Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aleppo Codex /

Κώδικας Aleppo (Χαλεπίου)

by/υπό David Marcus
in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception

Aleppo Codex. The Aleppo Codex is the oldest extant manuscript of the entire Hebrew Bible and is dated to 930 CE. For hundreds of years the Codex had been in the possession of the Jewish community in the Mustaribah synagogue of Aleppo, Syria, where it was brought from Cairo in the 15th century. In 1947, during the riots against the Jews of Aleppo following the United Nations decision to partition Palestine, the synagogue was torched and the manuscript was thought to have perished in the fire. Most of it, however, was saved, and the remaining parts were brought to Jerusalem where they reside today in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum. Of the estimated 480 folios of the original manuscript, 294, or about three-fifths of the original contents, have survived. Most of the Torah and portions of the Writings are missing. The parts that remain are Deut 28 : 17 to the end of the book, Joshua, Judges, and most of Kings, Isaiah, Ezekiel and most of Jeremiah and the Twelve, Chronicles, Job, Proverbs, Ruth and parts of Psalms and Canticles. No copies of the Codex are extant because the Aleppo community, being very protective of the Codex, seldom allowed scholars access and forbade photographs for scholarly purposes. Nevertheless, photographs do exist of two pages of the missing parts, one of Gen 26 : 34–27 : 30, and the other of Deut 4 : 38–6 : 3 containing the Ten Commandments (Goshen-Gottstein 1966). A hitherto missing page from Chronicles (Beit-Arié) and a fragment of Exodus (Ofer 1989), which were picked up by rescuers searching among the charred ruins of the synagogue, have emerged, leading to speculation that other missing parts might have survived.

The manuscript is written on parchment in square script in dark brown ink. Each page measures 25.4 by 33 cm, and the text is arranged in three columns per page. In the poetic sections of Job, Proverbs and Psalms, the text is written in two columns per page. As is customary for Tiberian manuscripts, the Masorah parva is written on the sides and between the columns, and the Masorah magna is written in the top and bottom margins. The brown coloring and deterioration of many pages of the Codex are due to a fungus rather than, as was previously thought, to the fire. In 1986, the Codex underwent extensive restoration efforts, and over the course of ten years in the conservation laboratory of the Israel Museum, pieces of tape and spots of dirt were removed, and the ink was reinforced in the places where it had begun to disintegrate (Ofer 2002).

The Aleppo Codex is the finest exemplar of the Tiberian Masoretic school. It was produced under the direction of the master Tiberian Masorete Aaron ben Asher, who added the vowels, accents and the Masoretic notes. On the basis of comparison with similar manuscripts it has been demonstrated that the text of the Aleppo Codex is not only superior to any other manuscript of its type, but that it is the only manuscript of the entire Bible in which the correspondence between its text and masoretic notations is nearly perfect. The reputation of the perfection of the Codex led to its gaining the title Ha-Keter, “The Crown,” meaning that it was the authoritative Codex. The Codex served as a model for the writing of other codices, and even the Codex Leningradensis (B19a), the basis for the Biblia Hebraica series (BHK, BHS and now BHQ  ), was corrected to bring it in line with this master codex. The renowned rabbinic authority Maimonides (1138–1204) both consulted this work to write his own Torah and declared it to be a model codex to be emulated, especially with regard to the division of paragraphs and to the layout of the Song of the Sea in Exod 15 and the Song of Moses in Deut 32 (Goshen-Gottstein 1979).

The extant portions of the Codex have been published in facsimile form (Goshen-Gottstein 1976), and are available free of charge in electronic form on the Aleppo Codex Website. The Codex is the basis for the critical Hebrew Bible edition being produced by the Hebrew University Bible Project (Goshen-Gottstein 1995). To date, three volumes have appeared in this series (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and a fourth, the Twelve (minor prophets), is in production. The Codex has also served as the basis for several printed editions (Breuer; Cohen), and it has also been printed in a three-column format, emulating the Codex itself (Ben-Zvi). For these editions, the missing parts have been supplemented on the basis of reports of the privileged few who were permitted to examine the Codex, on the basis of the Masorah of the extant portions, and on the basis of comparison with comparable manuscripts such as Leningrad B19a, British Library Or 4445, Sassoon 507, and Sassoon 1053.


Aleppo Codex Website at
Ben-Zvi, N. (ed.), Keter Yerushalayim: Jerusalem Crown (ed. N. Ben-Zvi; Jerusalem 2002).
Breuer, N., Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim (Jerusalem 1977–2004).
Cohen, M. (ed.), Miqraot Gedolot ‘Haketer’ (Ramat Gan 1992 continuing).
Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. (ed.), The Aleppo Codex (Jerusalem 1976).
Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. et al. (eds.), The Hebrew University Bible Project (Jerusalem 1995 continuing).

Beit-Arié, M., “A Lost Leaf from the Aleppo Codex,” Tarb. 51 (1982) 171–74. [Heb.]
Goshen-Gottstein, M. H., “A Recovered Part of the Aleppo Codex,” Textus 5 (1966) 53–59.
Goshen-Gottstein, M. H., “The Aleppo Codex and the Rise of the Massoretic Bible Text,” BA 42/3 (1979) 145–63.
Ofer, Y., “A Fragment of Exodus from the Missing Part of the Aleppo Codex,” Pe ʾamim 41 (1989) 41–48. [Heb.]
Ofer, Y., “The History and Authority of the Aleppo Codex,” in Companion Volume to the Keter Yerushalayim: Jerusalem Crown (ed. M. Glatzer; Jerusalem 2002) 25–50.

* David Marcus, "Aleppo Codex"
[Κώδικας Aleppo (Χαλεπίου)],
Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception,
Volume 1 (Aaron – Aniconism)
Edited by: Klauck, Hans-Josef; Leppin, Volker; McGinn, Bernard; Seow, Choon-Leong; Spieckermann, Hermann; Walfish, Barry Dov; Ziolkowski, Eric J.
de Gruyter (Berlin, New York) 2009,
pp. 728-730 [DOI: 10.1515/EBR.aleppocodex].

No comments: