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Short Definition The Aleppo Codex is an old manuscript of the Bible, reflecting the Masora very exactly, written by the renowned Masorete, Aharon Ben Asher.


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Introduction

The Bible and its Transmission - Scrolls, Manuscripts, Printings

The Masoretes

The Aleppo Codex

The Vicissitudes of the Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex Today


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1.1 The Books of the Bible and their Order

1.2 Scroll and Codex

1.3 The Dead Sea Scrolls – the Most Ancient Copies of the Bible in the World

1.4 What is the Aleppo Codex?

1.5 Manuscripts Related to the Aleppo Codex

1.6 The Production of the Book

1.7 The Artistic Design of Biblical Manuscripts

1.8 The Uniqueness of the Aleppo Codex

1.9 The Small Crown (Haketer Haqatan), which Arrived from Aleppo

1.10 The First Printings of the Bible

1.11 Editions of the Bible Based on the Aleppo Codex

1.12 Scrolls of the Prophets Written According to the Aleppo Codex.


 מתוך מגילת ישעיהו השלמה ספר ויקרא ממצדה  או מגילת תהילים ממצדה – תצלום בכרך האחרון של הפרסום הרשמי של תוצאות החפירות  קולופון משה בן אשר בכ  כתב-יד מן המאה העשירית – סנקט פטרבורג, ספרייה לאומית, Evr  II  B 17  - נכתב בידי סופר הכתר שלמה בן בויאעא - ספונות יט, עמ' 229 סימני מילוי בכתר – ספונות יט, אחרי עמ' 192, לוח ט התצלום הגדול סוף התורה בכתר (ספונות יט, עמ' 174) סימני מילוי בראש שירת האזינו – שמוש, לוח ד בראש הספר דוגמת עמוד מספרי אמת- מתוך ספר תהילים, כתוב בשתי עמודות שמוש לוח יא בראש הספר. לוח יג בראש הספר. לוח יד בראש הספר  ד' לייאנס, המסורה המצרפת, הוצאת הספרים של אוניברסיטת בן גוריון, עמ' 57, 113, 118. תנ מתוך תנך ליסבון תצלומים מן הפוליגלוטות – אנציקלופדיה מקראית כרך ה, טורים 375-376 תנ מהדורת מפעל המקרא – יחזקאל – דף השער מקראות גדולות הכתר – דף הכריכה החיצונית מגילת נביאים שנכתבה על פי הכתר כרוז תמיכה בכתיבה על פי הכתר כרוז התנגדות לכתיבה על פי הכתר

The Bible and its Transmission – Scrolls, Manuscripts, Printings


1.1 The Books of the Bible and their Order

According to the tradition the Bible contains twenty-four books, which are divided into three sections: Torah (the Five Books of Moses, or Pentateuch); Neviim (the Prophets); and Ketuvim (the Writings). The Five Books of Moses are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The books of the Prophets are divided into the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The order of the Former Prophets is set according to historical order: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In the Septuagint translation the Book of Samuel is divided into two, as is the Book of Kings. However, according to the Masora, each is a single book. There is however, a difference of opinion regarding the order of the Latter Prophets. According to the Aleppo Codex, they are arranged in historical order: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and this is the common order. However, in Babylonia, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were placed before Isaiah, and the Babylonian Talmud explains that order (Baba Batra 14b). In the Writings, there are differences among the various traditions. According to the Tiberian tradition, which is reflected in the Aleppo Codex, the Book of Chronicles heads the Writings, whereas according to the Babylonian tradition, it comes at the end and this is the common tradition. According to the Babylonian tradition, the Five Scrolls are intermingled with the other books of the Writings, and they do not appear in succession. According to the Tiberian tradition, they do appear in succession, and in the common version, they are arranged in the order in which they are read during the year: the Song of Songs (Passover); Ruth (Shavuot); Lamentations (Tisha beAv); Ecclesiastes (Sukkoth); and Esther (Purim).

Other differences in the order are shown in the following diagrams:

The Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Prophets – The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings The Latter Prophets: Aleppo Codex The Babylonian Order, The Common Order Isaiah Jeremiah Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel Jeremiah Ezekiel Isaiah Ezekiel, The Twelve, The Twelve The Twelve

The Writings: The Aleppo Codex The Babylonian Tradition The Common Order Chronicles Ruth Wisdom Literature Psalms Psalms Psalms Job Job Proverbs Proverbs Proverbs Job The Five Scrolls Ruth Song of Songs Song of Songs Ecclesiastes Ruth Ecclesiastes Song of Songs Lamentations Lamentations Lamentations Ecclesiastes Esther Daniel Esther Memorial Books Daniel Esther Daniel Ezra and Nehemiah Ezra and Nehemiah Ezra and Nehemiah Chronicles Chronicles.

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1.2 Scroll and Codex

The ancient texts of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) were written in the form of scrolls. The scrolls consisted of strips of parchment, written on one side, which were sewn together with threads made from the sinews of animals. Every strip of parchment contained several columns. Lines were traced for each column, and the letters were written beneath the lines. The Torah was written in separate sections, between which were spaces of different kinds: an “open” section begins at the start of a new line, and a “closed” section begins in the middle of a line with a space before it. Certain parts were written in the form of poetry. Two long poems appear in the Torah: the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-19), which is written in “tiled” form (“tile on brick”) and the “Haazinu” (“Give Ear”) poem (Deuteronomy 32:1-43), which is written in two columns.

When the vocalization and cantillation marks were inserted into the Torah, they were not written in the scrolls but only in bound books with pages. The Latin word for such a book is codex (plural, codices), and in Arabic it is called mitshaf, a term that was borrowed by Hebrew. Another Hebrew term was Mahzor. The earliest written evidence of the appearance of the codex among the Jews comes from the eighth century, but most likely it was in use some time before that. However, biblical manuscripts in codex form only became plentiful in the tenth century, and some of these have survived to this day. The codex has several conspicuous advantages over the scroll: the pages are written on both sides, thus economizing on expensive materials. More importantly, it is possible to leaf through them quickly and go from the beginning of a book to its end, whereas doing the same thing in a scroll takes a long time. According to the Halakha (Jewish religious law), a Bible in codex form is not acceptable for public reading in the synagogue. For that purpose scrolls continued to be used, and it was forbidden to add vocalization and cantillation marks to them. The new books were therefore used for study and to preserve the reading tradition. Like Torah scrolls, codices also have “open” and “closed” sections, and some passages are laid out as poems. However, vocalization and cantillation marks were added to them, indicating the manner in which they should be read. Masoretic annotations were also included, the purpose of which was to preserve the precise biblical text.

Bibliography: Mordechai Glatzer, “The Book of Books – From Scroll to Codex and into Print,” in Jerusalem Crown – The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Companion Volume, Jerusalem 2002, pp. 61-72.

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1.3 The Dead Sea Scrolls – the Most Ancient Copies of the Bible in the World

In 1947, seven ancient scrolls were found in pottery urns in caves in the Judean Desert. The scrolls reached antiquities dealers in Bethlehem, and after many vicissitudes they were gathered in Jerusalem and exhibited at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum. One of the first scrolls to be discovered was a full copy of the Book of Isaiah, which provides important evidence for the text of the Bible that was common in Eretz-Israel at the end of the Second Temple period. In time, more and more fragments of scrolls were discovered, some in caves at Nahal Qumran, some at Masada, and some in other places of the Judean Desert. Scholars believe that the most ancient of these scrolls were written around 250 BCE, whereas the latest ones were written in the early second century CE (after the destruction of the Second Temple and the repression of the Bar-Kokhba Rebellion). The scrolls fall into several categories: biblical scrolls, scrolls of “interpretations,” which are a kind of ancient Midrash (homiletic commentary, often including stories) on the books of the prophets, scrolls containing writings that express the beliefs and customs of the people of Qumran, and others. The official publication of the scrolls and fragments of scrolls, which were discovered in the Judean Desert, is the forty-volume series, "Discoveries in the Judean Desert". In the past decades many studies have been published dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the identity of the members of the Qumran sect, their ways of life and views, the relation between them and rabbinical literature, their relations with early Christianity, and so on. More than 170 biblical scrolls were discovered in the caves of Qumran, and they include fragments of every book of the Bible except Esther. Fragments from Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms are particularly numerous, and it appears that scholars in that period dealt with those books more than with the other books of the Bible. Regarding the text, there are many differences between the various scrolls of a given book and also between the scrolls and the Masoretic text (which is represented, for example, in the Aleppo Codex). In some of the scrolls, the spelling is very “full” (Extra alephs, vavs, and hehs are added to words to indicate their pronunciation). Sometimes the text of the scrolls differs from that of the Masora in a number of words or even in a full sentence. Comparison of the text of the scrolls to that of the Masora shows that in the thousand years that passed between them, extensive textual work was done in order to determine the precise wording and spelling of the Bible. The Masoretes rejected the versions of the Bible that differed from the “Masoretic Type,” such as those which are reflected in ancient translations and the Samaritan version of the Torah. The accepted version was scrupulously preserved by means of a special apparatus of Masoretic annotations, which was created for that purpose. Similarly, the vocalization and cantillation marks were inserted to preserve the precise pronunciation tradition.

Photographs: From the full Scroll of Isaiah – Shamosh, p.128, The Book of Leviticus from Masada or the Scroll of Psalms from Masada – photograph from the last volume of the official publication of the findings of the excavations (in English), A section from the Book of Samuel – look for a photograph in the volumes of DJD Bibliography: Magen Broshi et al, The Judean Desert Scrolls – Forty Years of Scholarship, Jerusalem, 1992 (Hebrew), ‘Imanuel Tov, Criticism of the Wording of the Bible – Introductory Chapters, the Library of the Biblical Encyclopedia, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 81-94, (Hebrew).

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1.4 What is the Aleppo Codex?

The Aleppo Codex belongs to a large “family” of Masoretic manuscripts, which contain vocalization, cantillation marks, and Masoretic annotations. The most ancient manuscripts of this type were written in the ninth and tenth centuries CE, that is to say, a thousand years after the Dead Sea Scrolls. No manuscripts have survived from that long intervening period, except for a few Geniza fragments that might have been written in the eighth century. Over the generations, the Bible was copied in thousands of manuscripts. These manuscripts differ from one another in many details: the date and place of their writing, the form of the script, the plené or defective spelling of words, the vocalization system, details of vocalization and cantillation marks and so on. Some old manuscripts have been defined by scholars of the Masora as “manuscripts close to the Aleppo Codex.” These are generally old manuscripts – from the tenth and eleventh centuries – which were written in the East. The system of vocalization and cantillation marks is very similar to that of the Aleppo Codex, and the plené or defective spelling also conforms to a large extent to the Masoretic annotations and spelling of the Aleppo Codex. These manuscripts represent the text of the Bible that was consolidated among the Masoretes of Tiberias, the best representative of which is the Aleppo Codex itself. One of the best known manuscripts closely related to the Aleppo Codex is MS Leningrad (MS Saint Petersburg, the Russian National Library, Evr I B 19a). This is a complete Bible, which was written in Egypt in 1008 by Shmuel Ben Ya’aqov, and it has been preserved intact to this day. The vocalization and cantillation marks of this manuscript are very similar to those of the Aleppo Codex. Consequently, scholars used it to reconstruct the lost parts of the Aleppo Codex. Some editions of the Bible are based on MS Leningrad, the best known being the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica, published by Aharon Dothan (Adi publishers) and the JPS Bible, with English translation. Other famous manuscripts closely related to the Aleppo Codex are: MS British Museum Or. 4445, which contains the Five Books of Moses and is earlier than the Aleppo Codex; MS Cairo of the prophets (the former and latter) which is attributed at the end to Moshe Ben Asher, the father of the Masorete of the Aleppo Codex. Two manuscripts of which only a few pages remain have been defined by the scholar of the Masora, Israel Yevin, as “very close to the Aleppo Codex,” and there are grounds for presuming that they were written or vocalized by Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher himself.

Bibliography: Mordecai Breuer, The Aleppo Codex and the Accepted Text of the Bible, Jerusalem 1977 (Hebrew). Israel Yevin, The Aleppo Codex, its Vocalization and Cantillation Marks, Publications of the Hebrew University Bible Project 3, Jerusalem, 1969, pp. 357-375 (Hebrew). Israel Yevin, The Masora for the Bible, Collections and Introductions in Language 3, the Hebrew Language Academy, Jerusalem, 2003, pp. 15-28 (Hebrew). Photographs: The colophon of Moshe Ben Asher in the manuscript of the Prophets from Cairo, Sefunot 19, p. 252. Tenth Century Manuscript – MS Saint Petersburg, National Library, EVR II B 17 – written by the Scribe who wrote the Aleppo Codex, Shlomo Ben בויאעא – Sefunot 19, p. 229.

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1.6 The Production of the Book

Starting in 1996 the Aleppo Codex was restored in the laboratories of the Israel Museum. For that purpose, the production of the book was investigated. We shall now present some of the descriptions of Dr. Mordecai Glatzer, who studied the making of the Aleppo Codex at that time. Some of his remarks are unique to the Aleppo Codex, whereas others characterize Bible manuscripts from that period in general. The Aleppo Codex is written on well-prepared parchment. The signs of the hairs were almost completely removed. However, it is still possible to distinguish between the sides of the parchment. The thickness of the parchment ranges from a sixth to a quarter of a millimeter, and this is the thickness typical of medieval Hebrew manuscripts in the East. The ink is dark brown and not black. Hence, one may conclude that the basic ingredient of the ink was gallnut, in contrast to black ink, the dominant ingredient of which was soot. Brown ink is used in about a third of the Hebrew manuscripts of the East. In some places, the ink is partially or largely erased, and in most cases this phenomenon takes place on the flesh side of the parchment. The shrinking of the parchment over the generations might have caused the ink to fall off after the thin layer of parchment, which served as its matrix, corroded and disintegrated.

The Aleppo Codex is composed of fascicles of ten folios. The faces of the parchment differ from one another in appearance and color; therefore all the folios in each fascicle are arranged so that in each spread of two pages a flesh side will face a flesh side, or a hair side will face a hair side. In that way, uniformity of appearance is preserved in each spread of pages. The Aleppo Codex is written with three columns per page, except for the wisdom books (Job, Proverbs, and Psalms), which are written in two columns per page, because of their characteristic poetical structure. The number of lines per column is fixed: there are twenty-eight lines in every column. Before the writing, the lines and columns were etched into the surface of the parchment with a knife. To trace the lines, it was customary to make tiny holes in the margins of the page, and the craftsman who traced the lines extended straight lines from hole to hole. The letters were written beneath the guideline. That is to say the letters hang, as it were, from the etched line. The scribe who wrote the Bible took care to begin each line at the right margin of each column. It is more difficult to justify the left margin of each column. The scribe of the Aleppo Codex did not expand the letters at the end of the lines. However, he occasionally bunched together the last letters of a line, so that they would not extend far beyond the margin. The most prominent means for justifying lines was by filling them with graphic forms similar to a small resh or a truncated aleph. In the lines before the Haazinu (Give Ear) poem (Deut. 32), these fillers are also found in the middle of the line, and sometimes they even take up an entire line. Empty columns separate the Pentateuch from the Prophets, and the Prophets from the Writings. The transition between these sections takes place on the same page, but not in the same column. At the end of the Pentateuch, the scribe wrote very short lines, containing one or two words, in order to complete the Pentateuch at the end of the column. Three empty lines separate the books of the prophets, including the twelve latter prophets. Two empty lines separate the books of the Writings as well as each of the five books that comprise Psalms. The sums of the verses in each book were written on the empty lines between them.

Photographs or links to photographs: Fillers in the Aleppo Codex – Sefunot 19, after p. 192, pl. IX and the large photograph. The end of the Pentateuch in the Aleppo Codex (Sefunot 19, p. 174). Fillers before the Haazinu Song – Deut., p. IV, at the beginning of the book. Page from the wisdom books – written in two columns – Shamosh, pl. VIII at the beginning of the book. Bibliography: M. Glatzer, “The Making of the Aleppo Codex and its Implications,” Sefunot 19 (1989), pp. 167-276 (Hebrew).

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1.7 The Artistic Design of Biblical Manuscripts

Some old manuscripts of the Bible stand out because of their splendid artistic design in form and color. The designers wrote the Masoretic annotations in tiny letters as a decorative element and placed them in elaborate geometric form, sometimes even creating various drawings with them. Ornamented Bibles from the East, dating from the ninth-century, have survived, whereas in the West, they appeared later.

The ornamented Bibles fall into several categories. The earliest group includes Eastern Bibles that were written in Eretz-Israel, Syria, Egypt and Babylonia from the ninth to the thirteenth century. The earliest dated Hebrew manuscript is that of the Prophets from Cairo. According to the colophon (the dedication by the scribe at the end of the manuscript), it was written by the Masorete Moshe Ben Asher in 895. Some scholars have challenged the antiquity of the manuscript and its attribution to Moshe Ben Asher. However, everyone agrees that it is an old and important Eastern manuscript. The decorations on this manuscript include several pages with geometric and floral patterns at the beginning and end of the book. Some of the outlines of the forms consist of a micrographic text, the contents of which are the great Masora attributed to the Ben Asher family. The use of micrographic texts as outlines of decorative motifs is found only in Hebrew manuscripts. This practice began in the East and later passed to the West. There are no ornaments or decorations in the parts of the Aleppo Codex which are presently in our possession. However, Moshe David Cassuto, who examined the Aleppo Codex when it was still intact, reports, “The pages added at the beginning and the end are painted in gold and colors.”

In another Eastern manuscript of the Torah, there are two pages in which the Tabernacle and its vessels are described schematically. A seven-branched candelabrum appears in the center, surrounded by incense pans, bowls, goblets, the jar of manna, the Golden Altar and the Ark of the Covenant. The tendency to regard the book of the Bible as a substitute for the destroyed Temple is evident here. This tendency is clearly expressed in Spain and Ashkenaz (the German cultural region) in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, where the Bible was sometimes called “The Temple of the Lord.” In Sephardic (Spanish) Bibles, traditional yearning for the Temple is emphasized by the addition of a drawing of the Mount of Olives in the corner of a page. Many decorative pages are added, including texts, such as the list of the variants of Ben Asher and Ben Naftali or Sefer Hashorashim (The Book of Roots) by Rabbi David Kimhi. In some Bibles the decorative pages contain drawings unconnected to the text, such as the maze of the seven walls of Jericho in the Farhi Bible or the army of rabbits, besieging the fox’s fortress in the Kenicott Bible (MS Oxford, Ken 1). Other Bibles contain a picture of Noah’s Ark, in which various animals can be seen in the margins of the story of Noah, or a drawing of Jonah falling from the ship into the fish’s mouth, which, of course, precedes the Book of Jonah.

In Ashkenazi Bibles, there are no decorative pages, and drawings of the vessels of the Tabernacle are few. Instead, there are illustrations of the text in panels of the initial words of a book and occasionally miniatures. The drawings are similar in style to those found in Latin manuscripts of southern Germany, but human figures are distorted by inserting faces of animals or birds or by hiding the faces.

Bibliography: Bezalel Narkiss, “Illuminated Hebrew Bible Manuscripts of the Middle Ages – Early Drawings of the Bible,” Mareh Maqom – a collection of articles devoted to the design of Bibles, edited by Reuven Bonfil, published by the Torah Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Jerusalem, 1976, pp. 30-60 (Hebrew). Photographs or links to photographs: Ornaments in various forms. It is possible to make use of the collection, Mareh Maqom – Shamosh, p. XI at the beginning of the book. Pl. XIII at the beginning of the book. Pl. XIV at the beginning of the book. D. Lyons, The Tradition from France, Ben Gurion University Press, pp. 57, 113, 118. It is still a good idea to look for something colorful – such as from the facsimile of MS Leningrad.

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1.8 The Uniqueness of the Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex is the most important Bible manuscript from the Masoretic period. It belongs to a very restricted group of four or five early manuscripts from the tenth and eleventh centuries, which contain the entire Bible and are preserved to this day. Far more common are early manuscripts from the tenth and eleventh centuries that contained, at the time of their writing, only part of Bible such as those containing only the Five Books of Moses, the former prophets, and the like. There were several dozen of these. About fifty of them have survived in large part (more than one hundred pages), and only a few pages or parts of books have survived from the rest. These codices are found today in many libraries throughout the world, but most of them are in the Firkovich collection in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Scholars have sought to examine and classify the manuscripts in various ways to determine each one’s degree of accuracy. Such examination is done in various areas: spelling, vocalization, cantillation marks, accents and the like. Comparison of the manuscripts reveals a long series of differences in each of these areas. In itself that is not sufficient, for the existence of a variety of methods still does not privilege one of them over another. How can manuscripts be evaluated to determine which is the most reliable and accurate? Two tests may be made: an internal one and an external one. The internal one is the test of consistency of the manuscript itself. Sometimes there are variants in the manuscript which, with a high degree of certainty, can be said to be mere errors, such as the dropping of a vowel or cantillation mark, or the combination of cantillation marks in a manner impossible according to the rules of cantillation, as a result of careless copying. The Masoretic annotations are very important in this respect. One may check whether the Masoretic annotations were written properly, and whether the text of the Bible in the manuscript is consistent with the contents of the Masoretic annotations written in it. For example, if a certain Masoretic annotation lists the verses in which a certain word is to be written in plené spelling, and in the manuscript itself that word is written in defective form in some of those verses, this is a sign that the Masorete of the manuscript did not do his work thoroughly, that he did not take the trouble to ascertain the form dictated by the Masoretic annotations and to make the manuscript consistent with them everywhere. Moreover, comparative study of the Masoretic apparatus in the various manuscripts shows that the annotations in various manuscripts are usually consistent with each other and lead toward a certain version of the Bible. The degree of accuracy of each of the manuscripts must, therefore, be examined not only with relation to the Masoretic commentary found in it but also in relation to all of the Masoretic comments found in old manuscripts. In order to reach a general conclusion about the quality of a manuscript, hundreds, even thousands of verifications of the type described here in general terms must be made.

Here are the conclusions of two outstanding scholars of the Aleppo Codex: Professor Israel Yevin: This manuscript is vocalized and the cantillation marks are inserted in the most precise and meticulous manner, and it preserves the purity of all the ancient instructions regarding accentuation, which were obscured or disappeared from later manuscripts. In any event, in these respects, it is the most accurate of the Tiberian manuscripts of the Bible, of which I have examined the photocopies. (The Aleppo Codex, its Vocalization and Cantillation Marks, Jerusalem, 1969, p. 10, Hebrew). Rabbi Mordecai Breuer states: Anyone who examines the Aleppo Codex and looks closely into it, both generally and in its details, is astonished by the ability of its vocalizer and Masorete to produce something accurate, without flaw or error, with perfection almost beyond human ability. He was expert in defective and plené spellings, in the ways of vocalization and the intricacies of cantillation, and no secret of the Masora resisted him. He was the only one among all the scribes, vocalizers, Masoretes, and proofreaders who managed to write an entire manuscript of the Bible without deviating from the rules and instructions of the Masora. (Introduction to the Horev edition of the Bible, Hebrew). A few numbers will demonstrate this evaluation. In the codex known as the Leningrad manuscript, there are more than 250 places in the Prophets where the scribe erred regarding defective and plené spellings. In the Cairo manuscript of the Prophets, there are about 130 errors of that kind. However, in the Aleppo Codex, there are two places in the Prophets where there is no doubt that the scribe erred in this matter. (The Aleppo Codex and the Accepted Text of the Bible, Jerusalem, 1977, Introduction, Hebrew).

The external test of a manuscript is its genealogy and status among the Masoretes. In this respect as well, the Aleppo Codex stands far above all the other manuscripts of the Bible. The vocalizer and Masorete of the manuscript was Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher, a scion of a splendid dynasty of Masoretes. Aharon Ben Asher’s name was respected among the Masoretes, as shown by the fact that even early Masoretes took pride in having scrupulously followed his method. We shall present two examples from two early codices that contain the entire Bible. Here is what is written in the well-known Leningrad MS, which was written in 1008: Shmuel Ben Ya’aqov wrote and vocalized and transmitted this codex of the Bible from books corrected and annotated done by the learned Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher, may he rest in peace. The Masorete of the Sassoon MS 1053, from the tenth century, cites a Masoretic comment and mentions its source: And we found them like the work of the great scholar Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher and his deeds in the codex called Altaj. Altaj in Arabic means “crown,” which is Keter in Hebrew, the name of the Aleppo Codex. Thus we find that as early as the tenth century, the name of the great scholar Aharon Ben Asher was well known, and his special manuscript of the Bible was already famous and known as the Crown.

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1.9 The Small Crown (Haketer Haqatan), which Arrived from Aleppo

Along with the famous Aleppo Codex, another “Crown” arrived from Aleppo, which was called Haketer Haqatan – the Small Crown. This manuscript was written in 1341. Its 376 pages contain the Five Books of Moses and the Five Scrolls (the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther). In addition to the text of the Bible, it contains the Targum (an Aramaic translation of the Bible) and the commentary of Rashi, as well as many and varied appendices. A phenomenon peculiar to the Small Crown is that the Torah is written in small letters without vocalization or cantillation marks in the upper and lower margins. This seems like a strange thing to have done, since the text of the Bible appears in the center of the page, in large letters, accompanied by vocalization and cantillation marks. What, then, was the need for writing it again on the margins? It appears that this repetition of the text was used as a tiqun qorim – an aid for those who wished to practice reading the Torah in the synagogue. The reader would learn the vocalization and cantillation from the body of the manuscript, and then he would check himself by reading from the folio without vocalization and cantillation marks, as the text appears in the Torah scroll.

Bibliography: Amnon Shamosh, The Keter – the Story of the Aleppo Codex, Jerusalem, 1987, pp. 112-114 (Hebrew). Photographs of the Keter Qatan. There is one in Shamosh, pl. XIII.

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1.10 The First Printings of the Bible

The first book to be printed in Europe was the Bible in Latin, printed by Gutenberg in Mainz in 1455-1456. Fourteen years later, in Reggio di Calabria (in southern Italy) the first Hebrew book was printed: Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. In 1485, in the city of Soncino (northern Italy) the former and latter prophets were printed. The text was vocalized and the commentary of Rabbi David Kimhi was included. The first complete Hebrew Bible was printed in Soncino in 1488. Seven years later, the first Bible was printed in small format (octavo), “so that it will be with every man, night and day, to meditate upon.” An important innovation in the format of printed Bibles was Miqraot Gedolot (lit., Large Readings), on the pages of which appeared the Biblical text, the Aramaic translation, and a selection of commentaries. The first edition of Miqraot Gedolot was printed in Venice in 1516-1517, edited by Felix Pratensis, an apostate Jew turned monk, and the publisher was Daniel Bomberg (who was not Jewish). Only seven years later, in 1524-1525, the same printer published a second edition of Miqraot Gedolot, this one edited by a Jewish scholar from Tunis, Ya’aqov Ben Hayyim Adoniahu, who, for the first time, included the annotations of Hamasora Hagedola and Hamasora Haqetana (see below), which he garnered from many manuscripts, in his effort to establish the text of the Bible according to the Masoretic commentary. At the end of the Bible, he included Hamasora Hasofit, an extensive compendium of Masoretic annotations of various types, which were arranged alphabetically according to the Hebrew roots of the words. The work of Ya’aqov Ben Hayyim commanded respect, and the text of the Bible that he determined was regarded by the Jews for generations as the accepted Biblical text (textus receptus). Later printings sought to copy this text exactly, and even later scholars of the Masora such as Rabbi Menahem di Lonzano and Rabbi Shlomo Yedidiah of Norzi [please verify these spellings] both are OK treated it as the point of departure for their discussions and tried to correct its errors. The Bible has been translated into many languages, and it has been published in many bi-lingual or multi-lingual (polyglot) editions. Some of the polyglot editions include Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac translations, as well as the secondary Latin translations of the editors. The most important of these are: the Biblia Regia, edited by the Spanish Christian Benito Arias Montano in Antwerp in 1572-1596; the Paris Polyglot, 1629-1645; and, most important of all, that of London, 1654-1657, which was edited by Brian Walton with a staff of scholars and accompanied by philological commentaries.

Photographs of the polyglots – Entsiqlopedia miqrait, vol. V, cols. 357-376. Bibliography: Hayyim Rabin, the article Miqra, defusei miqra in Entsiqlopedia miqrait V, cols. 368-385 (Hebrew). Menahem Cohen, “Mavo Lemadorat Haketer,” Miqraot Gedolot Haketer, at the end of the Joshua-Judges volume, Ramat Gan, 1992 (Hebrew).

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1.11 Editions of the Bible Based on the Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex arrived in Israel in 1958 and was thoroughly studied. When scholars realized its uniqueness, they decided to use it as the basis for new editions of the Bible. Three important editions of the Bible, which are based on the Aleppo Codex, are: 1. The Breuer edition. Rabbi Mordecai Breuer verified the text of the Bible according to the Aleppo Codex and manuscripts close to it, and according to the Masoretic annotations. The text that he established is the Bible published by the Rav Kook Institute (1977-1982) and the annotated series, Da’at Miqra, published by that institute (1970-2003). It also serves as the basis for the Horev edition of the Bible (1996) and the splendid edition of the Bible, Keter Yerushalayim, published by the Hebrew University in 2000. 2. The edition of the Hebrew University Bible Project. This edition includes six apparatuses, which provide information on the text of the Bible as reflected in translations of the Bible, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Rabbinical literature, and in old manuscripts of the Bible. To date the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have been published. The basic text for this edition is that of the Aleppo Codex. 3. The Keter edition of Miqraot Gedolot, published by Bar-Ilan University Press. Along with the Bible, this edition includes the Aramaic translation and a selection of commentators. To date the books of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Psalms have been published. The annotations of the Masora Gedola and the Masora Qetana of the Aleppo Codex are presented in this edition, accompanied by references. Every edition based on the Aleppo Codex must cope with the central difficulty of the lack of major portions of it. The editors have proposed various systems for completing and reconstructing the missing parts.

Bibliography: Mordecai Breuer, The Aleppo Codex and the Accepted Version of the Bible, Jerusalem, 1977 (Hebrew). Menahem Cohen (Editor and Scientific Consultant), “Introduction to the Edition of the Keter,” in Miqraot Gedolot Haketer – A New Basic Edition, vol. Joshua and Judges, Ramat Gan, 1993, pp. 1*-100*; “Introductory Chapters,” Appendix to the Volume of Kings, Ramat Gan, 1995, pp. 1*-26* (Hebrew). Photographs: Three Editions Based on the Aleppo Codex: The Jerusalem Keter Bible – title page. The edition of the Bible Project – Ezekiel – title page. Miqraot Gedolot Haketer – the exterior binding page.

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1.12 Scrolls of the Prophets Written According to the Aleppo Codex.

On Sabbaths and festivals the Torah is read in synagogues, and then the Haftara is read, a section from the prophets. In most synagogues, the Haftara is read from a printed Bible or Humash (a volume containing the Five Books of Moses and only those passages from the prophets that are read in the synagogue). However, in some synagogues, people insist on reading the Haftara from a parchment scroll, written according to the same Halakhot (religious regulations) as a Torah scroll. This custom is found mainly in Ashkenazi synagogues that follow the custom of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliahu. According to what tradition are the open and closed passages in the books of the prophets written? In recent years, it was discovered that in five Jerusalem synagogues there are scrolls of the prophets, whose divisions are consistent with the Aleppo Codex: in the ‘Etz Hayyim Yeshiva, in two synagogues in the neighborhood of Sha’arei Hesed in Jerusalem, in Qatamon, and in the neighborhood of Mishkenot. The provenance of some of these scrolls is from synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem, and they were transferred to West Jerusalem during the War of Independence. These scrolls were written following the sending of an emissary to Aleppo OK, a project initiated by Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin in the 1860s, with the support of the rabbis of Jerusalem (see section 3.4.4). The emissary recorded the tradition of the divisions of the Aleppo Codex in the margins of a printed Bible that was in his possession, and the scrolls of the prophets were written according to his notes. This decision was, in effect, an extension of the ruling by Maimonides regarding the divisions of the Torah: Maimonides ruled that the divisions of a Torah scroll should follow the example of the Aleppo Codex, and scribes who copied the scrolls of the prophets did the same with respect to the divisions of the prophets.

In 1995 a fierce controversy arose in ultra-Orthodox circles in Jerusalem and Bnei-Braq regarding the proper way to write scrolls of the prophets. One party advocated writing them in accordance with the Aleppo Codex, whereas the other party opposed this for various reasons, the main one being that there was a long-standing tradition regarding the writing of the divisions, and it was improper to deviate from it and follow the Aleppo Codex. This controversy was waged in Haredi religious courts, in large posters in the streets, and mainly in detailed tracts published by both sides.

Photographs: A scroll of the prophets written according to the Aleppo Codex. A poster in support of writing according to the Aleppo Codex. A poster opposing writing according to the Aleppo Codex. Bibliography: Y. ‘Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex and the Bible of Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yelin,” in Sefer hayovel lerav Mordecai Breuer, Jerusalem, 1992, p. 313 (Hebrew). David Yitshaqi, Neviei haemet vehatsedeq [and at the end a tract rescinding a poster], Bnei-Braq, 1995 (Hebrew). [Abraham Yitshaq Hoffman], A Tract of Torah Opinion … not to Rely on the Aleppo Codex, Jerusalem, 1995 (Hebrew).