In the Qumran exhibit was a color photograph of 5/6Hev 44 Bar Kokhba, a record of a business transaction that dates to A.D. 134. The original document was found among other business and legal documents in 1961 during Professor Yadin's second excavation of the Cave of the Letters in Nahal Hever. The document, comprising thirty-three lines of text written in Mishnaic Hebrew with black ink on papyrus, specifies an agreement to divide up land previously leased from the government of Simeon bar Kosiba (Bar Kokhba). The author employed many legal terms that have been preserved in the Mishnah (a sacred Jewish record of the oral tradition that contains laws and proscriptions regarding all matters of life, including business dealings). This manuscript is similar to 5/6Hev 46 Bar Kokhba.
According to Yigael Yadin, 5/6Hev 44, along with other documents in the same collection, provides a "rich mine of information on administrative, economic, topographical, legal and linguistic matters."1
For Latter-day Saints there is an added reason for interest in this particular manuscript: one of the individuals mentioned in the text is "Alma son of Judah." A portion of 5/6Hev 44 reads as follows:
Of their own free will, on this day, have Eleazar son of Eleazar son of Hitta and Eliezer son of Samuel, both of En-gedi, and Teḥinnah son of Simeon and Alma son of Judah both of ha-Luhith in the (coastal) district of Agaltain, now resident in En-gedi, wished to divide up among themselves the places that they have leased from Jonathan son of MHNYM the administrator of Simeon ben Kosiba, Prince of Israel, at En-gedi.2
Apparently, of the four men who were parties to this agreement, only Eleazar signed his own name. The others had their names signed by someone else. Alma's name, for example, was affixed to the document in the following manner: "Alma son of Judah in person; written by Joseph son of Simeon at his dictation."3 So apparently Alma was present, but for some reason Joseph son of Simeon signed for him.
The name Alma in this Hebrew document is the
oldest known occurrence of the name outside of the Book of Mormon. For
Latter-day Saints, this is further evidence of the Hebrew background of this
ancient book of scripture.
1. Yigael Yadin, "Expedition D—The Cave of the Letters," Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962): 250.
2. Ibid., 250.
3. Ibid., 253.