XIth Congress of the EAJS in Kraków: Vortrag „Practices of Reading in Ancient Judaism. The Usage of Greek Bible Codices Reconsidered“ (2018)

XIth Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies Kraków

Abstract: In the last decades, broad scholarship on the history of reading and book history has evolved. So far, scholarship has focused either on Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, or the (early) Modern period. A historical anthropology of Jewish reading practices in Antiquity, combining both the fundamental methodologies of Jewish Studies and of historical reception research, is yet to be done. As part of my PhD project, my paper seeks to map Jewish Reading culture in Antiquity with special reference to the use, reception and synagogal reading of the Greek bible.

The Jewish usage of the Greek bible has long been neglected both within Christian and Jewish studies, but scholarship, especially the research done by Nicholas de Lange has now shown an unbroken tradition of the Greek Bible in Jewish communities from Antiquity to the Middle Ages and beyond. My paper will focus on Jewish Greek bible codices which have hitherto been labelled as Christian while a Jewish origin has been excluded. Criteria for assessing its origins include the format of the codex, the scribal practice of the so called ‘nomina sacra’ and the use of Greek language; all three are supposed to be unique only to Christian manuscripts and not to a Jewish reception.

These three criteria have been questioned by Kurt Treu and Robert Kraft. With reference to studies on the so called ‘Parting of the Ways’ my paper seeks to present evidence of ancient artefacts (manuscripts, esp. codices; amulets; inscriptions) that may lead to the conclusion of a Jewish origin and use of some Greek bible codices. The results have important implications on our understanding of Reading practices in ancient synagogues, and highlight the Jewish use of the codex and the ongoing usage of Greek translations (LXX/Jewish recensions) – both important roots of Jewish heritage.