Every Hebrew scroll I've ever seen has been written on only one side. This makes sense both due to the physical properties of velum (the outer side is smooth and easy to write on; the inner side is rough and hard to write on) and because it would be hard while reading a scroll to "flip it over" and read on the opposite side.

But Revelations 5:1 mentions a "scroll written on the inside and on the back" (NASB). I realize that the book of Revelations itself is out-of-scope for this community, but I'm wondering if anyone here can shed light on the historical Jewish context of this passage. Were Hebrew scrolls really ever written on both sides of the velum? And if so, were there any special preparations made to the velum to facilitate writing on the rough side? And under what circumstances would these two-sided scrolls be used?


3 Answers 3


The Talmud (Shabbat 79b) prescribes specific sides of the hide to be used for writing (depending which parts of the hide are being used) and the majority opinion (YD 271:3) is that writing on the wrong side would be invalid for ritual use.

That doesn't mean no one ever did such a thing. Indeed, we find the scroll Ezekiel ate was written on both sides (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3).


A mezuzah has a name of God written on the back, which faces outwards when the scroll is rolled.

Legal documents are also often rolled or folded , sometimes sealed with wax, with a description on the outside, which is the back of the scroll .

To write on it, buff the roughness out or use a thicker ink.

  • 1
    Note nothing is required to be written on the back of a mezuzah. On the contrary the only reason the various customs of writing on the back of a mezuzah are allowed is because they are definitely invalid as real contents.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 16:59

The archaeological evidence is not easy to interpret. We have papyrus fragment found in Egypt written on both sides at a very early time, but they are too small to tell if from a scroll or codex. Today archaeologists claim they are from a codex (https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Codex#:~:text=The%20basic%20form%20of%20the%20codex%20was%20invented,in%20the%20suspension%20of%20papyrus%20exports%20from%20Egypt.). However, the importance of tradition for Judaism also makes it unlikely that any Jewish scrolls were written double sided. The previous reference reports it unlikely that any scrolls were written double sided.

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