A palimpsest is a document from which writing has been erased to make room for another text. In this case, the Gospels had been scraped away and an eighth-century Lives of the Saints had been written on top.


For Sayce’s role in discovering the Elephantine papyri, see Bezalel Porten, “Did the Ark Stop at Elephantine?” BAR 21:03.


See Geoffrey Khan’s review of Fortifications and the Synagogue (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994), in Books in Brief, BAR 22:03.


According to Jewish law, books and ritual objects bearing the name of God may never be destroyed and should be buried in consecrated ground. Generally, a synagogue genizah acted as a temporary storage place until the writings could be properly buried. For unknown reasons, the Cairo Genizah documents were never buried.



The name Ecclesiasticus, or “ecclesiastical book,” likely refers to the book’s extensive use in church liturgy. The book is also known as Sirach, a transliteration of its Greek name. See Alexander Di Lella, “Wisdom of Ben Sira,” Anchor Bible Dictionary (Garden City, NY: 1992), vol. 6, p. 931. See also Yigael Yadin, Masada, trans. Moshe Pearlman (New York: Random House, 1966), p. 175.


Alexander Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, Anchor Bible Series 39 (Garden City, NY: 1987), pp. 20, 51.


Yadin, Masada, p. 175.


Agnes Lewis recorded the events of their trip and their subsequent conversations with Schechter in In the Shadow of Sinai (Cambridge, Eng.: Macmillan & Bowes, 1898), pp. 143–180; see also A. Whigham Price, The Ladies of Castlebrae (Gloucester, Eng.: Alan Sutton, 1985), pp. 130, 132. Norman Bentwich tells Schechter’s story in Solomon Schechter: A Biography (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1938), p. 140.


Solomon Schechter, “A Fragment of the Hebrew Text of Ecclesiasticus,” Expositor, 5th Series, 4 (1896), pp. 1–15; excerpts appear in Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, p. 143. Adolphe Neubauer and Arthur Ernest Cowley, The Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897).


For more on the Ben Ezra synagogue, see Fortifications and the Synagogue, ed. Phyllis Lambert (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994); and H.A. Meek, The Synagogue (London: Phaidon, 1995).


For a description of Schechter’s trip and for Schechter’s comments on the genizah, see Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, pp. 126–133; and Schechter, “A Hoard of Hebrew Manuscripts,” in Studies in Judaism, second series (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1908), p. 6, reprinted from The Times, August 3, 1897.


Schechter and Charles Taylor, The Wisdom of Ben Sira—Portions of the Book Ecclesiasticus from Hebrew Manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah Collection Presented to the University of Cambridge by the Editors (Cambridge, Eng: Cambridge University Press, 1899).


Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, pp. 4, 7, 12; and “Wisdom of Ben Sira,” p. 931.


Schechter, quoted in Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, p. 149.


Schechter in his introduction to Schechter and Taylor, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, pp. 32, 35.


D.S. Margoliouth suggested that it had been translated from Greek into Perisan and then into Hebrew by a 10th-century Persian Jew. G. Bickell argued it is was a slavish translation of the Syriac. See Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, p. 54.


Yadin, Masada, p. 175; J.T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea, Studies in Biblical Theology, trans. John Strugnell (Naperville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, 1959), p. 32; Di Lella, Wisdom of Ben Sira, p. 51, notes that Maurice Baillet published two small fragments (2Q18) of Sirach in Les “Petites Grottes” de Qumran, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 3 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962). The Psalms Scroll from Qumran Cave 11, published in J.A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), also includes part of Ben Sira.


Yadin, Message of the Scrolls (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), p. 122.