Codex Leningradensis

Date: 1008-1009


The oldest handwriting with the complete text of the Hebrew Bible (better known as the Old Testament) is preserved in the Russian National Library of Saint Petersburg. It is dated between 1008/1009. It is known as the codex Leningradensis, named after the city of Leningrad (formerly called Saint Petersburg).

The Codex was written by Jews living at the time in the Egyptian city of Cairo. They were men who specialized in accurately copying texts, handwritten very clearly and very uniformly. They were presumably trained in the school of Moses Ben Asher, a well-known copyist from that time. This old handwriting is very valuable because of its well preserved condition.

The German scholar Rudolf Kittel used the Codex as the main source for his highly regarded publication, the Biblia Hebraica, published in 1937. His colleague Prof. Paul Kahle continued the work of Kittel, which led to an improved translation released as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.


“A beautifully illustrated page from the Codex" (click the image for a larger picture).

An expert in the field of Hebrew manuscripts brought to our attention that the beautifully decorated picture with the star of David, which is shown below, is called a “Masoretic carpet”. We show a carpet filling an entire page. In the Codex there are approximately 15 such images. These are pages with beautiful drawings typical of the Jewish art from the middle ages. In addition, they contain a religious message. For example, we can find the Bible texts of Deuteronomy 12:1; 26: 15; 27: 10; 28: 2, 12-13 and also quotes from the Book of Psalms 60: 10; 63: 1, 4; 68:20, 28a.

The copyist indentifies himself in the centre of the star of David as Samuel, the son of Jacob.

(click the image for a larger picture)

(photo: public domain - see Wikimedia Commons)



"A page with text"

God’s name found in many places in this ancient handwritten text, in the form of the Tetragrammaton. The first frame shows the Tetragrammaton at Genesis 28: 20. The second frame does not show the Tetragrammaton – this is a grammatical conjugation of the verb "to be", It is the text from Gen. 28: 22.

(photo: public domain - see Wikimedia Commons)


In the text itself:

(photo: public domain - see Wikimedia Commons)



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