Early Jewish Uses of Scrolls and Other Writing Formats (R.A.Kraft, 04ja08)
Lieberman argued that proto-rabbinic, proto-Mishnaic halakhic
were sometimes recorded for private use in codex notebooks, despite the
of all these materials being transmitted orally, and the rabbinic
of recording scriptural material on anything but scrolls. Irven Resnick built
on Lieberman’s evidence, and claimed to find in early Chrisitan
and commentaries on Jewish scriptures evidence for Christians
themselves from Jewish use of scrolls for scriptures in liturgy – a
motivation for championing codices over scrolls for scriptural works.
Lieberman and Resnick imagine that early Christian preference for
have originated from the Jewish companions of Jesus recording his
codex notebook format, which by imitation gave rise to the prevalence
codex format in early Christianity. Kurt Treu questions the scholarly consensus regarding Greek Jewish materials.
Kurt Treu questions the scholarly consensus regarding Greek Jewish materials.
The assumption that Jews always and everywhere used scrolls for scriptures in public liturgical contexts is drawn from clearly stated rabbinic teachings and mainstream Jewish practice going back to at least the 4th century CE in those circles of Judaism associated with classical rabbinism. The conclusion, which has dominated the study of early codices, that no Jew or Jewish group would have produced a scriptural manuscript in codex format is a generalization built on such an assumption – for public presentation of scriptures, Jews use scrolls, Christians use codices. It is not surprising that this generalization spills over more broadly – no Jew (for public or private purposes) would produce a copy of a scriptural work on a codex.
What is Demonstrable or Highly Probable?
[APPENDIX III: JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN CODICES refers back to p. 87, nn. 30-31]
[[pp. 83-99 is the section entitled “The Publication of the Mishnah”]
[] Medieval scholars disagree as to the time when the Mishnah was indited [sic, edited?]. Some assert\6/ that every scholar wrote the Mishnah for his private use, whereas others maintain\7/ that the Mishnah and the Talmud were not reduced to writing until the post-Talmudic period. Modern scholars are divided in the same two camps.\8/ As for the rabbinic sources themselves, they state clearly\9/ that the oral Law is not to be put down in writing. At the same time there is abundant evidence indicating that the Rabbis were in possession of written Halakhoth.\10/
\6/ Rab Sa`adiah Gaon (<hb>…</hb> in A. Harkavy’s <hb>…</hb> V, p. 194. See also Schechter, Saadyana, p. 5), R. Samuel b. Hofni (<hb>…</hb> ed. B. M. Lewin, p.1) and many others (See the long list compiled by J. N. Epstein, <hb>…</hb> p.693).
\7/ Rashi on Baba Mezi`a 33b, `Erubin 62b. See Epstein ibid. [[Resnick (3 and n.8) cites B.T. Meg. 19a, quoted in Malachi Beit-Arie/, 'How Hebrew Manuscripts are Made,' in A Sign and a Witness: 2,000 Years of Hebrew Books and Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. Leonard Singer Gold (NY and Oxford 1988) 35 -- "Rashi (b. 1040), in his commentary to the Talmud, seems to confirm this evidence when he remarks that 'All Sefarim [books] of the times of the sages were in roll form, like our Sefer Torah.'" He also cites Colette Sirat, 'Le livre he/breu dans les premiers sie\cles de notre e\re: les te/moignage des textes,' in Blanchard, Les de/buts du codex (1989), "for the very late appearance of the codex in Jewish communities (n.8)]]
\8/ See the list drawn by Epstein ibid.
\9/ TP Pe’ah II.6, 17a and parallels; ibid Megillah IV.1, 74d; Tanhuma <hb>…</hb> 5; ibid <hb>…</hb> 34; TB Gittin 60b and Temurah 14b passim.
\10/ See Strack Introduction to the Talmud etc., pp. 16, 245; Epstein ibid., pp. 693 and 699 ff.Upon a closer analysis of the rabbinic sources, however, we shall see that Rab Sa`adiah Gaon and his followers were undoubtedly right in their view regarding the writing of the Mishnah. Modern scholars have failed to treat the whole [] problem properly, because they missed the basic point at issue.
Let us begin with this question: Was the Mishnah published? Publication in antiquity was achieved in two ways. Books which had, or were expected to have, a large circulation were handled by special publishers. They employed many professional copyists to whom the text was dictated, and thousands of copies would be produced in a short time.\11/ The Bible could not be published in this way, for every scroll had to be copied from another scroll and could not be written by dictation.\12/ The particularly sacred character of the Jewish writings and the minute care required from the Scribe would not encourage a large production of books.\13/
\12/ See TP Megillah IV, 1, 74d; TB ibid. 18b and parallels.
\13/ Comp TB Pesahim 50b. It appears thare that the copists of Jewish sacred books were not counted among the rich. See also Koheleth Rabba II 17; TB Baba Bathra 155b and comp. Gittin 45b.
But there was a second way of publication in antiquity. The authentic original copy would be deposited in a temple, a library or the archives. Such an act guarded the book against possible forgeries. In case of doubts or controversies regarding readings in the given book, the copy placed in the archives would be decisive.\14/ Such deposition was designated by various verbs such as APOTIQENAI (to store away, to deposit, see below), EISFEREIN (to enter, to bring in),\15/ referre\16/ and others.\17/
\14/ See on the
deposition of a
copy in the archives or libraries, E. Peterson, EIS QEOS, pp. 217-220
correct explanation of Ignat. Ad Philad. 8.2 was already suggested by
\15/ See Bickerman, ibid. p. 345 n. 37. Comp. below, [at] n. 49.
\16/ Tacit. Dial. 21.6: fecerunt enim et carmina et in Bybliothecas rettulerunt. “For they (i.e. Caesar and Brutus) did write poems and deposited them in the libraries.”
\17/ See Peterson and Bickerman ibid.
According to rabbinic tradition, some Jewish books were [] published in this second way. In the Midrash\18/ it is stated:\19/ <hb> … </hb> “[Moses] wrote thirteen Scrolls, twelve for the twelve tribes and one which he deposited in the ark,\20/ so that if one wished to forge something they would produce the Scroll deposited in the ark,” i.e. and thereby prove the authentic reading. A book which was laid away in the temple was thereby published;\21/ no forgeries could be made in the other copies. There was always an authentic copy from which to verify the correct version. The Rabbis relate\22/ that the Palestinian Jews had hesitated to adopt the Purim festival, because they feared the consequences of making the contents of the Esther scroll known. But Mordecai and Esther reassured them that the story related in it was written and entered in the archives (<hb>…</hb>), i.e. it was already published.
\18/ Debarim Rabba IX.9; Midrash Tehillim XC.3, ed. Buber, p. 386; Pesikta de R.Kahana XXVI, 197b; interpolation in Sifre II. 1, ed. Finkelstein.
\19/ I copy from Debarim Rabba, ed. Prin.
\20/ Comp. Berthelot, Alchim Gr., p. 320 (quoted by Peterson ibid., p. 219): ON APEQENTO EIS EKASTON IERON.
\21/ Comp. 1 Sam. 10.25.
\22/ TP Megillah I.7.70d.<hb>…</hb>, written and deposited,\23/ is equivalent to “it is published.” The Sefer Gezeratha of the Zadokites was <hb>…</hb>, written and deposited, and whenever a question was encountered the book decided it.\24/ The law book, in other words, was published. The Megillath Ta`anith (the Scroll of Fasting) was written and deposited (<hb>…</hb>),\25/ i.e. published. In the post-Talmudic period they wrote down and deposited (<hb>…</hb>) the Halakhoth,\26/ i.e. they published them. In case of doubts and controversies these books could be consulted.
\23/ See above, n.21.
\24/ Megillath Ta`anith IV, ed. H. Lichtenstein, p. 75.
\25/ TB `Erubin 62b; see ibid. Shabbath 13b.
\26/ See TB
and <hb>…</hb> ibid. n.4; Lewin, Introduction to the
Rav Scherira, p. LII, n.4; Epstein, <hb>…</hb>, p. 696.
passage is a later interpolation in the Talmud, for the Gaon records it
z. 50 ja”hrigen Besthen d. Franz-Josef-Landesrabbiner-Schule in
[] Since in the entire Talmudic literature we do not find that a book of the Mishnah was ever consulted in case of controversies or doubt concerning a particular reading\27/ we may safely conclude that the compilation was not published in writing, that a written EKDOSIS of the Mishnah did not exist. On the other hand it is well known that the Rabbis possessed written Halakhoth and comments.\28/ Those Halakhoth were written in <hb>…</> (secret, i.e. private rolls),\29/ or on PINAKES, writing tablets.\30/ The decisions and comments of the masters were put down by their pupils on PINAKES\31/ or on the wall.\32/ Since all those writings had the character of private notes they had very little legal authority. If in the course of an argument a Rabbi had produced his notes they would have had no more authority than his oral assertion. The character of the notes recorded on the writing tablets, or the wall,\33/ makes it obvious that we have to do with private UPOMNHMATA (notes) put down only for the use of their writer.
UPOMNHMATA as a rule were not suitable material for publication.\34/ [Then he comments on students publishing their notes and teachers feeling the need to make corrections -- e.g. Galen, Quintillian Inst. I praef. 7-8.]
27 On TP Ma`aser Sheni V.1, 55d see below, n. 107.
28 See Epstein ibid., p. 700 ff.
29 TB Shabbath 6b; ibid. Baba Mesi`a 92a.
30 TP Ma`aseroth II. 4, 49d; Menahoth 70a.
31 TB Shabbath 156a, TP Kila'im 1.1.27a. See Appendix III, below p.203.
32 TP ibid.
33 See TP Kila'im ibid.
34 See T. W. Allen, Homer, p. 307ff. G. Zuntz, Byzantion 14 (1939) 560.
[[After a discussion of Tannaim as sort of oral publications (prodigious memories, called on to recite traditions, etc.), he goes on to questions of how Mishnah came to be organized by Akiba]] [] What R. `Akiba actually did was to consult the UPOMNHMATA, the notes,\68/ [n.68: Retained either in writing or orally.] of his pupils as well as those of R. Ishmael. The character of pupils’ notes was outlined above (p.87). Pupils are not always exact in their notes. They sometimes mix the tradition of one teacher with that of another. It also happens that the master has changed his mind: some pupils have heard an older version, others the revised version and still others [] have heard both, situations which are attested in both the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds.\69/ [[Then a paragraph on similar situations regarding the transmission of Homer through the pupils of Aristarchus, transmitting the tradition with the help of notes. Later also mentions Galen as editing Hippocrates (p.98), and Resh Lakish correcting Mishnah in mid 3rd century. Finally, notes analogy to Gk-Rom legal materials, with epitomes and paraphrases, which often fused various strata. “We find exactly the same phenomenon in Roman juristic works.\124/” (p.99) – refers to F. Schulz, History of Roman Legal Science, 142ff.]]==
APPENDIX III: JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN CODICES
The Greek word <hb>PNQS</hb>, πίναξ, writing-tablet, is very common in rabbinic literature.\1/ From the second century rabbinic sources it is obvious that the πίναξ often consisted of more than one tablet.\2/ We are told in TP\3/ that a Samaritan once dreamed\4/ that he was dressed in a pinax of twelve tablets.\5/ The dream may reflect the reality of the time.\6/ The pinaces were made not only of tablets but also of some softer material. The Mishnah\7/ explicitly mentions a pinax of papyrus. Another bit of relevant information dates from a somewhat later period. On Gen. 28.13 (The land whereon thou liest to thee will I give it and to thy seed) Bar Kappara\8/ remarks: "[The Lord] folded the earth like a pinax and put it under his (i. e. Jacob's) head."\9/ The [] comparison apparently refers to the folding of papyrus (or parchment) so as to make a codex.\10/
1 See Krauss LW, p. 466, s. v. <hb>PNQS</hb>; L. Blau, Studien zum althebra"ischen Buchwesen (Budapest 1902), p. 17 ff.; S. Krauss, Talmudische Archa"ologie III, p. 306 ff.
2 Mishnah Shabbath XII. 5; Tosefta Sotah XV. 1, 321/6 and parallel in TP ibid.
3 Ma`aser Sheni IV. 9, 55b.
4 It is an incident of the second half of the second century, as we learn from the report (ibid.) that the Samaritan turned to R. Ishmael b. R. Jose for the interpretation.
5 Midrash Ekha Rabba 1, ed. Buber 26b, reads: he was carrying a pinax of 24 tablets.
6 A pinax of nine tablets is reproduced by W. Schubart, Das Buch bei d. Griechen and Romern\2, p. 24. This seems to be the largest number of tablets known to have been bound in one pinax.
7 Kelim XXIV. 7. The passage is not later than the middle of the second century.
8 Flourished at the end of the second and the beginning of the third century.
9 BR LXIX. 4, 793\8. Comp. TB Nidda 30b.
10 See F. G. Kenyon, Books and Readers in Ancient
Thus <hb>PNQS</hb>, πίναξ, in rabbinic literature is sometimes identical with codex.
In ancient Jewish sources the <hb>PNQSIM</hb>, πίνακες, codices, are usually synonymous with records. To examine one's pinax merely signified to examine one's records.\11/ The pinax also contained the record of a buisness man.\12/ In the case of R. Ishmael\13/ it served him as a record of his private memoranda; he noted there a mishap that occurred to him on the Sabbath.\14/ It is evident that rabbinic literature mirrors the general practice of the time. The codex in antiquity was used for all the purposes cited above.\15/
11 BR LXXXI. 1, 968 and parallels referred to in the notes a. I; ibid. 972\4; 1015\2; Esther Rabba 1. 6, ed. Romm 3c, Tanhuma <hb>o,u!Dttin</hb> 5, end; Targrum ps.-Jonathan, Gen. 39.11. Comp. also Mishnah Aboth III. 16, and TP Rosh Hashanah 1. 3, 57a.
12 Mishnah Shebu`oth VII. 5 and parallels.
13 Flourished in the second half of the first century.
14 Tosefta Shabbath l. 13, 110/27, and parallels in TP and TB ibid.
15 See 5chubart, op. c. (above n. 6), p. 175; McCown, op. c. (above n. 10), p. 249; H. A. Sanders, Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review 44 (1938) 101a, 102b and 109b.
We have pointed out above (p. 84ff.) that an ancient injunction prohibited the publication in writing of the Oral Law. However, rabbinic sayings and decisions were written down in epistles,\16/ in private rolls\17/ and, above all, on pinakes, codices (or single tablets which could suhsequently he bound in a codex).\18/ Most of the Rabbis who are reported to have put down the Halakhoth of their masters on codices flourished in the first half of the third century. But the practice itself is undoubtedly much older. The employment of the note-hook was the most suitable way of indicating that they were writing the Oral Law for private, or unofficial use, and not for publication.
16 J. N. Epstein, <hb>nirvon nout Kian</hb>, p. 699 ff.
17 See above, p. 87 n. 29 [TB Shabbath 6b; ibid. Baba Mesi`a 92a.]
18 TP Kil`aim 1. 1, 27a; Ma`asroth II. 4, 49d; TB Shabbath 156a (three times) and Menahoth 70a.[]
Archaeological evidence, as is well known, fully corroborates this assumption. Among the early Christians both the Gospels and the Septuagint prevailed in a codex form.\19/ Prof. C. H. Roberts,\20/ with his usual sagacity, rightly questions the general theory that the Christian predilection for the codex was dictated by economic reasons. We have seen that the first Jewish Christians, such as Matthew and Mark,\21/ would follow the accepted Jewish practice and put down their ὑπομνήματα in codices.\22/
19 See 5chubart op. c., p. 119 N.; Kenyon, op. c. (above n. 10), p. 95 ff. H. A. Sanders op. c., p. 107b; McCown op. c., pp. 224 ff., 237 ff.
20 The Journal of Theological Studies 1 (1949) 162.
21 See Eusebius, hist. eccl., II. 15.
According to Jewish law the Scroll of the Law was to be written only on a parchment\23/ roll.\24/ However, these and many other restrictions may have been imposed only on the roll which was to be publicly read in the places of worship. For private liturgical purposes, the Jews wrote certain portions of the Torah [] on δίφθεραι\25/ or papyrus as well as on parchment, as is well illustrated by the famous Nash papyrus.\26/ The Jewish children began their education with the study of written tablets, and from them they went on to the ro1l.\27/ We do not know the exact contents of these tablets, but it is likely that they included not only the letters of the alphabet, but also verses of the Bible.\28/ Books of Aggada were in existence among the Jews, notwithstanding the violent opposition of some Rabbis.\29/ Unfortunately the rabbinic sources mostly refer to them as <hb>SFR</hb>, book, which can mean both roll\30/ and codex.\31/
23 And not on paper or <hb>DIPTRA</hb> δίφθερα, which TB (Megillah 19a top and parallel) defines as a skin prepared with salt and flour but without gall-nut. Comp. the following note and Mishnah Megillah II 2.
24 See the minor tract Soferim 1. 1-6, ed. Higger, pp. 96-99 and the parallels referred to in the notes ibid.
25 See Soferim III. 6, p. 125. According to
Aristeas (Epistle 176, Appendix to 5wete's Introduction
to the O. T. in Greek, 1902, p. 549) the scrolls sent from
26 On its date see W. F. Albright, JBL 56 (1937) 145 ff. Comp. also Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 115 (October 1949) 20-22.
27 Tanhuma quoted in Or Zaru'a I, 4b, top.
28 See TB Gittin 60a, and comp. M. Friedmann, Mekhilta, Introduction, pp. XXXIV-XXXV.
See Strack, Introduction to the Talmud
and Midrasch (
30 Also called <hb>TOMOS</hb>, τόμος,
We are told that word came to R. Ishmael (see above n. 13) that a man
written a <hb>tomos</HB>, tomus,
of prayers. When he went to check the report the owner threw the tomus into a pail of water (Tosefta Shabbath
X1II (XIV).4, 128\31
ff.). The form of that tomus can be
determined. Instead of tomus TP
(ibid. XV1. 1, 15c) employs <hb>TKRYK</hb>
roll. Another case of the alternation of these two words occurs in the
ShL ShTRWT</hb> (Tosefta Baba Kamma
1X. 31, 366/8), a tomus of documents,
and <hb>TKRYK ShL ShTRWT</he> (Mishnah
31 Comp. Sifre 1, 103, ed. Horovitz, p. 102. See L. Blau op. c. above n. 1), p. 167, and Krauss op. c. (ibid.), p. 307, n. 89.
We conclude with an interesting Midrash bearing on our subject. We read in Tanhuma:\32/ <hb>'pn -inr`tmD 015v -I'm '-I -InK 0iyn mrnnm n•mn nDsm'»Si ,XI» rnmnn lsnnm 7mn mj)z J5 3n:) nmn5\33/ uN o,nntre 07,11 n'm nM 1'renip nrn5t n-linn nrt oaln5 1'-rny On= o'nntct onrt mntt6 n^»n 0,15 nbK .1"iyn anrrenn rmzy -1yt n1Mm rnmnn it it 'rcl '12 on 1SsK 'Sm 1'n'r,mnm 'D MSN Y71, '3'N nn nm y</hb> "R. Judah b. Shalom\34/ Said: When the Holy One told Moses `write down' (Ex. 34:27), the latter wanted the Mishnah also to be in writing. However, the Holy One blessed is He foresaw that a time would come when the nations of the world would translate the Torah and read it in Greek and then say: `We are Israel',\35/ and now the scales are balanced!\36/ The Holy One blessed is He will then say to the nations: you contend that you are my children. That may be, but only those who possess my mysteries are my children, i. e. [those who have] the Mishnah which is given orally."
32 <hb>KY TSA</hb> 34. Comp. ibid. <hb>WYRA</hb> 5; ed. Buber 6, 44b; Pesikta Rabbathi V, ed. Friedmann, 14b. I copy from Tanhuma ed. prin.
33 The modern editions of Tanhuma <hb>WYRA</hb> erroneously read: <hb>ShL YSRAL</hb>, but in ed. prin. ibid. the word <hb>ShL</hb> is not extant.
34 Flourished in the middle of the fourth century.
35 Ed. Buber <hb>WYRA</hb>,
44b, reads: <hb>Srtuvl utt tt</hb>, we are also
TP\37/ states to this effect: <hb>nr tnD rt5 'nnin 'DI-1 J5 'nnnz i5'ts t're .lmnDm 1're,Yln i5rct ln'nnm 1':s':on i5'K ,mnt:z lrm nn umm 1-rnn l'm'= iw InnnD-T 1'H'sib</hb> "If I wrote down the greater part of my Law would they (i. e. the Jews) not be accounted as strangers? (Hos. 8.12). What would then be the difference between them and the nations? These produce their books and their δίφθεραι and the others produce their books and their δίφθεραι."\38/
II. 6, 17a;
38 For the rabbinic definition of δίφθερα see above, n. 23. Here the word seems to be synonymous with book; see Herodot. V. 58. The Aggada is often not very particular about the exactness o1 its terminology. Comp., however, Blau, op. c. (above n. 1), p. 93, n. 0.
the Christians are portrayed as producing the Septuagint in the form of
(and not specifically in the form of pinaces, codices)
because, according to
the Rabbis, they wished to stress that in regard to the Torah they were
on a par
with the Jews. They have the same books in the same form\39/ as the
In reply the Rabbis emphasized that the Christians have no oral law. By
fourth century the Christian Bible had already long since been
was accessible and open to anyone who could read. The Jewish oral law
recorded in secret (private) rolls\40/ and in private codices. It
the mysteries\41/ of the Lord which were published orally
39 Tischendorf stated that the vellum on
40 See above, p. 87, n. 29 [TB Shabbath 6b; ibid. Baba Mesi`a 92a.]
41 See the passage from the Tanhuma quoted above.
42 Corpus Hermeticum 13, ed. Nock-Festugie\re, p. 200; see n. 1 ibid.
43 See A. J. Festugie\re, Le "logos" Herme/tique d'enseignement, Revue des e/tudes Grecques 55 (1942) 90. See ibid. p. 93 ff.It is natural that the prestige of the Gospels among the Christians engendered the desire to have them and the Septuagint in the same form. Both were subsequently published the form of codices.
+Resnick, Irven M. "The Codex in Early Jewish and Christian Communities." Journal of Religious History 17 (1992) 1-17http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-9809.1992.tb00699.x?cookieSet=1
There are no extant Jewish manuscripts in codex form prior to the eighth century, at earliest. Even though there is evidence of the use of wax tablets, and perhaps papyrus notebooks in the Jewish community during the Mishnaic period, these evidently did not catch on for literary purposes. (3)It seems that the Christian community self-consciously decided upon the codex in contradistinction to both Jewish and pagan practice, and the reasons for that decision are elusive and the subject of controversy. . . . Even the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew books which the Church acknowledged as inspired, was copied in the Christian community not in its original form -- a scroll -- but as a codex.(4)
[4 n.13 claims that Bickerman (Studies in Jewish and Christian History 1 [Leiden 1976] 138f) argued that translating the Hebrew into Greek lengthened the text to such a degree that the codex was needed to keep all the books together. (This assumes more length to the unit than is likely!). Resnick concludes "I don't find this entirely convincing" but does not elaborate.][Long discussion of textual debates, differences, translations, etc. Then on p. 7] Given these dangers, scholarly work of the last fifty years which has demonstrated that the primitive Christian community was responsible for the introduction of a distinctive format for its sacred texts -- the codex as opposed to the Jewish or pagan scroll -- takes on new significance. It may be that the Christian innovation [sic!] was an effort more clearly to identify acceptable Christian versions of Jewish texts, and 'may have been a fresh instance of the well-known tendency of the early Chruch to differentiate itself sharply from Judaism' (citing Peter Katz in JTS 46  63).
[Then he rightly notes that a series of scrolls would be needed for Hebrew scriptures (footnoting the question of pentateuch, which in rabbinic discussions must be a single roll even if Moses may have produced five separate scrolls [n.30]), and comments on the fact that only five works are formally called "scrolls" (megillot), although he makes no argument from that fact! Then he describes the details of rabbinic legislation for scriptural copies (8-9), and the discussions]Although it is dangerous to assume that the mishnaic material reflects the practice of the second
Saul Lieberman has shown that, like the Greeks
Romans, Jews in
While the initial impulse to employ the codex in the primitive Christian community may have arisen from a sincere desire to avoid transgressing the law, an entirely different psychology would have been at work in the gentile Christian world. There it may have been especially in order to demonstrate that the community is no longer bound by the law that the codex was received as the vehicle for Christian sacred texts. What originally may have been an expression of submission to Jewish tradition in another setting became its opposite: an expression of disregard, if not contempt for, the Law. By the time the Church had become a largely gentile community -- that is, by about the middle of the second century -- Christianity had disavowed the use of the roll for biblical literature.[Then a discussion of biblical passages mentioning rolls -- Ps 40/39.8 "roll of a book"; Ezek 2.9-3.3 (swallow the scroll); Rev 5.1 (sealed scroll) and 10.9 (eats it).] Theodore of Mopsuestia (d.428), for example, complains that it was the Jewish translator, Aquila, who had introduced into Psalm 40.8 the phrase 'roll of a book' in order to reflect the Jewish practice of copying the Law and the prophets on rolls. (n.59, ref to Devreesse ed: "This is especially clear in Julian of Eclanum's translation: '"In capite libri"
[Comments on Jerome's interp of Ps 39/40.8 as the beginning (principium) of OT (logos; in hoc libri capite nuntiatus est) -- Breviarum in Psalmos 39.8 (PL 26.1002A). Jerome also accuses Hilary of Poitiers of misunderstanding Gen 1.1 with rendering 'in filio fecit Deus coelum et terram' Liber Hebraicum quaestionum in Genesim 1.1 (PL 23.937). Some other interpreters take the ref to be to Ps 1.1 (Arnobius Junior, Commentarii in Psalmos 39.8 (PL 53.381B), Ps-Rufinus, In Psalmos 75 Commentarius 39.8 (PL 21.295A)). Jerome thus connects this all with John 1.1. "While the phrase in capite libri would not necessarily suggest to us the prologue to John, the Syriac text of Psalm 40.8, when rendered in Latin, reads: Ecce venio: quia in principio librorum scriptum est de me. (n.63) Elsewhere Jerome reminds us that he sought the sense of the Syriac when translating biblical books. (n.64) Jerome's translation, then reflects a resonance between Genesis 1, Psalm 39.8 (Vulgate) and the prologue of John."]For Christians, then [[!!all of them!]], Psalm 40.8 (39.8) did not focus attention upon the use of a roll. . . . Jerome did not return to the Hebrew text for this passage. The Hebrew, as well as
Jerome's criticism focused upon the Torah mantle -- a distinctive Jewish practice based upon rabbinic decree that sacred texts defile the hands -- as a symbol for the veiled intelligence of the Jews. Still, the mantle is necessary only for the scroll. There appears to be no such rabbinic requirement for a codex. Certainly, Christians could have used a scroll but rejected the mantle; but their christological understanding of a text like Psalm 40.8 (39.8) explicitly rejected any reference to a roll of a book. Just as Jewish practice supported the Jewish reading of this text, so too the Christian practice supported Christian exegesis.[On Ezek 2.9f, OL capitulum libri, Vg involutus liber, but still "Christian interpretation ingeniously avoided the conclusion that the text is really talking about a scroll." Gregory the Great refers it to revealed "mysteries" and in Rev 5.1 it refers to Christ; in Rev 10.9 Vg has librum apertum, "a phrase so ambiguous that it cannot clearly identify either roll or codex. It appears, then, that texts both from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament were understood or translated in such a way as might blunt any appeal by rabbinic authority seeking to support the exclusive position of the scroll for sacred literature."]
By the early Middle Ages this image of Torah as the tree of life [Prv 3.18], a protectress for all who grasp her, had been transferred and applied even to the wooden rollers of the Torah scroll, which came to be designated eitz chaim: a tree of life. . . . He rollers are as necessary as the Torah mantle in order to lift or carry the scroll without contracting impurity.[But for Christian interpreters of Prv 3.18, the tree of life = Jesus (“the new Torah” – with lots of refs in n.78) or the wood of the Cross. (already Celsus – secondary ref given)]
(16) Not only did the image of the tree of life
mandate the use of the scroll for the Christian community, but one may
speculate that it was in order to sever the connection between the Law
tree of life that the community departed from rabbinic practice. . . .
Vulgate, the link between the pillars of the temple and the rollers of
scroll was entirely lost. There the temple pillars were columnae,
– Ex 28.33) but the most common word used to identify the rollers of a
My suggestions are sometimes speculative and difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate. But it seems to me likely that in addition to the practical or economic advantages the codex may have presented, Christians chose the codex as their vehicle for sacred literature in order to demonstrate clearly that they were no longer bound by the Law; to sever the rabbinic connection between Torah, the tree of life, and temple cult; and to support, instead, Christological interpretation of reference whenever possible.