The Aleppo Codex

The mystery of the missing pages in the oldest Hebrew Bible

aleppo-codex

The oldest Hebrew Bible is preserved in the Aleppo Codex. What happened to the nearly 200 pages missing from the Aleppo Codex? Photo: David Harris/Ben-Zvi Institute in the Shrine of the Book.

The Aleppo Codex, the oldest Hebrew Bible in existence today, is so named because it was housed for half a millennium in Aleppo, Syria. The codex, also known as the Crown of Aleppo, was written by scribes called Masoretes in Tiberias, Israel, around 930 C.E. The Aleppo Codex is considered to be the most authoritative copy of the Hebrew Bible. While the Dead Sea Scrolls—which are a thousand years older than the Aleppo Codex—contain books from the Hebrew Bible, the scrolls lack vowels (as was the tradition in ancient—and modern—Hebrew) as well as a discussion of different textual problems and their solutions. The Aleppo Codex features both vowel markings and marginal notations.

Appearing in Aleppo, Syria, sometime in the second half of the 15th century, the Aleppo Codex was preserved nearly intact in a synagogue for centuries—until the 20th century. After the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine and create independent Arab and Jewish states, riots broke out in Aleppo, and parts of the Aleppo Codex were destroyed. What remained of the codex was smuggled out of Aleppo and brought to Israel in 1957. The Aleppo Codex is now kept at the Shrine of the Book wing at the Israel Museum.
 


 
Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.
 


 
aleppo-codex-mapBetween the 1947 riots in Aleppo, Syria, and the codex’s arrival in Israel in 1957, almost 200 pages of the Aleppo Codex went missing. What happened to the missing pages, which included all of the books of the Torah save for the last 11 pages of Deuteronomy?

In “The Mystery of the Missing Pages of the Aleppo Codex” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Yosef Ofer, Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University, examines several theories as to what happened to the missing pages of the Aleppo Codex.

In his article, Ofer discusses the conclusions of journalists Matti Friedman and Yifat Erlich, who independently investigated when—and how—the pages of the Aleppo Codex went missing after the riots in Aleppo, Syria.

What happened to the missing pages of the Aleppo Codex, the oldest Hebrew Bible? Were they destroyed or stolen? If the pages were stolen, were they taken from the codex in Syria, during the codex’s journey through Turkey, or after the codex had arrived in Israel? To find out what Yosef Ofer believes to be the most likely answer, read the full article “The Mystery of the Missing Pages of the Aleppo Codex” as it appears in the July/August 2015 issue of BAR.

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BAS Library Members: Read the full article “The Mystery of the Missing Pages of the Aleppo Codex” by Yosef Ofer in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 

More on the Aleppo Codex in the BAS Library:

Yosef Ofer, “The Shattered Crown,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2008.

Harvey Minkoff, “The Aleppo Codex,” Bible Review, August 1991.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on July 20, 2015.
 


 

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  • Robert says

    One page of, what was claimed to be from the Aleppo Codex, was shown to me about 5 years ago. It looked very much like the illustrated versions. The possessor was a person with access to this kind of artefact.

  • sabina says

    This is so fascinating…Would love to see it

  • Kurt says

    The Aleppo Sephardic Codex, once preserved at Aleppo, Syria, and now in Israel, until recently contained the entire Hebrew Scriptures. Its original consonantal text was corrected, punctuated, and furnished with the Masora about 930 C.E. by Aaron ben Asher, son of Moses ben Asher. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/s/r1/lp-e?q=aleppo%20codex


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