The Jewish Publication Society, I’m delighted to report, is distributing a magnificent edition of the Hebrew Bible known as כתר ירושלים “The Crown of Jerusalem” (HT: David E. S. Stein). The “crown” edition of the Hebrew Bible is based on Codex Aleppo, insofar as it has been preserved, and insofar as it can be reconstructed on the basis of methods developed by Mordechai Breuer.
The manuscript on which this edition of the Hebrew Bible is based is by all accounts the most important codex of the entire Hebrew Bible ever to have existed. Its traditional name, כתר ארם צובא ‘The Crown of Aram Zobah,’ is based on the location from which it was rescued. Aram Zobah, an Aramaean kingdom in the Bible, is the name that has been used in Hebrew to refer to Aleppo since the Middle Ages. In point of fact, the manuscript derives from 10th century Egypt. In the 11th century, it was purchased by Karaites - indeed, its punctator, Aharon Ben Asher, may have been a Karaite - and relocated to Jerusalem. It later made its way to Aleppo, and back again to Jerusalem in the wake of the 1948 riots in Aleppo in which the Aleppo synagogue was set on fire. Of an original total of about 380 pages, 295 are preserved. The missing pages include most of the Torah and part of the Ketuvim. In English-speaking lands, the manuscript is referred to as Codex Aleppo (A). I follow the convention here. The 2-volume print edition of the Hebrew Bible based on Codex A here considered is entitled:
Keter Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Crown: The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Jerusalem: N. Ben-Zvi, 2000. Companion Volume. Contributions by Menahem Ben-Sasson, Nahum Ben-Zvi, Mordechai Glatzer, Thomas J. Karger, Yosef Ofer. Edited by Mordechai Glatzer. Jerusalem: N. Ben-Zvi, 2002.
At an excellent price, you can purchase the set from JPS here. I’m ordering a copy myself.
For a review by Henry Hollander, go here. My own comments are of a different kind. They amount to a journey into the belly of the whale. They will be of interest to passionate true-blue Hebraists, no one else.
First of all, the edition follows the three column layout of Codex Aleppo. It thus has the honor of being the first printed Hebrew Bible to follow the halachic guidelines laid down in Talmud Bavli Menachot 30b, according to which there should be three to eight columns per sheet, with the width of the column wide enough to write למשפחותיכם three times. The result is easy on the eye and an excellent point of departure for those with an active visual memory.
Another fine feature of this edition, which it shares with the Koren Bible, is that Hebrew and Hebrew only is on the page. Chapter and verse numbers are provided according to the standard letter-for-number system – a plus in my estimation. To be sure, chapter and verse numbering is not found in Codex Aleppo or anywhere else in Masoretic tradition. I note in passing that the division into verses is based on Jewish tradition, whereas the division into chapters is a Christian innovation, on which the enumeration of chapters and verses depends.
Now, a series of caveats about the Crown of Jerusalem edition.
(1) It would have been better to have been a bit more flexible in terms of column width and spacing between words in a column. If this were done, it would be possible to eliminate “widowed” words in a few instances, and otherwise make the text flow a bit better to the tracking eye. For example, the section ending with Gen 1:13 could have been spared the widowed שלישי.
(2) As we have come to expect, printed editions of the Hebrew Bible do not reproduce a number of essential features of the Masoretic codices, and normalize features they do reproduce. Partial exceptions to this rule: the Biblia Hebraica editions out of Germany (BHK, BHS, and BHQ), and the fascicles of the Hebrew University Bible Project. Biblia Hebraica Quinta in particular goes out of its way to provide a careful edition of the masorah parva and masorah magna of its manuscript of reference (Codex Leningradensis [L]).
As is true of many Hebrew Bible editions, the Crown of Jerusalem edition gives us very few of the amazingly precise and interesting notes to be found in the great medieval Masoretic codices. The most the Crown of Jerusalem provides is an imperfect representation of Codex Aleppo’s qere-ketiv annotations and an incomplete representation of a no-longer-used and imperfectly understood Palestinian division into sedarim (“orders”) fleshed out from manuscripts beyond A but in the same tradition – on these matters, see below.
None of the print editions, including the Crown of Jerusalem edition, produce the Masoretic rafe signs, or the ornamental way in which a parasha (a traditional division of the Torah into sections in use today) is highlighted. Nor do any of the print editions provide a thoroughly careful reproduction of the neumes: the Crown of Jerusalem edition, unfortunately, is no exception (see below). Nor do any of the print editions reproduce the inconsistencies of manuscripts with respect to the use of the sof pasuq sign (to be sure, the normalization makes sense).
For a plea on the part of a great linguist that the entire inventory of Masoretic graphemes become the object of wide-ranging research – the plea has gone unheeded – see the essay by Stephen J. Lieberman noted in the bibliography. So far as I know, all of the relevant data has yet to be entered into a digital database.
(3) A painful case of inaccuracy occurs at Ruth 3:14. The Ketiv reads מרגלותו; the Qere, found in the margin in Codex Aleppo, specifies מרגלותיו. The Crown edition overlooks the note. It does not reproduce it. Very surprisingly, the edition also omits the neume over the word. Codex Aleppo has a postpositive pashta over מרגלותו, as one would expect.
The Crown edition seems instead to presume a mixed reading, as if the text read מרגלותו as both "quasi"-singular (indicated by the sign of the cholem, the dot above the final vav in the Crown edition, which does not occur in Codex Aleppo) and plural (indicated by the qamets under the tav).
The plot thickens if one looks at
the apparatus of BHQ ad loc. According to BHQ, in Codex L, there is, from right
to left, a ḥolem followed by a postpositive pashta over the concluding vav
of מרגלותו; in Codex A, there is supposedly nothing over the same vav.
Wrong on both counts! The apparent cholem + pashta is, based on what I’ve seen, a variation of the simple pashta. The variation occurs in Ruth 3:12 over ועתה in Codex Aleppo. As far as the presumed lack of a pashta in Codex A is concerned, the BHQ apparatus is simply wrong.
(4) The imported seder note at Ruth 2:12 in the Crown edition is worthy of note. A seder division is missing from Codex A in this locus, but is noted in Aron Dotan’s edition of Codex L published by Hendrickson – like this: /ס/. That’s because, as Dotan explains in his preface, the note to that effect occurs not in the margin, but in the list of sedarim at the conclusion of the Ketuvim in L. Dotan puts a ס between brackets at the onset of Ruth, which only makes sense, and another without brackets at 3:13 (it occurs in L's margin ad loc). An ס is given in BHS in brackets at 2:12, with a subscript ב to correlate with the initial bracketed ס at the beginning of Ruth. There is another seder division in L, at Ruth 3:12 (note the discrepancy with Dotan's edition). In BHQ, it is placed correctly at 3:13, and marked as division #2 by way of a subscript ב (the subscript is left out by Dotan, because in this case, as elsewhere on occasion, the subscript conflicts with evidence of sedarim divisions preserved in end-notes). At the same time, BHQ fails to integrate into its edition an indication of where division #1 was located. The Crown edition, on its part, fails to import a follow-up ס at 3:13. Aron Dotan’s edition alone get things right.
(5) The large נ in ליני in Ruth 3:13 in the Crown edition is not in Codex A or L and must be imported from elsewhere. Offhand, I don’t know from where.
The above proves a point
ad nauseam that nonetheless deserves repeating. Research with print
editions cannot replace work with manuscripts. One might think that one has an
accurate reproduction of Codex Aleppo in the Crown of Jerusalem edition. That
would be wrong, at least according to the exacting standards of an Aharon
By going into such detail I could be accused of producing
masoretic porn. But, as habitual readers know, I enjoy engaging the text at
this level of detail.
Codex Aleppo is available in a magnificent online edition. Use it at least long enough to get a taste of what the world was like when Bible scholars knew the text by heart down to the last jot and tittle. When someone like ben-Asher walked the earth, punctated a text of the Hebrew Bible inclusive of a hundred thousand details, and made a hundred miniscule mistakes along the way.
In richness of detail and accuracy of copy, Codex Aleppo is the most amazing linguistic artifact ever produced, in any language, in any time. No other manuscript of any text even comes close, except for a few other medieval Hebrew Bible codices.
When I was not yet 18 years old, I remember checking out Moshe Goshen-Gottstein’s facsimile edition of Codex Aleppo from the “Locked Case” of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library. It is absurd that they allow anyone to take the volume home with them. But so long as I had the volume in my hand, I knew myself to be the richest man in the world.
Stephen J. Lieberman, “Toward a Graphemics of the Tiberian Bible,” in Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew (Walter R. Bodine, ed.; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1992) 255-278