The Crown of Aleppo and missing pages

Masoretes in Tiberias, Israel, around 930 C.E. took care that the Words of the Most High were written down for posterity. Their work is considered to present 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 (established in 1965), at the same place were you can find the Dead Sea scrolls.

Between the 1947 riots in Aleppo, the 1947–1949 Palestine war or the War of Liberation (The Nakba or Catastrophe), 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? Were parts of it stolen or were they destroyed? Or was the work a victim of archaeological looting? Was or were there people trying to sell parts of it to interested people with enough money?

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.

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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Related

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  2. Hebrew Voices #62 – Reggie White and The Secret Vault
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