Israel unearths 'world's oldest' Jewish prayer book

4th Oct 2013

Israel's capital has unearthed what is believed to be the world's oldest Jewish prayer book.

The 50-page binder contains a rare Hebrew text dating back to the ninth century.

Tourists on city breaks to Jerusalem already enjoy a plethora of delights such as the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee and cultural sites including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

But the Old City never ceases to throw up fresh wonders - even ones thought to be well over 1,000 years old.

Archaeologists claim this latest find could be the Jewish equivalent of an entire, early edition of the Christian Book of Common Prayer.

A collector of rare biblical artefacts announced the find, thought to have been written around 840CE - according to experts and scholars who undertook carbon tests.

The Green Collection, which unveiled the relic, claims the book predates the earliest Torah scrolls yet found by about 400 years.

The book could, it believes, be a vital link between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and medieval Judaism.

Dr Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the Collection's research branch, called the discovery "historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life".

He added: "This Hebrew prayer book helps fill the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other discoveries of Jewish texts from the ninth and 10th centuries."

The entire parchment is in its first binding and features Hebrew script so old its founders claim it "incorporates Babylonian vowel pointing". This is comparable to Old or Middle English when compared to today's English language.

It was this original vowel marking that prompted scientists to date the prayer book to the eras of the Geonim; Babylonian and Talmudic leaders that were around during the Middle Ages.

The book is beige in colour and measures 3 inches (10cm) wide and 4 inches (11cm) tall.

It is divided into six sections that discuss subjects including the End Times and the Passover Seder.

Studies on the prayer book will be released before early 2015.

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