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Here is what I think I know about these two codices (correct me if I'm wrong):

  • both the Aleppo and Leningrad Codices were complete codices of the Hebrew Old Testament

  • the Leningrad Codex was (is?) corrected by the older Aleppo Codex

  • around 1947 parts of the Aleppo Codex (a.k.a. "the Crown of Aleppo") were lost

  • since that time efforts have been made to reconstruct the Aleppo Codex (e.g. "Jerusalem Crown")

  • the Leningrad Codex is a primary resource for reconstructing the Aleppo Codex

Yet there are still separate publications for the Leningrad Codex and for the Aleppo Codex, which leads me to believe they are different in some way. But how different are they? Was the Leningrad Codex simply a copy of a copy (etc.) of the Aleppo Codex, or did these represent differing traditions of some sort?

Concrete examples would be ideal. Thanks.

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2 Answers 2

It would be a oversimplification to claim that Aleppo and Leningrad have any simple evolutionary relationship. Aleppo is older, Leningrad is younger. However, if you could arrange all the lost manuscripts in a tree, they might have a common ancestor. Anyone reading Hebrew Bible spends time puzzling over textual variations between Leningrad and other manuscripts and editions, not to mention LXX, V, Syriac, and a host of others that all have special symbols in the footnotes of BHS. It's not unreasonable to expect that Aleppo, being older, might be closer to some original. However, all of this only really gets interesting when you have a stretch of Hebrew that is more or less incomprehensible as written. In attempting to make sense of these situations, scholars engage a whole panoply of tools: the other editions, more-or-less complex more-or-less clever emendations, comparisons to cognate texts from other places altogether, you name it. There is rarely a hands-down, unarguable, right answer.

Halivni's books pose an interesting perspective on all of this; his view is that the text is know to have been corrupted over the generations of bad behavior that the prophets spent their time railing against.

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A traditional assumption of many translators is that in general the best available avenue back to the “original text” of the Old Testament is through the Masoretic Text (MT). This text is preserved in the great medieval codices such as Leningrad Codex (c. A.D. 1008) used as the basis of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Aleppo Codex (c. A.D. 952) the basis of the “Hebrew University Bible Project.”

It is true that Aleppo Codex was once considered to the most accurate ‘complete Masoretic Text’. However since the riots against Jews in Aleppo in December 1947, the community's ancient synagogue was burned and the Codex was damaged, so that ‘no more than 294 of the original 487 pages survived’. In particular, only the last few pages of the Torah are extant. This makes it pretty much impossible to recreate for the Torah! Therefore now the Leningrad Codex is probably considered the most accurate ‘complete’ copy of the Masoretic Text, and especially for the Torah. Of course there are older and sometimes considered more accurate fragments before these two versions, such as portions of the Dead See Scrolls but these are the oldest MT that were 'once complete'.

So although the lost pages of the Aleppo Codex can’t be restored, as they are lost, there are attempts at restoration of the Hebrew Bible that reproduces the text of the Aleppo Codex. This was begun in 1956 by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, as the Hebrew University Bible Project. So far, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel have been published. Of course where there is no Aleppo Codex, such as in the Torah section, the Leningrad Codex would probably be the first choice with possible corrections from other fragments.

Common sense would dictate that an older text is more accurate especially when it is saying something reasonable, and a later translation is saying something with obvious error. Another strong indication that the MT could be corrupt at a particular point is if the LXX has a very reasonable meaning which through reverse translation explains both the MT and LXX.

For a list of possible sources see here: Hebrew Bible Manuscripts.

Note: I am posting this answer, not as an expert that can answer follow up questions. I have many questions about this subject myself, which I have not got around to asking or researching. Among Christian translations I know there are some competing theories about which texts to use as the 'most reliable' but I really do not know what they are are how close they are to each other. Some, I believe, take consensus approaches and others have decided favor for certain texts.

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