Rare 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible Goes on Display in Washington Museum

Manuscript is the only intact Hebrew Bible from that era in the United States, according to the statement

Amir Tibon
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The Hebrew bible on display at the Washington Bible Museum, Washington D.C.
The Hebrew bible on display at the Washington Bible Museum, Washington D.C.Credit: Alejandro Matos / Museum of the
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON — A rare 1,000-year-old Hebrew bible was put on display in Washington on Thursday, after a journey that began in Egypt centuries ago and included stops in Russia, Ukraine and London.

The Bible, which is called “The Washington Pentateuch,” consists of two sections — one written around the year 1000 in Cairo and the other written in Alexandria, Egypt, in the first half of the 12th century.

The manuscript was purchased by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, which has made it part of its public display and named it after its new host city.

Previously, the rare historical manuscript was owned by a Jewish community in Ukraine, which gifted it to a local archbishop in the 19th century. During the 20th century, the manuscript was in the hands of collectors in Israel and the United Kingdom, before arriving in D.C.

The museum said in a statement that only a dozen “intact Hebrew manuscripts” from the 10th and 11th centuries have survived, and the majority are found either in Israel or Russia. The manuscript on display now in Washington is the only intact Hebrew bible from that era that can be found in the United States, according to the statement.

The museum, two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, is financed by Steve and Jackie Green, owners of the arts and crafts store chain Hobby Lobby. The $400 million museum houses their private collection of 40,000 items, including old Bibles, Dead Sea Scroll fragments, manuscripts, Torah scrolls and rare printed Bibles. Since they began collecting in 2009, they have sent some of the items on traveling exhibits.

The museum is meant to portray the Bible in a scholarly and educational way, covering both the Old and New Testaments, Green said.