Tag Archives: Cambridge

Neat News From the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge

The first discovery of Judaeo-Syriac: T-S K14.22

By Siam Bhayro (with the assistance of Ben Outhwaite)

The presence in the Cairo Genizah of manuscripts written in Syriac has been known since the earliest days of Genizah research, with the sisters Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson publishing some of the first discoveries in their book, ‘Palestinian Syriac texts from palimpsest fragments in the Taylor-Schechter Collection’ (Cambridge 1900). As the title indicated, Syriac had found its way into the synagogue storeroom as the undertext of palimpsests, the parchment having been reused to write piyyuṭim, the Palestinian Talmud and other rabbinic works.

T-S K14.22, a small parchment leaf, is not among their Syriac fragments, and righty so, since it is not in the Syriac script. The great scholar of Genizah medicine Haskell Isaacs originally catalogued it in his ‘Medical and Para-Medical Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections’, describing it as materia medica in Aramaic – a list of medicinal substances. And so it is. But when I examined the text, I read this phrase with great interest:

genizahואף השא או חביבן כתבינן סדרא דתלת עשר דאיתיו מים אתותא
‘And also now, O our beloved, we write the thirteenth chapter, which is the letter mem.’

Etc.  Follow the doings at the Unit on Facebook.  There’s always something interesting going on.

I’m Calling it the Peter Williams and David Instone-Brewer Blog Because I Don’t Know the Other People On It

There’s a new blog (website, webpage, resource, whatever) called 4Gospels: The Less Sensational Site (a name I just love). It is

… a site run by scholars and postgraduate students based mainly in Cambridge, England, providing accessible information on the 4 Gospels in the New Testament as well as many other writings which are or have been called gospels.

I’m adding a link to the ‘Useful Sites’ section of the navigation panel. It’s really a nice resource. With thanks to Michael ‘the Aussie with the red hair’ Bird for mentioning it on the Facebook.

The Library…

At 3:30 in the afternoon…. It’s dark early here.


Blogging/Tweeting SOTS Winter 2013 Meeting at Cambridge

sotsA quick note- I have every intention of blogging/tweeting SOTS 2013 next week in Cambridge and I’ll be using the hashtag #sots2013.  All of this is, of course, contingent on whether or not Fitzwilliam has wifi and I can manage to use it properly.  A couple of fairly large contingencies really.  At Durham a couple of years ago (oh Durham, you did try my soul) internet access was absolutely impossible.  D.V., Cambridge will be better.

So, if you don’t hear from me, blame the interweb.  If you do, blame yourself (I, as always, shall remain blameless and perfect, upright and eschewing evil).

Scholars of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Question

411729_458884864147416_1680053989_oToday the Genizah Unit at Cambridge writes on their facebook page-

The recent upload of Mosseri Genizah material on the Cambridge Digital Library includes Mos.I.40, a manuscript that N. Wieder believed showed a clear link between Karaism and the Dead Sea sect, through its use of the term עדת בני צדוק.

This has piqued my interest and I’m wondering 1) what the DSS experts think of Wieder’s suggestion and 2) what, if he’s right, that implies for Scrolls research.

Alban Books at SOTS Winter Meeting

From Elaine Reid-

Alban Books will have a book display at the forthcoming SOTS Winter Meeting in Cambridge this January. If there are any of our books, which you can view at our new website www.albanbooks.com, that you would like us to bring with us please just let me know and I’ll add them to my list.

Many thanks,

Elaine Reid
Alban Books


A Workshop on Codicology

The Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge announces-

A workshop on codicology next July in Berlin. To be taught by leading experts Profs Judith Olszowy-Schlanger and Malachi Beit-Arié. For those who would like to attend note this important (and, for me, welcome) fact: ‘Der Workshop findet in englischer Sprache statt.’ For more information, see the website: http://www.ihiw.de/w/scriptorium/hebrew-manuscripts-studies-an-introduction/

click to enlarge

Society for Old Testament Study Winter Meeting Registration Now Open, And the Program

SOTS Winter 2013 Meeting

Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
2-4 January, 2013
under the presidency of Dr Eryl W. Davies

Printable version of the SOTS programme
The booking form for the SOTS Winter meeting
Location and Directions to Fitzwilliam College

The venue for all sessions is Fitzwilliam College, Storeys Way, Cambridge, CB3 0DG.  Publishers are invited to display books for sale during the Meeting.  Members who have had books published recently are also invited to display copies.


(2.00 p.m.) [Committee Meeting]
4.30 p.m. Registration
6.00 p.m. Reception 6.45 p.m. Dinner
8.15 p.m. Presidential Address: Dr Eryl W. Davies (Bangor) “Ideology and Constructions of the ‘History of Israel’”


8.00 a.m. Breakfast
9.15 a.m. Dr Janet Tollington (Cambridge) “Reading Ruth in Dialogue with Torah”
10.00 a.m. Dr Jenni Williams (Oxford) “Childlessness in the Hebrew Bible”
10.45 a.m. Coffee
11.15 a.m. Dr David Tollerton (Bangor) “Job the Irrelevant? Responding to Rejections of Job’s Usefulness for Post-Holocaust Thought”
12.00 noon Dr Helen Leneman (Bethesda) “Musical Paths to Experiencing Job”
12.45 p.m. Lunch
2.30 p.m. Seminars: EITHER “Creating dynamic Powerpoint presentations” (Ms Elizabeth Harper, Cambridge) OR “Accessing and using downloadable resources” (Dr David Instone-Brewer, Cambridge)
3.30 p.m. SOTS Wiki seminar (Dr James Aitken, Cambridge, and Dr Stuart Weeks, Durham)
4.30 p.m. Tea
5.00 p.m. Professor John Healey (Manchester) “Aspects of Late Aramaic Epigraphy and Law”
6.00 p.m. Reception, sponsored by Koninklijke Brill NV, Publishers
6.45 p.m. Dinner
8.15 p.m. Professor John Barton (Oxford) “Ethical Digests”


8.00 a.m. Breakfast
9.15 a.m. Dr Katharine Dell (Cambridge) “Reject or retrieve? Feminist Readings of Ecclesiastes 7:23-9”
10.00 a.m. Dr Mary Mills (Liverpool) “City-space and Cosmic Determinism in texts from the Minor Prophets”
10.45 a.m. Coffee
11.15 a.m. Professor Ronald Clements (Cambridge) “Solomon and the Regulation of Kingship in Deut.17.14-19”
12.00 noon Business Meeting (Members only)
1.00 p.m. Lunch, followed by departure

Congrats to Our Friends at Oxford and Cambridge, Imperial and UCL

Those four British schools took four of the 6 top places in worldwide University rankings in a study just released and reported by the BBC

Cambridge – top last year – was second in the QS World University Rankings, which are based on a number of areas.  UCL, Oxford and Imperial took fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively, with the US’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology top and Harvard third.

Really, congratulations to all.  That’s really quite an impressive achievement.

A Tantalizing Tease: The Cambridge Mishnah

The Genizah Unit remarks, in a toss off aside, this tantalizing tidbit:

Further to the forthcoming Digital Library update, a sneak preview of the Cambridge Mishnah.

What’s that mean?  Are they publishing a new edition of the Mishnah based on manuscripts in their possession?  What’s going on?  I’m intrigued.  Someone tell us what’s going on at Cambridge!

The Latest ‘Genizah Fragments’

The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge publishes a newsletter titled ‘Genizah Fragments’, the most recent edition, which arrived in the mail yesterday, features a description of the restoration of a fragment of Leviticus 9:4-6 (photo below) by the inestimably bright Ben Outhwaite.

click to enlarge

You can receive the Newsletter simply by requesting a copy from its editor, Dr. Outhwaite, at

Dr Ben Outhwaite
Head of the Genizah Research Unit
Cambridge University Library
West Road, Cambridge
CB3 9DR, United Kingdom

[NB- The road was not, in fact, named after me- just so that’s clear].

Furthermore, should you ever have a chance to visit the library, do so!  Here are some photos I snapped when SOTS met at Cambridge in 2009 and we were treated to a private lecture at the Unit as well as a tour of many of the manuscripts which had been laid out for us:

(photos were taken without flash)

(I’m no rule breaker!)

Goitein and girlish prose: T-S 13J24.22

The field of Genizah Studies was revolutionised by the outstanding work of Shelomo Dov Goitein, who laid the modern foundations for the work on the ‘documentary Genizah’. But there are disadvantages, too, of having such an eminent founding father: awed by the prolific and brilliant Goitein, subsequent scholarship has sometimes relied too unquestioningly on his work, with the result that misapprehensions have become fixed within the scholarly canon of the Genizah.

An example of just such a misapprehension concerns T-S 13J24.22. It is a family letter in which a father is asked by his daughter to come home quickly as the mother is about to give birth, and to bring with him various garments and sweets. The letter has elicited interest thanks to Goitein’s analysis that it was written by a girl, who was originally a Spanish speaker, and that the addressee, her father, was in Mocha, Yemen. Obviously, this is an exciting interpretation as it would be an example of complex trade relations in the 16th century, and for the schooling of a foreign woman in writing Arabic. In the course of cataloguing this fragment, however, I felt that a linguistic re-examination casts doubt on Goitein’s earlier assumptions.

From our friends at Cambridge.  There’s lot’s more.

Theology for all Conference: Sponsored by Tyndale House

Peter Williams mentioned this on the FB and I thought I’d mention it here as well.


Date: Saturday 29th October 2011
Time: 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Venue: Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge
Speaker: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
Cost: £25 standard ticket or ** £20 if you book before 30th September **
£15 TFA members/concessions

Bishop Michael will speak on the person and work of Christ in a plural world, with some discussion of how his uniqueness relates to cultures and to people of other faiths and its importance for Christian mission.

If you would like to attend, please fill in and return a booking form along with the conference fee.

Yorkshire is the Happiest Place in Britain

Some may disagree, but I for one love it there (and in Cheshire too, and Cambridge as well).  Anyway, the Telegraph reports

Almost six in ten people in Yorkshire say that they are satisfied with their lives compared to a national average of 50 per cent, according to Mintel’s annual British Lifestyles survey. Londoners are the least content in the UK, th just under half of them claiming to be happy.  Yorkshire-dwellers’ happiness stems from the county’s abundance of open spaces, Mintel said. This chimes with its UK-wide findings, which show that people who live in cities are more likely to be unhappy with their lot that people who live in the countryside.

Visit Yorkshire.  Visit Sheffield.  You’ll really be glad you did.  And maybe even happy.

A New Fragment of Ben Sira

Via Jim Aitken notice of a new manuscript of Ben Sira that’s been uncovered in the archives of the Taylor-Schechter Geniza Research Unit at Cambridge-

The importance of the book of Ben Sira, composed shortly before the Maccabean revolt, for the study of early post-biblical language and literature cannot be overestimated. It provides evidence of the transition from Biblical Hebrew to the Hebrew of the Rabbinic sages. Furthermore, it constitutes a link in the chain of development leading from the poetics of biblical verse to those of the Hebrew liturgical poetry (piyyuṭ) that emerged in Palestine in the Byzantine period.  With the great progress made in the systematic investigation of the Genizah materials in the latter part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, the prospects of finding further Ben Sira fragments in the various collections have dwindled significantly. It is against the background of this fact that we must judge the excitement of the discovery of a new fragment in the Additional Series of the Taylor-Schechter Collection: T-S AS 118.78. Here one is reminded of a judgment offered over a decade ago by Stefan Reif: ‘There may be other Ben Sira items lurking among the smaller and less legible contents of some of the Additional Series binders’ (Reif 1997). It is, furthermore, particularly gratifying that this latest fragment bears the name of Schechter, whose life-work is so intimately connected with the discovery of the Genizah in general and the Hebrew Ben Sira in particular.

The new fragment contains Ben Sira 7:18-8:18.

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