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November 26, 2015 / 14 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘parchment’

Researchers Ponder World’s Oldest Qur’an – Is It Older Than Mohammad?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Radiocarbon dating on the parchment of what is believed to be the world’s oldest Qur’an may totally change the course of Islamic history.

University of Oxford scientists tested in July a fragment of a Qur’an that may pre-date the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

The Islamic text, which consists of two parchment leaves, contains parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20. It was written with ink in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script.

The text, written on sheep or goat skin parchment, lay unrecognized in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, England for nearly 100 years, according to The Independent. The parchment was part of the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s, and is believed to be the oldest in the world.

If the Oxford University testing is correct, the text could predate the birth of Mohammed, or could have been written during the prophet’s childhood.

Radiocarbon dating performed in July by the University of Birmingham indicated the parchment was at least 1,370.

But radiocarbon testing performed by Oxford University produced different results, dating the text back farther, to between 1, 371 and 1,448 years ago. Scholars have been careful to point out that the ink was not tested.

If the latter findings are correct, this Qur’an was written between 568 CE and 645 CE.

Islam’s prophet Mohammed is believed to have lived between 570 CE and 632 CE.

“It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Qur’an emerged – and that in turn has implications for the history of Mohammed and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland, told The Times of London on Tuesday.

His colleague at Oxford University, Dr. Keith Small, said it also “gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Qur’an’s genesis, like that Mohammed and his early followers used a text already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda.”

Professor David Thomas of Birmingham University, a professor of Islam and Christianity, told The Independent, however, the radiocarbon dating seems to “support a traditional view.”

Thomas noted the testing also reveals which kind of animal was used to create the parchment. This indicates which animal was sacrificed for the holy task, and therefore at which period it was written.

According to Islamic tradition, the prophet continued to receive revelations from the year 610 until his death. “If we were to take the early dating [as fact] then it overthrows Islamic history as it is understood,” the professor said.

“It would mean that the Qur’an existed substantially as it has been passed down, before Mohammed – before the traditional date of the beginnings of his revelations, or maybe even before he was born.”

“On one of the four surfaces of our fragments we have a chapter division, which would seem to suggest that we we have was once a fully-formed Qur’an, possibly as early as the sixth century,” Thomas said.

“In the middle of the seventh century there was a great expansion out of Arabian peninsula, and while there were a number of factors involved it is often explained at least in part as a religious movement.

“If that is the case, why would there be such a time lapse between a religious text coming into being in, say, 570, and a movement 60 years later? It doesn’t add up.”

The Birmingham manuscript will go on public display at the university exclusively to ticket-holders for a month in October, with plans for an academic workshop to discuss questions over the text.

The Parchment of Rebuke That Came Home

Monday, April 28th, 2014

On a day in which the cruelties of the Nazis and the devastation of the Holocaust is uppermost of the minds of the People of Israel, there are yet numerous examples of how we are shown there are sparks of hope among the ashes.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Dean of the Migdal Ohr Institutions, was presented with one such example. The rabbi sat in his home in Migdal Ha’emek in bewilderment, re-examining the piece of Torah parchment he was given. Cut by a Nazi almost 70 years ago from a Torah scroll in an Eastern European synagogue, the sacred parchment was used by the Luftwaffe officer as a wrapping for his ID card during World War II.

How did Rabbi Grossman come into the possession of such a unique and shocking piece of history?

 Moti Dotan, the Head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, had recently returned from a ceremony honoring of the 25th anniversary of the twin cities pact between the Regional Council and the Hanover district in Germany.

Dotan was approached at the conclusion of the event by a member of the Hanover District Council. “My father, Werner Herzig, died a few weeks ago,” said the man. “Before his death he said he wanted to share with me a secret. He told me he had fought in World War II and told me about his involvement in those awful crimes, such as his participation in the burning of a synagogue on the Russian front. ‘It’s important for me to tell you this, because today there are those who don’t believe that it happened’ he told me.”

 Dotan relates that Herzig junior gave him the ID document and parchment and asked him to locate a holy man in the Galilee and present it to him. “I thought of the holy work that Rabbi Grossman does, and that he was the most suitable person to receive the document and parchment,” says Dotan. “When I came to him to give him the document, I shared with him the story. As he held the parchment tears started to flow from his eyes,” recalls Dotan. He said that Rabbi Grossman symbolizes to him all that is good in Judaism, and will make proper use of the item.

 Rabbi Grossman held the piece of parchment and read from the text. The parchment is from the Book of Deuteronomy, in the weekly portion of “Ki Tavo.”

He read: “…and distress which your enemies will inflict upon you, in your cities… Then the Lord will bring upon you and your offspring uniquely horrible plagues, terrible and unyielding plagues, and evil and unyielding sicknesses… Also, the Lord will bring upon you every disease and plague which is not written in this Torah scroll, to destroy you. And you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of the heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 28, 57-62). These verses are known as the verses of admonishment.

Rabbi Grossman is convinced that this is a “Supreme message of Divine providence. After 60 years, this document arrives in Israel, wrapped in these words of scolding, and is calling on us ‘to awaken.’ After all, the German could have cut the parchment from any of the Five Books of Moses, and he specifically cut out the section that speaks suffering, servitude and then of redemption,” he said.

Rabbi Grossman has shown the ID book and parchment to young people, and tells of the great excitement it causes. “It’s a tangible object, which you can see with your own eyes. You can see here the embodiment of evil; how after the destruction of a synagogue, this man had the audacity to enter and cut from the Torah scroll, only because he thought that the parchment was a suitable way to preserve his document.”

Rabbi Grossman has vowed to continue to visit schools and young people with the document and to share this awe-striking story with them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/the-parchment-of-rebuke-that-came-home/2014/04/28/

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