The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible
By Matti Friedman
Algonquin Books, 2012. 298 pages. Nonfiction.
The Aleppo Codex is a manuscript copy of the Old Testament created during the 10th century. It is called the Aleppo Codex because it was housed in Aleppo for over five centuries. In 1947 the codex was thought to have been destroyed in a fire when Arabs staged anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo. Then the codex turned out not to have been destroyed only damaged—pieces scattered and portions burned. The question of what damage occurred and when is one of the subjects of this book. Friedman is an investigative journalist who has dug thoroughly into the story of codex—especially the part of the story from 1947 until the present day—and it is a fascinating story.
Chapters on the recent history of the codex alternate with chapters telling the earlier story of the manuscript’s creation and travels up to 1947. Created in Tiberias, the codex traveled to Jerusalem, was stolen during the first crusade and sold in Egypt where it remained for a couple hundred years before being brought to Aleppo by a descendant of Moses Maimonides.
A mix of history, mystery, and thriller, Friedman has put together a great read. As I finished this book, I only wanted a little more detail on how the codex came to Egypt and an index.