Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

112
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
mission their execution, and especially tranquility in which the
scribes could work.
ARAMAIC TRANSLATION
Another manuscript from the Neofiti Collection, Ms. 1, is the
so-called Neofiti Targum. It is a copy of a Palestinian Targum
on the Pentateuch. Showing evidence of having been written
by several scribes, it was completed in 1504 for Egidio da
Viterbo (d. 1532), the Father-General of the Augustinian Order,
a theologian, poet, and diplomat for the Vatican. A humanist
of the Renaissance, Egidio was interested in the Hebrew lan­
guage as well as Kabbalah. The Jewish scholar Elijah Levita (d.
1549) was Egidio’s teacher and a member of his entourage for
thirteen years. The manuscript is especially valuable as it is the
only complete copy known of this Palestinian Targum text. In­
correctly catalogued, the manuscript sat neglected until 1956,
when it was re-discovered. Some scholars believe that next to
the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the re-discovery of this
text is the most important event in biblical scholarship in this
century.
It is known that during the Middle Ages the Jews and the
Hebrew language were frequently the means by which knowl­
edge from the Arabic East traveled to Latin Europe. This ex­
hibition as a whole can be said to chart the transmission of ideas
between cultures over the course of centuries. For example,
manuscript Vat. ebr. 458 is a philosophical miscellany contain­
ing works by such Islamic philosophers as al-Ghazali, Avicenna,
and Averroes. Averroes wrote magisterial commentaries on the
works of Aristotle, which in turn influenced the philosophical
outlook of Moses Maimonides. Maimonides’ philosophical writ­
ings influenced the Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas.
During the fourteenth century Italian Jews were not ignorant
of Aquinas or his writings. Manuscript Urb. ebr. 38 contains
a selection by Aquinas in the Hebrew translation of Judah Ro­
mano. Romano himself was a philosophical thinker whose writ­
ings were not unknown to Christians. Manuscript Vat. ebr. 191
contains works by Romano translated into Latin by Flavius
Mithradates, an apostate Jew of the fifteenth century who trans­
lated Kabbalistic and philosophical works into Latin. Flavius,
in turn, was the teacher of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (d.