Page 182 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
they are o f a late date and were written by members o f the
sect. Ps. 151 was heretofore known only from the Septuagint
and Ps. 152 is interwoven with the words o f Ben Sira. These
psalms are perhaps the remnant o f a large collection which has
been described by Abraham M. Habermann as follows:10
“According to the Church Father Origen (2nd-3rd centuries),
there were found in the year 217 in a cave near Jericho Hebrew
and Greek biblical manuscripts which had been placed in a ja r .
Around the year 800 Catholicus Timotheus wrote to Sergius,
bishop o f Elam, informing him that in the environs o f Jericho
an A rab had entered a cave in search o f his runaway dog, and
had found many Hebrew scrolls. When he told the Jews o f Jer­
usalem o f this they went to search the cave and found there
Scriptual writings and other scrolls, including two hundred un­
known psalms. Timotheus added that these writings surprised
the Jews and made a strong impression upon them.”
A R T O F W R IT IN G
From statements o f the Sages it is clear that at the close o f
Second Temple days there was much writing among the Jews.
People developed a close attachment to their writing imple­
ments and it was therefore customary that at the time o f burial
“We place his ink and writing pen at his side . . . W e suspend
the key and writing-table o f a dead man from his coffin from
grief o f soul. When Samuel the Small died, they suspended his
key and writing-table from his coffin because he had no son.”
(Semahot
8:7)
Such writing-tablets have not as yet been found in the excava­
tions made in Israel and we do not know what was written in
them. However, from the eulogy o f Rabban Gamaliel the Elder
it would seem that the writing-tablets contained lists o f property
and calculations and perhaps also genealogical records. A hint
as to their contents is to be found in the story told about the
age o f Balaam the Wicked:
“A certain
min
said to R. Hanina: Have you heard how old Ba­
laam was? He replied: It is not actually stated, but since it is
written, ‘Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their
10. See his
The History o f the Hebrew Book
(H eb rew , Jerusalem, 1968), p. 65.