List of Hebrew Bible manuscripts

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Leningrad Codex text sample, portions of Exodus 15:21-16:3

A Hebrew Bible manuscript is a handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) made on papyrus, parchment, or paper, and written in the Hebrew language. (Some of the Biblical text and notations may be in Aramaic.) The oldest manuscripts were written in a form of scroll, the medieval manuscripts usually were written in a form of codex. The late manuscripts written after the 9th century use the Masoretic Text. The important manuscripts are associated with Aaron ben Asher (especially Codex Leningradensis).[1]

The original manuscripts and early copies of the Old Testament disappeared over time, because of wars, (especially the destruction of the First and Second Temples), and other intentional destructions.[2] As a result, the lapse of time between the original manuscripts and their surviving copies is much longer than in the case of the New Testament manuscripts.

The first list of the Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew, made by Benjamin Kennicott (1776–1780) and published by Oxford, listed 615 manuscripts from libraries in England and on the Continent.[3] Giovanni de Rossi (1784–1788) published a list of 731 manuscripts.[4] The main manuscript discoveries in modern times are those of the Cairo Geniza (c. 1890) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947). In the old synagogue in Cairo were discovered 260,000 Hebrew manuscripts, 10,000 of which are biblical manuscripts.[5][6] There are more than 200 biblical manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of them were written in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. They were written before the year 70 AD. 14 scroll manuscripts were discovered in Masada in 1963–1965.[7]

The largest organized collection of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts in the world is housed in the Russian National Library ("Second Firkovitch Collection") in Saint Petersburg.[4]

Codex Leningradensis is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew. Manuscripts earlier than the 13th century are very rare. The majority of the manuscripts have survived in a fragmentary condition.

Masorah manuscripts[edit]

  • Severus Scroll (named for the Roman Emperor who restored this scroll, reportedly seized from the Temple in Jerusalem, to the Jewish community in 220), a lost manuscript of early 1st century AD, only a few sentences are preserved by Rabbinic literature
  • Codex Hilleli, a lost manuscript of circa 600 AD, destroyed in 1197 in Spain, only a few sentences are preserved by Rabbinic literature[8]
  • Codex Muggeh (or Muga)(="corrected"), lost, cited as a source in Massoretic notations.
  • Codex Orientales 4445, also known as "London Codex",[9] dated 820-850 AD; the manuscript contains Genesis-Deuteronomy 1:33 (less Numbers 7:47–73 and Numbers 9:12–10:18).[10]
  • Codex Cairensis, (Prophets) pointed by Moses Ben Asher, dated by a colophon 895 AD (the oldest manuscript bearing the date of its writing), (was in Cairo, now in Jerusalem)
  • Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus, (Latter Prophets) dated 916 AD, Russian National Library
  • Aleppo Codex, 930 AD, Israel Museum, (was complete, supposedly pointed by Aaron Ben Asher, partly destroyed in 1947); this manuscript is the basis of the Jerusalem Crown bible.
  • Codex Leningradensis, (complete) copied from a Ben Asher manuscript, dated 1008 AD, Russian National Library; this manuscript is the basis of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and other editions.
  • Michigan Codex, (Torah) 10th century[11]
  • Damascus Keter (Damascus Pentateuch), 10th century[12]
  • Codex Reuchlinanus (Prophets), dated 1105 AD.
  • Codex Yerushalmi, lost, reportedly used in Spain (circa 1010) by Jonah ibn Janah.
  • Erfurt Codices (complete, Berlin), E1 circa 14th century, E2 possibly 13th century, E3 possibly 11th century
  • Scroll 2, dated AD 1155-1255, University of Bologna Library
  • Codex Jericho, (Pentateuch) lost, cited in the notes to a Massoretic manuscript written circa 1310.
  • Codex Ezra, lost, C.D. Ginsburg owned a manuscript written in 1474 which purported to have been copied from this.
  • Codex Sinai, mentioned in Massoretic notes and reportedly used by Elia Levita (circa 1540).
  • Codex Sanbuki (named for Zambuqi, on the Tigris River), lost, frequently quoted in Massoretic annotations and apparently seen (circa 1600) by Menahem Lonzano.
  • Codex Great Mahzor, lost, mentioned in Massoretic notes (the title suggests that this codex contained only the Pentateuch and those selections from the Prophets that were read during the liturgical year)
  • Ben Asher Manuscripts.

Modern discoveries[edit]

  • Nash Papyrus, dated to the 2nd BC – 1st AD
  • Cairo Geniza fragments contains portions of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic, discovered in Cairo synagogue, which date from about 4th century AD

Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

Dated Between 250 BC and 70 AD.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ H. Kelley, Daniel Stephen Mynatt, Timothy G. Crawford, The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: introduction and annotated glossary, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998, p. 18
  2. ^ Randall Price, Searching for the Original Bible, Harvest House Publishers, 2007, p. 45-50
  3. ^ Thomas Hartwell Horne, An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (1836), vol. 2, p. 7
  4. ^ a b Old Testament manuscripts
  5. ^ Fragmentos do Gueniza do Cairo[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ David Sinclair, An Overview of the Bible (2006)
  7. ^ Würthwein Ernst (1988). Der Text des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, pp. 38–39; translated into English and published in 1995 as Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (2nd rev. ed, 1995, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm.B. Eerdmans Publg. Co.)(this is the source for most of the dates of the mss listed).
  8. ^ Würthwein, Ernst (1995). The text of the Old Testament: an introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8028-0788-5.
  9. ^ British Library Asian and African studies blog 10 April 2014
  10. ^ Manuscript written by two different scribes, the older square script believed to be from the 9th century, whereas the newer Yemenite square script was written in the 16th century. See the British Library, Or. 4445.
  11. ^ Eleazar Birnbaum, The Michigan Codex: An important Hebrew Bible manuscript, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 17 pages 373-415 (Oct. 1967).
  12. ^ Damascus Pentateuch
  13. ^ Timothy Lim, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005, Dating the Scrolls, [1]
  14. ^ The Dead Sea Scrolls

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]