Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

Basic HTML Version

was the site o f considerable warehouses, workshops, granaries,
stables and the like, where the growing wealth o f the deity was
stored and administered. This twofold literary activity branched
out and took a new dimension as Mesopotamian society devel­
oped and became increasingly complex.
So far as biblical Israel is concerned, we know that royal
archives were kept in Jerusalem, that the Temple of Solomon
in Jerusalem was essentially a royal chapel, and that archives
were kept both in the Temple and in the royal treasury—both
buildings being perhaps located within a single extensive com­
In this connection, it is perhaps of interest to recall that the
name of the biblical city Kiriath-sepher (Joshua 15.16; Judges
1.11-12; etc.) which was translated in the Old Greek (Septua-
gint) as “city o f documents, records”—we today might have
called it “Booktown”—led one scholar 130 years ago to believe
that a library existed there; and another scholar, in 1895, ex­
pressed the opinion that this town was “the literary center o f
the Cannaanites in the south o f Palestine.” But as a result of
the model excavation o f this site by the great archaeologist and
scholar, W . F. Albright, almost fifty years ago, these attempts
at explaining the biblical term sepher—attempts that were more
romantic than realistic in the first place—ran afoul of the fact
that the only literary document unearthed in the dig was the
seal impression o f a broken ja r handle which read 1’ lyqm/n‘r
ywkn “ (Belonging) to Eliakim, steward (or aide) of Yaukin”
(i.e., Jeho iach in ) . Kiriath-sepher was hardly a repository for
literary creations. That a considerable amount o f dirt was un ­
covered and moved at this site, as in digs generally, can hardly
be denied; it was not however the kind of d irt that one might
expect to find in books nowadays.
When the Second Temple was destroyed and authority in
Jewish life began increasingly to shift from Jerusalem and Judea
to other centers of the vast Mediterranean and Western Asiatic
world, especially Babylonia and Egypt, and when the synagogue
had to all intents and purposes replaced the Temple, and when
the authority o f the rabbinic interpretation o f the Bible had
come to be recognized—that is, when it was no longer a matter
of what the biblical text said but rather what the rabbis said the