Scholars are calling a rare Hebrew text dating back to the 9th century the earliest known Jewish prayer book, predating the world's oldest Torah scroll.
The 50-page book is 4.3 inches tall and about 4 inches wide and is written in an archaic form of Hebrew, on pages of aged parchment. The text includes 100 Jewish blessings and discusses topics such as the apocalyptic tale of the End Times and the Passover Seder.
Carbon testing dates the prayer book to the year 840, which is 300 to 400 years before the oldest known Torah scroll from the 12th and 13th centuries.
"This find is historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life," said Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the group that announced the find. "This Hebrew prayer book helps fill the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other discoveries of Jewish texts from the ninth and tenth centuries."
"This was a liturgical set of prayers, hymns and poems used for various occasions," Pattengale told the Huffington Post. "The prayer book is really what most of the Jewish community would be in touch with on a daily basis, [creating] a connection between the Bible and their daily worship."
The book is the Jewish equivalent of an early complete edition of the Christian Book of Common Prayer.
Started by the Green family of the retail chain Hobby Lobby, the Green Scholar's Initiative is the research arm of The Green Collection, one of the world's largest private collections of biblical texts and artifacts containing more than 40,000 items.
The prayer book which was purchased from a private collector will be on display in a yet-to-be named biblical museum set to open in March 2017 in Washington, D.C.