Ancient Bible fragment posted online

Ancient Bible fragment posted online

Nash Papyrus containing Shema prayer was discovered in Egypt in the late 19th century

The Nash Papyrus. (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
The Nash Papyrus. (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

The University of Cambridge has posted online thousands of pages from fragile religious manuscripts.

One of the documents scanned and uploaded to the Cambridge Digital Library is the Nash Papyrus, a 2,000-year-old fragment containing the Ten Commandments and part of the Shema prayer discovered in Egypt in the late 19th century.

It is the world’s second oldest known ink-written manuscript containing a text from the Hebrew Bible. The oldest are the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Two silver amulets etched with the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6, 24-26) were found at the Ketef Hinnom site in Jerusalem, and dated to the sixth century BCE. The tiny pieces are considered the most ancient instances of Biblical text ever found.

The Papyrus is among several important religious documents that were made public in a series of high-quality zoom-friendly images by the Cambridge Digital Library, which draws on the British university’s vast collection of manuscripts. It holds one of the world’s largest set of medieval Jewish manuscripts.

Also digitized and uploaded last week was the Cairo Geniza Collection, a collection of manuscript fragments that were found in a storeroom in Egypt in the late 1890s and that detail life in a Cairo area Jewish community from the Dark Ages through the 19th century. Genizas house documents forbidden from destruction because Jewish law deems them holy.

“Because of their age and delicacy these manuscripts are seldom able to be viewed — and when they are displayed, we can only show one or two pages,” university librarian Anne Jarvis said in a statement. “Now, through the generosity of the Polonsky Foundation, anyone with a connection to the Internet can select a work of interest, turn to any page of the manuscript, and explore it in extraordinary detail.”

Other texts posted include the “Codex Bezae,” a 5th century New Testament; and the “Book of Deer,” a 10th century pocket gospel book about 6.2 inches tall and 4.3 inches wide.

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