Early Jewish Uses of Scrolls and Other Writing Formats (R.A.Kraft, 04ja08)

Saul Lieberman argued that proto-rabbinic, proto-Mishnaic halakhic traditions were sometimes recorded for private use in codex notebooks, despite the image of all these materials being transmitted orally, and the rabbinic prohibition of recording scriptural material on anything but scrolls. Irven Resnick built on Lieberman’s evidence, and claimed to find in early Chrisitan translations of and commentaries on Jewish scriptures evidence for Christians distancing themselves from Jewish use of scrolls for scriptures in liturgy – a "theological" motivation for championing codices over scrolls for scriptural works. Both Lieberman and Resnick imagine that early Christian preference for codices might have originated from the Jewish companions of Jesus recording his teachings in codex notebook format, which by imitation gave rise to the prevalence of the codex format in early Christianity. 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.

Problems abound:

  1. Early Judaism was not monolithic, and the existence of varieties of Jewish groups in the Greco-Roman period is well established. What reason is there to think that they all followed the same practice in this regard?
  2. Almost all of our information about relevant Jewish book formats is drawn from relatively late redacted semitic materials representing rabbinic Judaism. What do we know about non-semitic speaking Jewish groups on this matter?
  3. For the period in which the codex format began to be used for Greco-Roman literature (from mid first century CE to the 4th), we have very limited evidence from Jewish circles. What we have predominantly represents Palestine [DSS, rabbinic traditions] and Egypt [papyri]).
  4. Christianity was not monolithic, and the existence of varieties of Christian groups in the Greco-Roman period is well established. For the relevant period, our knowledge of Christian groups is spotty, with most of the “hard evidence” deriving from Egypt (papyri). Whether and to what extent some Christian groups may have retained scrolls for their scriptures is unknown.

What is Demonstrable or Highly Probable?

  1. “Notebook” type codices on material such as wood (often with a wax surface) are known from as early as the 5th century BCE, and are probably much older.
  2. "Folded" rolls that can be held in one hand and read front and back like a page of a book are depicted in some early Roman statuary.
  3.  Codices on pliable material such as papyrus and leather (parchment) begin to be used from about the mid first century CE onward.
  4. With few exceptions, most of the relevant physical evidence (other than paintings, statuary and reliefs) comes from Palestine and Egypt, and the Egyptian papyri show that codex usage in general surpasses scroll usage only after the mid-4th century CE.
  5.  The Egyptian evidence also shows a decided preference for the codex format among Christians from as early as the mid-2nd century CE.
What remains Ambiguous?
  1. Did originally Jewish manuscript materials of works that are otherwise known to have been adopted by Christians (especially “scriptures”) originate under Jewish auspices? Or, Where did the earliest Christian copyists get their copies of Jewish scriptural materials? Treu discusses some of the issues in his Excursus.
  2.  Is there a special and intentional connection between Christian judgments about “scriptures” (and  thus about “canonicity”) and Christian use of the codex.
  3. Did Jewish copyists employ “nomina sacra” types of abbreviations? (Does the presence of "nomina sacra" disqualify material from being Jewish in origin?). See Treu on this question.
  4. In what contexts (e.g. “school”) and for what types of material (e.g. “notes”) were codices (whether rigid notebooks or flexible materials) usually employed?
  5. Did Jewish and Christian practices with regard to #4 differ from each other and/or from general Greco-Roman practices?
  6. When and in what connections is codex usage attested in Jewish circles? See Treu on possibly Jewish manuscripts.
  7. Why is there so little discussion of such format transitions and/or differences in the preserved sources (Jewish, Christian, and general)?


Saul Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine: Studies in the Literary Transmission, Beliefs, and Manners of Palestine in the I Century B.C.E. – IV Century C.E. (Texts and Studies of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 18; NY: Jewish Theological Seminary of America 5711-1950)

[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]

[[84]] 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 [[85]] 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/

  \11/ See Th. Birt, Das antike Buchwesen, p.118; W. Schubart, Das Buch bei den Griechen etc.\2 p. 1511ff; E. Bickermann, JBL 63 (1944) 341 n. 13; H. L. Pinner, The World of books in Classical Antiquity, p. 32 ff. and nn. Ibid., p.61.

\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 (The correct explanation of Ignat. Ad Philad. 8.2 was already suggested by S. Reinach; see Anatolian Studies Presented to Sir W. M. Ramsay, 1923, p. 339 ff. and p. 340 n.1 ibid.); E. Bickerman, JBL 63 (1944) 352ff.

\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 [[86]] 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 Temurah 14b and <hb>…</hb> ibid. n.4; Lewin, Introduction to the Epistle of Rav Scherira, p. LII, n.4; Epstein, <hb>…</hb>, p. 696. This passage is a later interpolation in the Talmud, for the Gaon records it (Festschrift z. 50 ja”hrigen Besthen d. Franz-Josef-Landesrabbiner-Schule in Budapest, 1927, Hebrew part, p. 96) as his own comment. See Epstein ibid.

[[87]] 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]] [[91]] 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 [[92]] 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.]]




    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 [[204]] 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 Greece and Rome (Oxford 1932) p. 101; C. C. McCown, Harvard Theological Review 34 (1941) 232.

  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.


      Now the Jewish disciples of Jesus, in accordance with the general rabbinic practice, wrote the sayings which their master pronounced not in form of a book to be published, but as notes in their pinaces, codices, in their note-books (or in private small rolls). They did this because otherwise they would have transgressed the law. In line with the foregoing we would naturally expect the logia of Jesus to be originally copied in codices. 

     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.

       22 See Roberts ibid. 161 ff.; ibid. 11 (1939) 253. Luke, the Gentile, could naturally act differently. He probably wrote his account in book form, with the intention of publishing it.
        The reasons for the codex form of the LXX will be given below.

     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 [[206]] on δφθεραι\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> δφθερα, 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 Jerusalem to Alexandria were δφθεραι on which the Law was inscribed in golden characters. See Soferim I. 8, pp. 105-106 and comp. Blau op. c. (above n. 1), pp. 157 ff., p. 162. χρυσογράφιοι were also in vogue among the Persians; see B. Geiger in Krauss' Additamenta ad librum Aruch Completum, p. 331b, s. v. <hb>PSTA</hb> II.

    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.

    29 See Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrasch (Philadelphia 1931) pp. 13 ff., 243 ff.

    30 Also called <hb>TOMOS</hb>, τόμος, tomus. We are told that word came to R. Ishmael (see above n. 13) that a man had 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 phrase <hb>TWMWS ShL ShTRWT</hb> (Tosefta Baba Kamma 1X. 31, 366/8), a tomus of documents, and <hb>TKRYK ShL ShTRWT</he> (Mishnah Baba Mezi'a I. 8), a roll of documents. This establishes the presumption that the two terms are synonymous. Now the form of the <hb>TKRYK</hb> is described in TB Baba Mezi'a, 20b, where we are told that it was made of sheets placed end to end [and then rolled together). We can therefore conclude that the tomus consisted of sheets pasted end to end and then rolled in the form of a scroll. This was the usual procedure in the Mediterranean countries; see Schubart op. c. (above n. 6), pp. 172 and 180.

    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 Israel. This is a correction of a learned scribe. The Christians did not assert that they are also Israel, but they maintained that they are the ALHQINOS ISRAHL (const. Apost. 7.36.2), the true Israel. The Jews were, of course, (as was our learned scribe) surprised at that claim. Tryphon the Jew is portrayed (Just. Mart. Dial. 123.7) to have reacted in the same way. TI OUN; FHSIN O TRUFWN. UMEIS ISRAHL ESTE; "'What then', says Trypho, 'are you Israel?'”

    36 I. e. the Jews and the Gentiles have seemingly come with equal claims.

    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 δφθεραι and the others produce their books and their δφθεραι."\38/

    37 Pe'ah II. 6, 17a; Hagigah I. 8, 76d.

    38 For the rabbinic definition of δφθερα 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.


   In this homily the Christians are portrayed as producing the Septuagint in the form of books and δφθεραι (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 Jews have. In reply the Rabbis emphasized that the Christians have no oral law. By the fourth century the Christian Bible had already long since been published; it was accessible and open to anyone who could read. The Jewish oral law remained recorded in secret (private) rolls\40/ and in private codices. It constituted the mysteries\41/ of the Lord which were published orally only for Israel. Its circulation in the form of private codices made it something like the secret hermetic logos concerning the regeneration and the rule of silence,\42/ which was not to be published.\43/

   39 Tischendorf stated that the vellum on which the Vatican and Sinaitic codd. (See Swete op. c. [above n. 25], pp. 126 ff., 129 ff.) are written came from antelopes. F. G. Kenyon op. c. (above, n. 10), p. 86, remarks that, to his knowledge, this statement has never been verified. The Jews preferred to have the Torah written on parchment prepared from the skins of deer. See mv note in Tosefeth Rishonim II, p. 139.

   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) 1-17


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 [1945] 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 Temple period, it probably reflects the practice of the community in the first few centuries of this era. Even rabbinic treatises written much later may accurately reflect the traditions of the community in this period. [No attention to possibly different linguistic and geographic communities! Then he defends early material in the late tractate Soferim on the basis of similarities in the DSS that disagree with the Talmudic rules.] This ancient authority for the scroll [going back to Moses] is visibly represented as early as the thrid century in a mosaic at the synagogue of Dura-Europus, which depicts Moses receiving the Scroll of the Law, rather than stone tablets (n.41 refers to The Jewish World, ed. Elie Kedourie (London 1979) plate 32; see also the Ravenna mosaic). 

Saul Lieberman has shown that, like the Greeks and Romans, Jews in Palestine during the Mishnaic period were accustomed to use tablets and parchment or papyrus notebooks not only for business records and school exercises but even to record halachic opinions. (n.51) It is not surprising that none of these notebooks has survived. Although there was a rabbinic ban on writing down for publication these halachic opinions -- which constitute oral law or Mishnah -- the ban evidently did not extend to codices or small scrolls produced for private consultation, which no one would be foolish enough to mistake for a sacred text. (n.52, citing p. 205) Lieberman even suggests that the earliest Christians borrowed the codex form for their literature from this Jewish practice. This possibility is viewed favourably by C.H.Roberts, (n.53, R&S 59) and directly contradicts the established view: namely that the Christians borrowed the codex form from the Romans. (n.54, cites A.Bruckner, 'Roll and Codex,' New Catholic Encyclopedia 12, 560 and others including van Haelst) But the still persistent view that the codex appears as a result of Roman practice must explain why one recent history of the modern book acknowledges no contribution by the Jews, the 'People of the Book,' to its development. Instead, the story moves from Egypt to Greece, Roman and the Christian West. (n.55, cites Norma Lavarie, The Art and History of Books, 1 & 22.)

But if Lieberman is correct, the history of the codex must be dramatically rewritten. Since the earliest disciples apprehanded the person of Jesus especially through his unwritten words, which formed an oral tradition, (n.56) [[12]] it is possible that Jewish-Christians would have used the same form to record this oral tradition as the rabbinic community used to record its Oral Law without violating the ban against its publication. In Lieberman's view, then, Jewish-Christians, 'did this because otherwise they would have transgressed the law . . . . We would naturally expect the logia of Jesus to be originally copied in codices.' (n.57, p.205; but see Gamble, 'Pauline Corpus' 269-271 for objections) 

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" Aquila "in volumine libri" posuit. Nam apud Hebraeos tam Legis quam prophetarum libri singuli singulis erant voluminibus conscripti.' ref to CCSL 88A ed of ThMop, and to Reider's Index to Aquila -- but ThMop does not say anything negative here about Jewish use of rolls (Aq. EILHMATI); indeed, Hill's translation of the Greek of ThMop renders KEFALIDI BIBLIOU as "scroll of a book" [497]!) The Septuagint has a different reading -- en kephalidi bibliou -- which is carried through into the Vulgate, where the phrase may be translated 'at the beginning [or head] of a book (in capite libri).' (n.60, ref to Gallican Psalter, but not to Iuxta Hebr.; Pietersma has OG as "in the book scroll" -- see lexica; no vars in Heb 10.8 quote) 

[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 Aquila's 'in the roll of a book,' was regarded as more evidence of conspiracy. [[!! Ignores Jerome's preferred translation in Iuxta Hebraeos, "in volumine libri scriptum est de me."]] n.66 refers to passages Hilary and Jerome in which Jews are described as veiling the scriptures -- Jews "were afraid to touch the scriptures when they read them, and covered them with a mantle (Hilary). Probably 2 Cor 3 is in play in these references.]] 

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 no longer 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 and the tree of life that the community departed from rabbinic practice. . . . In the Vulgate, the link between the pillars of the temple and the rollers of the scroll was entirely lost. There the temple pillars were columnae, (n.85 – Ex 28.33) but the most common word used to identify the rollers of a scroll in Rome was umbilicus. (n.86 – Martial Epigr. 2.6.11; 5.6.14; Horace does use columnae for the sign of a bookseller’s shop Ars poetica 373)

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.