Carbon dating confirms that the oldest Torah scroll known was found in Italy. The scroll, believed to be 800 years old, is also the most complete scroll discovered to date.
Professor Mauro Perani of the University of Bologna has estimated that the scrolls were dated to sometime between 1155 and 1225. The scroll was dated using carbon-14 testing. It is written in Hebrew and reportedly contains the entire text of the Five Books of Moses.
As reported by National Geographic, the scrolls were previously given an inaccurate date. In 1889, Leonello Modona, a librarian, estimated that the scroll was written in the 17th century.
Modona thought the scroll was written in Palestinian tradition, which to him appeared “clumsy-looking.” Upon further inspection in 2012, researchers realized that the “clumsy” writing was actually Babylonian and originated much earlier than the 17th century.
Professor Perani realized that he may have discovered the oldest Torah scroll in existence. The scroll was sent to the University of Sorrento for carbon dating tests. A second opinion, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, confirmed the estimated date of origin from 1155 to 1225.
Researches estimate that the scroll was originally obtained by a monastery and eventually ended up at the University of Bologna. The scroll has been in the university’s library for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, it was not until recently that the scroll’s significance was fully known.
As reported by ABC News, the scroll is not the oldest existing Torah text. The Leningrad and Aleppo codices are both close to 1,000 years old. However, the newly discovered document is the oldest Torah scroll. It is also the most complete work known to exist.
A scroll, as explained by Chabad.org, is one long sheet where the Five Books of Moses are handwritten in Hebrew. The first original Torah scroll is said to have been written by Moses as dictated by God. The long sheet is usually stored rolled up like a tube.
In contrast, a Torah codex contains the same text but is in the form of a book.
Perani explains that “the value of this discovery is due to its rarity and to the importance that the Torah has for Jews and Judaism.”
The oldest Torah scroll has not only religious, but historical significance as well. Now that its true age is known, researchers plan to store the scroll more carefully so it will remain preserved.
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