7th century C.E. Exodus fragment of the Song of the Sea

Written by Michael Moore

February 26, 2017

I once saw this amazing fragment as a limited display for scholars a decade ago at Princeton University (at a Dead Sea Scrolls symposium hosted by Prof. James Charlesworth). It is now on display for the general public for the first time at the Shrine of the Book, on loan from a Lebanese born physician Fuad Ashkar (now of Miami) and Duke University. Although it heralds from the 7th cent. C.E., it is a rare survivor of the late Byzantine to Islamic period, from which we have almost no original textual witnesses to the Bible in the original Hebrew. The oldest piece of literature of the Bible is understood to be a poem from Exodus 15:1-18, known as “The Song of the Sea,” and is preserved in its entirety in this new manuscript. This passage was written in archaic Hebrew language including pronouns and syntax that are generally understood by linguistic scholars to come from a period that predates the language used in the rest of the Biblical literature. An earlier manuscript does come from Qumran, 4QExodus c, which preserves partial remains of less than half of the poem (Exodus 15:11-18), but which predates this new manuscript by approximately 7 centuries (originating from the third quarter of the 1st century BCE). Altogether the Ashkar manuscript fragment preserves the text of Exodus 13:19-16:1.

S. Pfann

For the full Associated Press article click here.


A visitor looks at the Song of the Sea partial text, written on a piece of parchment on display at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Monday, June 4, 2007. A rare Old Testament manuscript some 1,300 years old is finally on display for the first time, after making its way from a secret room in a Cairo synagogue to the hands of an American collector. The manuscript, containing the “Song of the Sea” section of the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus and dating to around the 7th century A.D., comes from what scholars call the “silent era” – a span of 600 years between the third and eighth centuries from which almost no Hebrew manuscripts survive. (AP Photo/Maya Hasson)

For the Jerusalem Post article click here.

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