Sunday, October 31, 2010

Das Buch Bresith

Here's something I've long found interesting. The Morgan Library has recently put its copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Old Testament, online. Here's the beginning of Genesis:

Beautiful illumination, the text beginning A principio creavit deus (note, no capital on Deus, much like German translations of machzorim that don't capitalize gott).

But it's the rubric (the handwritten introductory line in red ink - red in Latin is rub-, like ruby, or bilirubin - hence "rubrics" are written in red ink) that's really interesting. I first noticed this when in Washington I bought a facsimile (for a dollar) of the first page of the Library of Congress' Gutenberg Bible, mostly to get change for the Metro (no change without purchase, doncha know). Here's the rubric enlarged:

Translated, that's "Beginning of the book Breshith, which we call Genesis." So the bookmakers in Germany, printing in Latin, knew the Hebrew name and first word of the book of Genesis, and thought that its proper name.

Similarly here, at the beginning of Numbers, "Expl' liber levitice Incipit vaiedaber.i.ib' nui' ". End of the book of Leviticus, Beginning of Vayedaber or Book of Numbers.

And so on through the Bible.

Interesting, no? Hebrew survivals in the first German production of the Latin Vulgate, long before the rise of Christian Hebraism among Germans in the 1600s with Buxtorff, Leusden, Knorr von Rosenroth, and others. There was some Hebraism among the English in the 1500s; Henry VIII was rumored to have read the Talmud.


S. said...

I'm not so surprised. Jerome lists the Hebrew names of the books in the introduction to Kings. A lot of Latin Bibles included his names.

>The first book is called among them Bresith, which we call Genesis; the second, Hellesmoth, which is named Exodus; the third, Vaiecra, that is Leviticus; the fourth Vaiedabber, which we call Numbers; the fifth, Addebarim, which is designated Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses, which they appropropriately call Thorat, that is, the Law.

>The second order is made of the Prophets, and begins with Jesus son of Nave, which is called among them Joshua benNum. Then they append Sopthim, that is the book of Judges; and they attach Ruth to the same, because the history narrated happened in the days of the Judges. Samuel follows third, which we call First and Second Kingdoms. Fourth is Malachim, that is Kings, which book contains Third and Fourth Kingdoms; and it is much better to say Malachim, that is Kings, rather than Malachoth, that is Kingdoms, for it does not describe the kingdoms of many nations, but only that of the Israelite people which contains twelve tribes. Fifth is Isaiah, sixth Jeremiah, seventh Ezekiel, eighth the book of the Twelve Prophets, which is called Thareasra among them.

>The third order holds the Hagiographa, and begins with Job, the first book, the second by David, which is also one book of Psalms comprising five sections. The third is Solomon, having three books: Proverbs, which they call Parables, that is Masaloth, and Ecclesiastes, that is Accoeleth, and The Song of Songs, which they denote with the title Sirassirim. Sixth is Daniel, seventh Dabreiamin, that is Words of the Days, which we may call more clearly a chronicle (Gk here: χρονικον) of all of Divine history, which book is written among us as First and Second Paralipomenon; eighth is Ezra, which is also in the same manner among Greeks and Latins divided into two books; ninth is Esther.

Also, even without formal Hebraism or Hebraists, there was a never ending flow of Jewish converts with more or less Hebrew knowledge - plus, there was the ethnographic interest in the minority living amongst them. Still, yes, it is interesting.

As for Henry VIII and the Talmud, I don't know where the rumor that he "read" the Talmud is, but it is certainly no rumor that agents of Henry sought legal opinions of rabbis regarding his divorce of Catherine. In fact, at the link below you can even read one such teshuva:

(page 311 id the link doesn't work)

Mar Gavriel said...

Have you seen the ThreeFaiths calligraphy exhibit at the NYPL?

thanbo said...

MarG: Not yet, but my mother was raving about it.

S: Ah, I see - I misread vaiedaber as bamidbar. I'll fix that.