The Aleppo Bible Codex
The Crowning Achievement of the Master of the Massora Aaron ben Asher
Available on backorder
|Editor: Moshe Goshen- Gottestein
Publisher: Magnes Press
TheAleppo Codex is the most importantsurviving manuscript of the Bible that includes vocalization (nikud), accents(te’amim), and the Masorah (thetraditional annotation to the biblical text). As its name signifies, it is abound volume of vellum leaves with writing on both sides. The importance ofthis manuscript, probably written in Tiberias more than a thousand years ago, liesfirst and foremost in the fact that it is the oldest existing manuscript Bibleand also the most exact. It was written by the scribe Shlomo Ben Buyaa, whilethe vocalization and accents were added by the greatest of masoretes, AharonBen Asher. The Codex was apparently brought from Jerusalem to Cairo, where itwas consulted by Maimonides when he compiled the halakhic rules governing thewriting of a Bible, and he also referred to it when he was manually copying aTorah scroll. In the late fourteenth century the Codex was transferred fromJerusalem to Aleppo, which local Jewish tradition claims to be the Aram Sobamentioned in the Bible. For centuries it was kept in an iron strongbox openedby two keys, held by two trustees. The box was kept in the ancient synagogue,in the “Cave of Elijah on a large stone pedestal, under a veil ofsanctity and mystery. For instance, anyone obliged by the communitys court totake an oath had to swear on the Codex. Aleppos Jews believed that theircommunity was blessed in consequence of the presence of the Codex, and thatonce it would be removed, disaster would befall their community. For thisreason (with a very few exceptions), the rabbis of Aleppo prevented scholarsfrom examining the Codex.
Following the UN resolution of November 29, 1947 calling for the establishmentof a Jewish state in part of Palwstine,rioting broke out in Aleppo duringwhich Arab rioters caused damage to the Jewish quarter, especially to itssynagogues. The Codex suffered damage, and part of it disappeared. Of theoriginal 487 leaves, only 294 remained. Members of the community concealed thesurviving sections in various places for about ten years. In 1957 they weresmuggled out of Aleppo to Turkey. Thanks to the efforts of Izhak Ben-Zvi,second President of the State of Israel, the Codex was brought toJerusalem and deposited in the Ben-Zvi Institute on January 23, 1958.Since then it has been the subject of much research and great efforts have beenmade to bring it to public attention. Several critical editions of the Biblehave been published on the basis of the Aleppo Codex.
Today the Codex is in the IsraelMuseum in Jerusalem, where it can be viewed in magnes the museum’s Shrine ofthe Book. A complete facsimile edition of the surviving sections was publishedby the Magnes Press and is available to thepublic.