A Jewel from the Crown

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel

Dates: Ongoing

It was celebrated as the “Crown of Aleppo.” The Aleppo Codex, a thousand- year-old copy of the Hebrew Bible, was created in about 930 C.E. and edited by Aharon Ben Asher, who was one of the Jewish sages in Tiberias known as the Masoretes.* With Ben Asher’s additions of vowel and vocalization markings, it became the textus receptus, or authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible—relied on by no less than Maimonides, the 12th-century expert on Jewish law and author of the Mishneh Torah.

After hundreds of years of tumultuous capture, ransom and travel, the codex somehow ended up in the Aleppo synagogue in Syria before the second half of the 15th century. There it acquired its name and remained until 1947, when the synagogue was attacked during anti-Jewish riots following the United Nations vote to create the modern State of Israel. The codex was literally slashed and burned, but some fragments were saved from the wreckage. The surviving 60 percent of the pages were eventually smuggled to Israel (all but a few pages of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, were lost). It is housed at the Shrine of the Book of the Israel Museum.

Visitors to Rescued from Fire: A Rare Remnant of the Aleppo Codex can now see another small fragment that was recently brought to light by a man named Shmuel Sabag, who lived in Aleppo and entered the synagogue right after the 1947 attack. He picked up a charred scrap of the codex and carried it with him in a plastic sleeve in his wallet (pictured above) until the day he died in 2003. His family then donated the fragment to the Ben-Zvi Institute (pictured post-conservation at right). The rare scrap contains text from Deuteronomy that describes the plagues in Egypt.




* See Yosef Ofer, “The Shattered Crown,” BAR, September/October 2008.

Posted in Exhibits/Events, Inscriptions.

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  1. Daniel says

    not Deuteronomy, but Exodus, chapter 10. one side has text referring to the plague of frogs, and the other side of the parchment refers to the plague of locust.

    The name of the exhibition itself is also puzzling, as we have known since it was published in Nature already in 1988 that the codex has never been damaged by fire. The story of this particlilur fragment is told in detail in chapter 22 of Matti Friedman’s “The Allepo Codex”.

  2. Tom says

    As mentioned above, for the true story of the codex, see Matti Friedman’s “The Aleppo Codex” You can read more about it on the site: http://mattifriedman.com/book/

  3. PATTY says

    I would so love to be able to visit and see places and exhibits but of course am not financially able to. God Bless you for sharing.

  4. PATTY says

    Thank you for sharing and God Bless you. Unable financially to see &/or visit places n exhibits and wish I could someday. I would so love it In Yeshua.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Mysticism Slander Mortal Sin Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone | Big Pulpit linked to this post on August 18, 2012

    […] A Jewel from the Crown: The Aleppo Codex – Bible History Daily/Biblical Archlgy Scty […]

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