Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More on the Discovery of Jewish Documents in Afghanistan

At the beginning of the new year I posted about the rumors floating around the internet about some Jewish documents that had been discovered in Afghanistan. At this point there is still not much information available, and that is probably good. Hopefully it means they are being studied cautiously by experts who can provide some suggestions as to what kind of documents have been discovered and when they were written. This is a much better way to do things than was the case with the lead codices that were all over the news last winter

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has an article that does provide a bit more information. Here is some of what the article has to say.

What no one disputes is that the documents are authentic and, if they can be made widely available to scholars, can potentially shed light on a period in Jewish history that remains shrouded in mystery.
The documents, which number about 150 -- far fewer than the thousands in the Cairo Geniza -- are generally believed to be about 1,000 years old, though a few are probably older. They include early texts suggesting the community may have been Karaite, a Jewish sect that rejected rabbinic law and flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries. There are also financial documents that may have much to teach about the Jewish merchants who acted as middlemen along the trade routes between East Asia and Europe. The writings of Saadia Gaon include fragments of a biblical commentary and a rebuttal to the claims of a local heretic. Poems also were recovered.
“I think that it’s a very important find,” said Shaul Shaked, an emeritus professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who saw some of the documents in London several months ago. "This is the first time that we have a large quantity of handwritten documents from that area, from Afghanistan, where we knew vaguely there was some kind of Jewish settlement, a Jewish community, but we had very vague ideas about what their life was like.”

As I said above, hopefully these documents will be studied in the correct manner. While it does not appear that they will provide us information for the biblical period, they will help us to better understand Judaism.

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