- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st Edition, 1st Pri edition (May 15, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616200405
- ISBN-13: 978-1616200404
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 184 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible Hardcover – May 15, 2012
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*Starred Review* Written in the tenth century, the Aleppo Codex is the most accurate copy of the Hebrew Bible. Named for the Syrian city in which it was kept, the codex is also known as the Crown of Aleppo and was said to protect those who cared for it and curse those who defiled it. Friedman, a Jerusalem journalist, came across part of the Crown in a museum and decided he wanted to write about it—in doing so, he opened a treasure box of history, mystery, conspiracy, and convolutions that would do any biblical thriller proud. There are several intriguing strands in play here. First, there is the history of a vibrant Syrian community, under siege when Israel became a state. Add a cast of academics, spys, merchants, refugees, and bureaucrats, high and low, whose roles in getting the Crown out of Syria and into Israel loop and reloop throughout the narrative. Then there is the ever-evolving topic of the underground market for antiquities, fascinating in itself, but Friedman shows us, in addition, just how much is lost when the very rich purchase rarities and remove them from the public eye. The time line sometimes gets confusing, and so do the players (though an introductory “cast list” helps), but Friedman has done a remarkable job—finding sources and digging through archives—of getting the Crown’s fascinating story out of the shadows and into the light. In the process, he’s become the latest in the long line of the Crown’s protectors. --Ilene Cooper
Booklist’s Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books
“A superb work of investigative journalism that reads like a detective thriller.”―The Wall Street Journal
“Friedman’s clear writing and dogged pursuit of some otherwise overlooked assumptions read more like a detective novel than history . . . Friedman has written an important account in accessible, gripping prose.”―The Christian Science Monitor
“A thrilling, step-by-step quest to discover what really happened to Judaism’s most important book . . . Many of [The Aleppo Codex’s] most astute and well-earned revelations are also its biggest surprises.” ―The Boston Globe
“The Aleppo Codex builds to a moral crescendo more impressive than the climactic fight scene in any thriller.”―Salon
“Friedman creates a riveting story, one that the reader will have a hard time putting down.”―The Advocate
“Thrilling . . . a real-life National Treasure that reads like fantastical fiction.”―CultureMob
“[Friedman] opened a treasure box of history, mystery, conspiracy, and convolutions that would do any biblical thriller proud . . . Friedman has done a remarkable job―finding sources and digging through archives―of getting the Crown’s fascinating story out of the shadows and into the light. In the process, he’s become the latest in the long line of the Crown’s protectors.”―Booklist, starred review
“Sharply etched . . . A carefully paced narrative of purloined Judaica.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Friedman’s account of how the Codex was taken from Syria in the 1940s, later to resurface in Jerusalem, although no longer
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The mystery of the 1000 yr old parchment holy book (Hebrew Bible) is tragic and sad. A few of the missing pages were found, but many were believed stolen, whole books in fact. Secrecy, lies and descriptions are part of its history.
Thought to have been damaged by a fire set by rioters in 1947, it was actually a fungus that discolored the pages. Its remaining parts, left deteriorating in a cabinet, were eventually restored. The codex should have been return to the Aleppo Community to whom it belonged. Perhaps then the whole codex would be in one place.
I take away from this book an understanding of the important historical events leading to the birth of the New Israel; I am ashamed to say that I was not as learned as I should have been about this important segment of world history; what led from pre-WWII to the birth of the Israels new home? The author brings deep understanding alive!
Researching, discovering and telling the story of the shadowy travels of the Aleppo Codex cloaked in secrecy by players of many levels takes on the mystery and excitement of a modern spy novel.
The author's style of carefully knitting the story of the mysterious codex travels with the world of politics and history (to amplify the story) makes it a completely satisfying tapestry.
Read this book, become smarter, and enjoy the process!
1. The Aleppo Codex, including its ancient and modern history, is worth reading about. You will learn more about it here than you will in Wikipedia, &c.
2. The discussion of the Israeli government's treatment of the sacred texts of North African and Arabian Jewish communities that were resettled in Israel is is a sidelight, but interesting. It's also illustrative of the attitude of the the secular Jews who founded modern Israel. They placed the culture of these ancient communities in museums, while pushing their people into the modern socialist framework.
There simply isn't enough here for a book length piece. Too much conjecture, both on the part of the author and many of the interviewees. Overall, I'm glad the author took the time to do the leg work.
I bought the Kindle version.
The Aleppo Codex is important because it is one of the first (if not the first) manuscripts to be adorned with notes along its edges describing how to pronounce the Hebrew words of the Scriptures, where certain difficult passages were (and how to handle them), and various other pieces of information. These notes are critical to understanding the period between Hebrew written with no vowels or spaces, and Hebrew with vowel marks -- how did the scholars who inserted these marks know precisely where to insert them? Were there mistakes made along the way, or were marks modified to make a theological point, as many modern Christian scholars believe? The Aleppp Codex, where it complete, would provide a unique view into these and other questions.
But the Crown of Aleppo is not, in fact, complete.
Friedman interweaves the tale of the creation of the Codex with the modern story of its finding, uncovering the truth behind many of its myths and legends along the way. The most troubling tales told here, however, are ones of greed -- a point the author makes repeatedly by referring to commandments against stealing and lust contained within the missing pieces themselves.
For those who are interested in the importance of ancient manuscripts, their finding, perseveration, and the risks attendant in the process, this is a fascinating narrative. For those who are, the story worthy of any modern mystery writer embedded in the events of real history are worth the price of the book.