The Oldest Extant Hebrew Bible Goes on the Auction Block

In the second half of the first millennium, Jewish scribes began composing codices—handwritten books as opposed to more traditional scrolls—of the Hebrew Bible, complete with vowel and cantillation markings and marginal notations meant to preserve the text precisely. One such codex, which belonged to a synagogue in northeastern Syria until the 13th or 14th century, was acquired by the Bombay-born Anglo-Jewish collector David Solomon Sassoon in 1929. It is now slotted to go up for auction at Sotheby’s. Jennifer Schuessler tells its story:

Sharon Liberman Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica consultant . . . pointed out the two versions of the Ten Commandments, a beautifully calligraphic rendering of the Song of Deborah and, more prosaically, places where small tears had been stitched together with thread or sinew.

The Codex Sassoon, as it’s known, is being billed by Sotheby’s as the earliest example of a nearly complete codex containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible. (It is missing about five leaves, including the first ten chapters of Genesis.) . . . The book, which measures about twelve by fourteen inches and weighs 26 pounds, is housed in an unprepossessing early 20th-century brown leather binding.

Today, two other complete or substantially complete Hebrew Bibles from this period are known to survive. The Aleppo Codex, held in the Israel Museum, was created around 930. It’s missing almost two-fifths of its pages, including most of the Pentateuch. The Leningrad Codex, held in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, is fully complete, but dates from around 1008.

When Sassoon bought his codex in 1929, he dated it to the 10th century. It was believed to be more recent than the Aleppo Codex but, with only about five leaves missing, substantially more complete. Beginning in the 1960s, . . . scholars began to believe that the Sassoon Codex was created a bit earlier, around the time of the Aleppo Codex, or perhaps earlier. A recent carbon-dating by the seller—reviewed and endorsed by Sotheby’s—affirmed that, giving the Sassoon plausible bragging rights as the oldest nearly complete Hebrew Bible.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Aleppo codex, Hebrew Bible, Rare books


The Ugly Roots of Ireland’s Anti-Israel Policies

Prime Minister Varadkar’s meretricious messaging concerning the freeing of a kidnapped child is only one example of the Irish government’s perverse reaction to Hamas’s assault on Israel. Varadkar has accused the IDF of pursuing “something approaching revenge” in Gaza, and compared the Israeli war effort to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His parliament, meanwhile, came close to expelling the Israeli ambassador. Terry Glavin writes:

In a recent interview, . . . the retired Irish diplomat Niall Holohan put it this way: “We feel we have been victimized over the centuries. It’s part of our psyche—underneath it all we side with the underdog.” But there’s something else in the Irish psyche that’s impolite to mention in the comfy Dublin pubs and bistros. . . . Not a few of Ireland’s gallant and celebrated champions of the underdog, its heroes of Irish freedom, were vulgar anti-Semites and Nazi collaborators.

And in recent years, Irish Jews are commonly baited, harassed, and badgered every time there is some eruption in Israel involving Palestinian “resistance.”

The republican pamphleteer Arthur Griffith approved [of anti-Jewish agitation in Limerick in 1904], calling Jews “usurers and parasites.” Griffiths was one of the founders of Sinn Féin, in 1905, and he served as Sinn Féin’s president in 1911.

There was always a deep division in the Irish nationalist movement between Irish republicans who felt an affinity with the Jews owing to a shared history of dispossession and exile, and Catholic extremists who ranted and raved about Jews. Those Catholic shouters are still abroad, apparently unaware that for half a century, Catholic doctrine has established that anti-Semitism is a mortal sin.

Read more at National Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, Gaza War 2023, Ireland