The only complete copy of the Hebrew Bible from the same period as the Aleppo Codex is the Leningrad Codex in St. Petersburg.a It is similar to the Aleppo Codex in many respects—in both date (to within a few decades at most) and in distinction. Like the Aleppo Codex, the Leningrad Codex includes vowel markings, cantillation signs and extensive textual notes (masora). In the photo, verses extolling the sanctity of the Biblical text run through the Leningrad Codex’s “carpet page,” a page of geometric designs often included in illuminated manuscripts.

To my mind, however, the Aleppo Codex is superior in its accuracy and masora scholarship.

For much of the world today, however, the standard scholarly text of the Hebrew Bible is the Biblia Hebraica, which now uses the Leningrad Codex, rather than the Aleppo Codex, as its base text. The first two editions of the Biblia Hebraica used the Rabbinic Bible of 1524 printed in Venice. The third edition, prepared by two great German Biblical scholars, Paul Kahle and Rudolf Kittel, used the Leningrad Codex. However, in his preface to this edition Paul Kahle notes his preference for the Aleppo Codex:

“Rudolf Kittel and I had hoped to be able to replace the Leningrad Ms., L, which was used as the basis of the Biblia Hebraica in the course of our work, with the model codex of ben Asher himself [the Aleppo Codex], which is kept in the Synagogue of the Sephardim in Aleppo. That had not been possible since the owners of the codex would not hear of a photographic copy. Moreover, the personal representations made by Gotthold Weil and Hellmut Ritter in Aleppo have had no success.”

It is for this reason that the Biblia Hebraica editions have traditionally been based upon the Leningrad Codex, and this applies also to the new fifth edition, Biblia Hebraica Quinta, which began to appear in 2004.

Since the destruction of the Aleppo Codex after Israel’s declaration of independence, the Leningrad Codex has had another advantage. It alone is complete. Editions of the Hebrew Bible based on the Aleppo Codexb now have to look to other sources to complete the missing parts.