Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hold onto your hats!

Have you ever heard of the Aleppo Codex? Probably not. But I bet you know what it contains - the Old Testament. According to tradition, it's the oldest copy of the Hebrew Old Testament in the now-standard Masoretic text. I had the privilege of seeing it last year at this time at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D. C. While it may not sound like that big of a deal, trust me when I say it is. Whereas we have more than 5,500 Greek manuscripts that comprise the New Testament, we have less than 100 Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. Any find related to that is significant.
That's what makes this story so significant. Mr. Sam Sabbagh has had in his possession since 1947 a page from the Aleppo Codex (here's a link to the full story). Eight centimeters square, it contains a citation from Exodus 8. This is it in the picture. Mr. Sabbaugh said he rescued it from the Aleppo Synagogue when it was burning down. We know it did burn about that same time, so it's plausible. Why now? Where has it been? Mr Sabbaugh kept it with him for the last 60 years, sort of as a good luck charm. He moved it with him when he left Israel and had it with him when he emigrated to the U.S. to live in Brooklyn. So why is he surrendering it? Mr Sabbaugh passed away recently so he's no longer in need of it.
Stories like Mr Sabbaugh's make Indiana Jones look pretty tame, don't they?

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