List of Hebrew Bible manuscripts

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Leningrad Codex text sample, portions of Exodus 15:21-16:3

A Hebrew Bible manuscript is a handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) made on papyrus, parchment, or paper, and written in the Hebrew language. (Some of the Biblical text and notations may be in Aramaic.) The oldest manuscripts were written in a form of scroll, the medieval manuscripts usually were written in a form of codex. The late manuscripts written after the 9th century use the Masoretic Text. The important manuscripts are associated with Aaron ben Asher (especially Codex Leningradensis).[1]

The earliest sources (whether oral or written) of the Hebrew Bible disappeared over time, because of the fragility of media, wars, (especially the destruction of the First and Second Temples), and other intentional destructions.[2] As a result, the lapse of time between the original manuscripts and their surviving copies is much longer than in the case of the New Testament manuscripts.

The first list of the Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew, made by Benjamin Kennicott (1718–1783) and published by Oxford in 2 volumes in 1776 and 1780, listed 615 manuscripts from libraries in England and on the Continent.[3] Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822–1894) published a list of 731 manuscripts.[4] The main manuscript discoveries in modern times are those of the Cairo Geniza (c. 1890) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947). In the old synagogue in Cairo were discovered 260,000 Hebrew manuscripts, 10,000 of which are biblical manuscripts.[5][6] There are more than 200 biblical manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of them were written in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. They were written before the year 70 CE. 14 scroll manuscripts were discovered in Masada in 1963–1965.[7]

The largest organized collection of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts in the world is housed in the Russian National Library ("Second Firkovitch Collection") in Saint Petersburg.[4]

Codex Leningradensis is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew. Manuscripts earlier than the 13th century are very rare. The majority of the manuscripts have survived in a fragmentary condition.

The oldest complete and still kosher Torah scroll still in use has been carbon-dated to around 1250 and is owned by the Jewish community of the northern Italian town of Biella.[8]

Masorah manuscripts

Proto-Masoretic from Second Temple period

Proto-Masoretic from "Silent Period" (2nd-10th century)

  • Codex Hilleli, a lost manuscript of circa 600 CE, destroyed in 1197 in Spain, only a few sentences are preserved by Rabbinic literature[9]
  • Codex Muggeh (or Muga; ="corrected"), lost, cited as a source in Masoretic notations.

Masoretic (7th–10th century)

Later (11th-17th century)

Modern discoveries

  • Nash Papyrus, dated to the 2nd BCE – 1st CE
  • Cairo Geniza fragments contains portions of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic, discovered in Cairo synagogue, which date from about 4th century CE

Dead Sea Scrolls

Dated Between 250 BCE and 70 CE.[21]

Qumran Cave 1

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 1

Qumran Cave 2

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 2

Qumran Cave 3

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 3

Qumran Cave 4

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 4

Qumran Cave 5

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 5

Qumran Cave 6

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 6

Qumran Cave 7

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 7

Qumran Cave 8

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 8

Qumran Cave 11

List of manuscripts from Qumran Cave 11

See also


  1. H. Kelley, Daniel Stephen Mynatt, Timothy G. Crawford, The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: introduction and annotated glossary, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998, p. 18
  2. Randall Price, Searching for the Original Bible, Harvest House Publishers, 2007, p. 45-50
  3. Thomas Hartwell Horne, An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (1836), vol. 2, p. 7. Page 6 states: "To Dr. Kennicott's Hebrew Bible, M. De Rossi published an important supplement at Parma (1784–1787), in four volumes..."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Old Testament manuscripts
  5. Fragmentos do Gueniza do Cairo[permanent dead link]
  6. David Sinclair, An Overview of the Bible (2006)
  7. Würthwein Ernst (1988). Der Text des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, pp. 38–39; translated into English and published in 1995 as Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (2nd rev. ed, 1995, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm.B. Eerdmans Publg. Co.)(this is the source for most of the dates of the mss listed).
  8. Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Oldest Torah scroll still in use found in Italy, 3 March 2016, accessed 2 August 2019
  9. Würthwein, Ernst (1995). The text of the Old Testament: an introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8028-0788-5.
  10. [1]
  11. Engel, Edna; Mishor, Mordechay (2015). "An Ancient Scroll of the Book of Exodus: The Reunion of Two Separate Fragments" (PDF). Israel Museum Studies in Archaeology. 7: 24–61.
  12. British Library Asian and African studies blog 10 April 2014
  13. Manuscript written by two different scribes, the older square script believed to be from the 10th century, whereas the newer Yemenite square script was written in the 16th century. See the British Library, Or. 4445.
  14. "Digitised Manuscripts".
  15. Eleazar Birnbaum, The Michigan Codex: An important Hebrew Bible manuscript, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 17 pages 373-415 (Oct. 1967).
  16. Damascus Pentateuch
  17. Vat. ebr. 448
  18. "Hebrew Bible". MET. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  19. The Farhi Bible
  20. The Lisbon Bible - 1483
  21. Timothy Lim, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005, Dating the Scrolls, [2]

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Further reading

External links