Italy professor says has found world's oldest complete Torah

Wed May 29, 2013 10:59am EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian professor said on Wednesday he has identified what he believes is the world's oldest complete scroll of the Torah, containing the full text of the first five books of Hebrew scripture.

Mauro Perani, professor of Hebrew at the University of Bologna, said experts and carbon dating tests done in Italy and the United States dated the scroll as having been made between 1155 and 1225.

The scroll, which has been in possession of the Bologna University Library for more than 100 years, had been previously thought to be from the 17th century. It had been labeled "scroll 2".

There are many fragments of the Torah that are older but not complete scrolls with all five books.

"A Jew who was a librarian at the university examined the scroll in 1889 for a catalogue and wrote '17th century followed by a question mark,'" Perani said in a telephone interview.

But in preparation for a new catalogue of the university's Judaica collection, Perani, 63, studied the scroll and suspected that the librarian had made too cursory an examination in 1889 and not recognized its antiquity.

"I realized that the style of the writing was older than the 17th century so I consulted with other experts," he said of the scroll, which measures 36 meters by 64 cm (39 yards by 25 inches).

He said the scroll showed many graphical features and scribal devices that were no longer used by copyists of Hebrew scripts in the 17th century.   Continued...

 
A scroll identified by Italian professor Mauro Perani as the world's oldest complete scroll of the Torah is seen in Bologna, central Italy, in this handout picture released to Reuters by Mauro Perani on May 29, 2013. Perani, professor of Hebrew at the University of Bologna, said on Wednesday he has identified the world's oldest complete scroll of the Torah containing the full text of the first five books of scripture. He said experts and carbon dating tests done in Italy and United States put the scroll as having been written between 1155 and 1255. REUTERS/Mauro Perani/Handout via Reuters