Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Search hastens for lost pages of most accurate Hebrew Bible

This seemed right for Christmas...

From The Washington Times:
A worldwide hunt is under way for missing segments of the oldest and most reliable copy of the Hebrew Bible, nearly half of which disappeared 60 years ago during anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo, Syria.

Although the effort has been under way for some time, it has accelerated in recent months.

The Ben-Zvi Institute here is spearheading the effort and hopes to enlist the help of Aleppo's now-dispersed Jewish population, some of whom live in the U.S.

"We are appealing to the older members of Aleppo's once-great Jewish community, who are scattered throughout the world, to look for the missing fragments and bring them to us," said Zvi Zameret, the institute's director.

Known as the Aleppo Codex, this religious and linguistic treasure dates back 1,000 years and is regarded by scholars as unsurpassed in accuracy and calligraphy.

"It is the most reliable version of the Old Testament," Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, who specializes in ancient Jewish history, told The Washington Times.

"Although the Dead Sea Scrolls predate it by nearly a millennium, they do not include all of the books that comprise the Jewish Bible's three sections — most of which are in Hebrew, and some of which are in Aramaic."

Those three sections are the Pentateuch (also known as The Five Books of Moses), the Prophets and the Scriptures.

"The Aleppo Codex contained all three until it fell victim to vandals and looters," he said.

The Aleppo Codex was transcribed about the year 950 in Tiberias, the Roman-era city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, where, as late as the 10th century, Hebrew was the spoken language, Mr. Barkay said.

It was transferred to Jerusalem a century later, but because the city was conquered and reconquered at the time, it fell prey first to the Seljuk Turks and then to the Crusaders.

"They stole it but refrained from any desecration," Mr. Barkay said.
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