superstition may have played a part in this.
A poisonous snake was presumed to be at the entrance of the
geniza, ready to kill thieves.
In between the old documents was a very important one,
written about 128 A.D. by a Jew proselyte named Aquila. The
document was a palimpsest, a manuscript, which was re-used
- in most instances the parchment would be washed and/or scraped
and resurfaced, then written on again. In this case, the letters
were scraped from the original scroll, but the new text was
still visible under the old one. The parchment contains parts
from the Psalms in Greek, translated by Aquila. In various
places the Divine Name is written in Old-Hebrew.
Facsimile made by B. Bonte
It is interesting to know that the 3rd
century theologian, Origines used Aquila’s translation
in his famous Hexapla. In this enormous work he placed 6 columns
besides each other, containing Hebrew Scriptures.
Column 1: the Hebrew and Aramaic text
Column 2: the Greek transliteration from column 1
Column 3: Aquila's Greek translation
Column 4: Symmachus' Greek translation
Column 5: the Greek Septuagint, reviewed by Origenes
Column 6: Theodotion's Greek translation
By presenting these translations together Origines hoped to
shed more light on the original text.