Hebrew Manuscripts : Mishnah : 33r

Hebrew Manuscripts

The text of the Mishnah describes the first written account of the early Jewish oral tradition and the earliest significant work of Rabbinic Judaism. It dates from the period of the second century BCE at a time when persecution of the Jewish populations gave rise to the fear that the details of the oral traditions dating from the first five centuries BCE might be lost. As a written authority it is second only to the Bible text and can be used as a source of authority for making judgements. The Mishnah is divided into six orders (Shisha Sedarim) and over the next six centuries, along with further commentaries, came to form the Talmud. The major part of the text of the Mishnah is written in Hebrew and reflects the debates which took place in the first and second centuries CE by a group of Rabbinic thinkers known as the Tannaim. It teaches by drawing on examples of specific judgements along with debates by notable Rabbis, and discusses problems from all areas of human existence.

This is one of only three complete manuscripts of the Mishnah, and considered to be 'an outstanding witness of the western type of Mishnaic Hebrew'. Of the manuscript, Schiller-Szinessy (vol. ii p. 9) writes: ‘Although this copy can lay claim neither to a very great age, nor to absolute correctness, we cannot hesitate to pronounce it to be a MS. beyond all price.’ Edited by W. H. Lowe, ‘The Mishnah on which the Palestinian Talmud Rests’ (Cambridge, 1883) – although that title can be considered inaccurate given more recent research on the manuscript.

University of Cambridge Cambridge Digital Library