Friday, 29 April 2011

Cochini scroll and Babylonian exile

We have to travel a long from Shingly to the land Judea to witness this scene.

They were praying to God as they were afraid and they knew what happened during Assyrian captivity from their elders, they can’t even think about living under the cruel Babylonian rulers. They had heard about glory of the Jews who fled to Land of Shingly during Assyrian exile, the land with which they had trade relations since the reign of King Solomon from where they brought ivory, sandal wood, spices, apes and peacock. There were many people who took this dare decision to have a dangerous and tough sail in the sea for an unpromising prosperity but their hope led them forward.

As their forefathers done during Exodus they baked breads and packed their goods and moved further in late night, they gathered together near the port from the trade ships departed, they literally had a secret and silent self exile, they had disguised themselves and carried the Book of Law, covered with clothes and kept away from others sight of the Babylonian soldiers, the ship left from the promised land of God to their haven Gods own country to start a new legendary life and a glorious future …….


But real story is unknown to all, but a story similar to this would have taken place during their self-exile, by connecting some of the traditions some of the records. It is believed the Jews from Israel had taken refuge in India, in the Port of Muziris, known to Jews as shingly, during the siege of the Jerusalem, i.e. during Assyrian captivity (722 B.C) and Babylonian captivity (586 B.C). The proof for that is the tradition of the Malabari/ Black Jews of Cochin who belong to the Kadavumbagam congregation that, they had copies of Torah which was dated back to the Babylon Captivity.  Further details can be obtained from below article by Dr. Claudius Buchanan, who had been into the vicinity of Cochin and studied about the Jewish community of Cochin

Jewish Scriptures at Cochin

There is reason to believe that scriptural records, older than the apostolical, exist on the coast of Malabar. At Cochin there is a colony of Jews, who retain the tradition that they arrived in India soon after the Babylonian captivity. There are in that province two classes of Jews, the white and the black Jews. The Black Jews are those who are supposed to have arrived at that early period. The white Jews emigrated from Europe in later ages. What seems to countenance the tradition of the black Jews is, that they have copies of those books of the Old Testament which were written previously to the captivity, but none of those whose dates are subsequent to that event.

Some years ago the President of Yale College, in America, an eminent archaiologist, addressed a letter to Sir William Jones, on the subject of these manuscripts, proposing that an enquiry should be instituted by the Asiatic Society; but Sir William died before the letter arrived. His object was to obtain the whole of the fifth chapter of Genesis, and a collation of certain other passages in the old Testament ; and also to ascertain whether the MSS. at Cochin were written in the present Hebrew character, or in another Oriental Palaeography.

In the year 1748, Mr. Romaine, the learned editor of Calasio's Hebrew Dictionary, was meditating a voyage to India, for the sole purpose of consulting these manuscripts.

The latest information respecting them is contained in a letter lately received from a learned missionary in the south of the peninsula, who had resided for some time in the vicinity of Cochin. He states, that he “had constantly been informed that the Jews at Cochin had those books only of the Old Testament which were written before the Babylonian captivity; and that thence it is generally believed by the Christians of the Deccan, that they had come to India soon after that event. He adds, that the MSS. was on a material resembling paper, in the form of a roll; and that the character had a strong resemblance to Hebrew, if not Hebrew.”
By the inspection of these MSS. some light might be thrown on the controversy respecting (1.) the Hebrew and Samaritan letters;(2.) the antiquity of the vowel points ; (3.) the Scripture chronology; and (4.) the correctness of the European copies of the Old Testament. Dr. Kennicott complains of a practice among the Western Jews of altering many copies to a conformity with some particular manuscript. He also accuses them of wilful corruption; as in expunging the word "כל " in Deut 27:26. Bishop Louth suspects them of leaving out words in certain places, to invalidate the argument of the Christians; as for example, "למות" Isaiah 53:8 ; where the Septuagint read "eiz qanaton" But Jews in the East, remote from the learned controversy of Christians, would have no motive for such corruptions.

 It is in contemplation of the Author of this Memoir to visit Cochin, previously to his return from India, for the express purpose of investigating these ancient Jewish records ; and also of examining the books of the Nestorian Christians, who are said to possess some MSS. in the Chaldaic character, of a high antiquity.
“Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India” by  Dr.Claudius Buchanan, 1805.
Page no 117& 118

Nothing much to elaborate as this article itself give enough and more details and this  chapter mention about the antiquity of the scrolls of Cochini Black  Jews. Dr. Claudius Buchanan had collected many Jewish and Christian manuscripts from Kerala.  And it was collected in university of Cambridge. In he had collected manuscripts from other Jewish communities of Kerala and in his book  Buchanan's Christian researches in India: with the rise, suspension, and probable future of England's rule as a Christian power in India” 1858 , Page no 38 & 39 He mention that “I have penetrated once more inland (Angamalee a Syrian town, containing three churches – January, 1807) to visit the syrian churches. At the town of chenotta, I was surprised to meet with jews  and Christians in same street. The jews led me first to their synagogue , and allowed me to take away some manuscripts for money.”

Likewise he had collected many Jewish Manuscripts form Kerala, A book published by Cambridge University,  Hebrew manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, 1997 gives a detail list about the Hebrew manuscripts collected from Kerala and hope that the ancient scroll survived Babylonian captivity manuscript if exists and subjected for studies, would grab the attention of the World Jewry, and acquire significance accordance to Samaritan Torah or Septuagint. Hope that studies will be done and new breaking news will be seen….

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