ISRAEL - Oldest Copy of the Bible Returns

Arno Froese

The Codex Sassoon, the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible dating back over 1,000 years, arrived home in Israel after a world tour following its auction at Sotheby’s in May.

A codex, in the context of ancient texts, is a book or manuscript that is copied and bound with text appearing on both sides of the page the way a modern book is printed. 

Before codices became the norm in publication, the Hebrew Bible was copied onto scrolls. The oldest of these, the Dead Sea Scrolls, are located in Jerusalem. 

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls and texts like them do not divide the Bible into chapters and contain no punctuation or indication of how the words should be read aloud. The Masoretic notes, the marks found in modern copies of the Bible indicating how to pronounce and chant the text, did not begin appearing in copies of the Bible until the 10th century CE. The Codex Sassoon is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible that comes complete with the Masoretic notes. 

Ambassador Alfred Moses, chair of ANU’s honorary board and the donor of Codex Sassoon to the museum stated upon its return to the State of Israel:

“The Hebrew Bible is the most influential book in history and constitutes the bedrock of Western civilization. I rejoice in knowing that it belongs to the Jewish People. It was my mission, realizing the historic significance of Codex Sassoon, to see that it resides in a place with global access to all people. In my heart and mind that place was the land of Israel, the cradle of Judaism, where the Hebrew Bible originated.”, 6 October 2023

Arno's Commentary explains the Hebrew Bible like this: “The Hebrew canon contains 24 books, one for each of the scrolls on which these works were written in ancient times. The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or ‘Teaching,’ also called the Pentateuch or the ‘Five Books of Moses’; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings.” In our Bibles, more books are counted because of the dividing of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into “1st” and “2nd,” and Ezra/Nehemiah named as two separate books. 

Regardless of these and other various details, the Bible has been preserved because God so promised it: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” (Psalm 12:6-7). This “most influential book in history” is the only book that describes the beginning to our day and the future. We do well in this modern, highly sophisticated time in which we live, to pay closer attention to the written Word of God.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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