How to Find Your Way around the Aleppo Codex

With the Leningrad Codex, the Aleppo Codex is one of the most important witnesses to the text of the Hebrew Bible.1

Printed texts definitely have their virtues. But sometimes really nothing can substitute for looking at an original manuscript.

There are a couple very good ways to access the Aleppo Codex online, as well as an index to help you find your way around once you have it up.

Where to Find the Aleppo Codex Online

There seem to be three major versions of the Aleppo Codex that are openly available online. These include

  • An AJAX version photographed by Ardon Bar Hama. This version used to be available via a flash site at AleppoCodex.org. But that domain now simply redirects to Bar Hama’s non-flash site.
  • The PDF version that provides a scan of Moshe Goshen-Gottstein’s facsimile edition (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1976). This version is manuscript number 3 in the collection provided by Tanach Online.
  • An unprovenanced PDF version. This version is manuscript number 4 in the collection provided by Tanach Online.

Each version contains good quality images, but the unprovenanced PDF is by far the most incomplete.

The other two versions (Bar Hama’s and Goshen-Gottstein’s) are most complete. And using both together can sometimes be helpful in supplementing or sorting out issues in either one version or the other.2

Where to Find a Passage in the Aleppo Codex

Finding a passage in the Aleppo Codex was pretty straightforward for several years.

AleppoCodex.org had a nice menu you could use to jump straight to the portion of the manuscript you were wanting to consult.

That changed, however, when that Flash site got deprecated in favor of the current AJAX delivery method on Bar Hama’s website.

What you get now are simply the page images with no indexing information. So, using only that, you simply have to read around in the text to find out where you are and where you want to be.

There are, however, two other indexes to the Aleppo Codex that can make it easier for you to find what you need.

Option 1: Goshen-Gottstein’s Edition

In Goshen-Gottstein’s facsimile edition, the page footer includes both a page number and the range of text written on that page.

The book names, as well as the chapter and verse numbers are all written in Hebrew. But if you’re comfortable enough with Hebrew to read a Hebrew manuscript in the first place, this reference system should be pretty convenient.3

A downside is that the scan of this edition is comparatively dark. And there’s nothing on the page to tell you what leaf or side you’re on. So, to move from the scan of Goshen-Gottstein’s edition to consult Bar Hama’s images, you’ll need to

  • Do the math to calculate which leaf you’re on based on the number assigned to a given page and
  • Observe whether a given page is showing the front (and so “recto”) or back (and so “verso” of a given leaf).4

Option 2: A Combined Index

The other option is to use a combined index that gives you the information you need to look up a passage in the Aleppo Codex in either Bar Hama’s archive or the Goshen-Gottstein facsimile scan.

The base of this index came from the old AleppoCodex.org Flash site. I then corrected and supplemented this information by consulting the Goshen-Gottstein facsimile.

In this index, I’ve also added some additional notes about oddities in the three Aleppo Codex versions I’ve mentioned above—the two main ones from Bar Hama and Goshen-Gottstein, as well as the additional and unprovenanced PDF.

The index

  • lists the biblical passages on each leaf of the Aleppo Codex,
  • gives the leaf and side for those passages if you want to look up the corresponding image in Bar Hama’s archive,
  • gives the page number if you want to easily reference the scan of Goshen-Gottstein’s facsimile, and
  • adds some additional notes about where there are gaps in the online versions of the codex.

To get a copy of this index, just click the button below to give me your name and email address, and I’ll be happy to send it along directly. Enjoy working with the Aleppo Codex!


  1. Header image provided by Wikimedia Commons

  2. For a good list of some other Hebrew manuscripts that have been brought online to varying degrees, see Charles Grebe, “Digital Facsimiles of Biblical Hebrew Manuscripts,” Animated Hebrew, n.d. 

  3. If you need an easy reference for Hebrew numbers, see the back cover of William R. Scott and H. P. Ruger, A Simplified Guide to BHS: Critical Apparatus, Masora, Accents, Unusual Letters and Other Markings, 3rd ed. (North Richland Hills, TX: Bibal, 1995). 

  4. In keeping with usual practice, “recto” (“r”) refer the first side read on a leaf. “Verso” (“v”) refers to the second side read. For left-to-right languages, this means the recto is on the right-hand side of the codex and the verso is on the left-hand side. But for right-to-left languages, the same terminology is often employed in reverse with the recto falling on the left-hand side and the verso falling on the right-hand side. What is common to the two seemingly opposite definitions, however, is that the recto is always the first side read on the leaf and the verso is always the second, irrespective of the direction the text runs. 

Okhlah we-Okhlah: What It Is, Why It’s Important, and How to Get It

Okhlah we-Okhlah is a medieval compilation of information about the Hebrew Bible.1

As a credit to the scholars that stand behind it, Okhlah we-Okhlah remains relevant even today.

A Bit about Okhlah we-Okhlah

Okhlah we-Okhlah isn’t unique.2 It’s one of several medieval masoretic treatises. But Okhlah we-Okhlah does have the distinction of being the largest of these.

Okhlah we-Okhlah contains around 400 lists. These lists sometimes document common phenomena (e.g., qereketiv). Other times, they document words or phrases that are similar but differ in one or more respects.

The work exists in two modern editions:

  • S. Frensdorff, Das Buch Ochlaḥ W’ochlah (Hannover: Hahn, 1864; repr., New York: Ktav, 1972).
  • E. F. Diaz-Esteban, Sefer Oklah We-Oklah (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificos, 1975).

Why Okhlah we-Okhlah Is Important

If you’re specializing in masorah, you’ll likely have various entry points for interest in Okhlah we-Okhlah.

Otherwise, you’re most likely to come to Okhlah we-Okhlah from one of its citations in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).

Okhlah we-Okhlah isn’t cited often. But when it is, you’ll find it included in the upper apparatus along with the much more frequent references there to the masorah magna (Mm).

You can then use the indexing number provided in BHS to consult the material in Okhlah we-Okhlah to learn more about the text.

How to Access Okhlah we-Okhlah

Understanding BHS’s Abbreviations

In BHS, Okhlah we-Okhlah is cited under two different abbreviations.

The front matter doesn’t explicitly define these abbreviations. But they become more transparent when you note the publication dates of the Okhlah we-Okhlah editions mentioned earlier.

Frensdorff’s edition originally appeared in 1864. Diaz-Esteban’s appeared in 1975.

Fittingly then, BHS references Frensdorff’s edition with “Okhl.” The abbreviation “Okhl II” points to Diaz-Esteban’s edition.

Accessing the Modern Editions of Okhlah we-Okhlah

Frensdorff

If you come across a citation in BHS of “Okhl,” you can actually get the full text of Frensdorff’s edition online. Internet Archive has a good quality scan available.

But when using this scan, do note that page and section numbers descend in the Frensdorff text as they ascend in the PDF.

Presumably, this is due to a left-to-right process of scanning Frensdorff’s edition, which was printed right-to-left.

Diaz-Esteban

If you come across a citation of “Okhl II,” you have a three main options.

  1. If you’re lucky enough to be in proximity to a library that has a copy of Diaz-Esteban’s edition, you can go there to consult it.
  2. You can befriend librarians with around an $800 surplus in their acquisition budget and encourage them to pick up one of the few copies of Diaz-Esteban’s edition that are currently on the market.
  3. You can try your hand at getting a copy of Diaz-Esteban’s edition via interlibrary loan.

Conclusion

The work that went into Okhlah we-Okhlah means that it can still be worth consulting around a millennium after it appeared.

And although the references in BHS to “Okhl II” can be more difficult to follow up, those to “Okhl” are comparatively easier since the full text of Frensdorff’s edition is openly available online.


  1. Header image provided by Tanner Mardis

  2. In this section and below, I’m drawing primarily on Page Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford, The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 21, 56–57. 

Daily Gleanings: Hebrew Bible (14 October 2019)

New in the Review of Biblical Literature is Jacques van Ruiten’s review of Ziony Zevit’s edited volume, Subtle Citation, Allusion, and Translation in the Hebrew Bible (Equinox, 2017).

Despite some criticisms (6), van Ruiten’s assessment is overall quite positive. He praises the volume’s essays as “hav[ing] a strong methodological focus, while concrete examples are discussed at the same time” (5).

As particular methodological contributions, van Ruiten cites the concepts of “blind motifs” (developed in the essays by David Carr and David Wright) and “narrative tracking” (developed in the contributions of Marc Brettler and Jeffery Leonard; 5).

For the full review, see RBL‘s website.

Daily Gleanings: Assyrian (3 October 2019)

The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute has made their 21-volume Assyrian Dictionary openly available online. Per the Institute,

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary was conceived to provide more than lexical information alone, more than a one-to-one equivalent between Akkadian and English words. By presenting each word in a meaningful context, usually with a full and idiomatic translation, it recreates the cultural milieu and thus in many ways assumes the function of an encyclopedia. Its source material ranges in time from the third millennium B.C. to the first century A.D., and in geographic area from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Zagros Mountains in the east.

Completed in 2010, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary has become an invaluable source for the study of the civilizations of the ancient Near East, their political and cultural history, their achievements in the sciences of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, linguistics, and the timeless beauty of their poetry.

HT: Randall Bailey

Daily Gleanings: New Titles from SBL Press (9 July 2019)

New from SBL Press is Marvin Sweeney, ed., Theology of the Hebrew Bible, Volume 1: Methodological Studies. According to the publisher,

This volume presents a collection of studies on the methodology for conceiving the theological interpretation of the Hebrew Bible among Jews and Christians as well as the treatment of key issues, such as creation, the land of Israel, divine absence, and others.


Also new from SBL Press is Marianne Grohmann and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds., Second Wave Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible. According to the publisher, the

essays from a diverse group of scholars offer new approaches to biblical intertextuality that examine the relationship between the Hebrew Bible, art, literature, sociology, and postcolonialism. Eight essays in part 1 cover inner-biblical intertextuality, including studies of Genesis, Judges, and Qoheleth, among others. The eight postbiblical intertextuality essays in part 2 explore Bakhtinian and dialogical approaches, intertextuality in the Dead Sea Scrolls, canonical critisicm, reception history, and #BlackLivesMatter. These essays on various genres and portions of the Hebrew Bible showcase how, why, and what intertextuality has been and present possible potential directions for future research and application.

Daily Gleanings (22 May 2019)

Freedom discusses how to use their “block all except” whitelisting feature to block out distractions and interruptions.

For more discussion of Freedom, see these prior posts.


John Meade surveys ch. 4 of Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten’s How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? (YUP, 2018) and promises a follow-up post “attempting to engage the authors on one of their examples from chapter 4 with a view to showing how they think diachony and TC work together.”