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. 

How to Avoid Missing Manuscript Images

INTF’s Liste search is a wonderful tool.1. But sometimes a transcription isn’t available, the default image is harder to read, or both.

In those cases, you might want to consult a different source for the images.

1. “External Images by …”

If you’ve just done a Liste search, you can click through the “External Images by …” link shown atop the left-hand fly out pane below.

2. Other Image Repositories

But there might be still other sets of images you can consult.

To find these, go back to the general Liste, and use the document ID to search for the particular manuscript you’re wanting to see.

You’ll then get a search result page that looks like this.

Scroll down until you see in the right-hand pane a section titled “External image Repo Name.”

This field returns any repositories logged in INTF’s database that have images of the manuscript you’ve searched for.

For 629, there’s just one.

In this case, you’ll get the same thing by clicking through this link as you would using the “External Images by …” link when you have 629 open in the image viewer.

But sometimes, you’ll see more than one external repository listed, as you will if you look up 1881.

If you open 1881, atop the image viewer, you’ll see only a link to CSNTM for external images. You won’t also see the Library of Congress link.

But from the initial Liste search results page, you can click through any external image repository link to view the manuscript images in that repository.

When you do so, you’ll want to know the page number and side (recto or verso) you’re looking for. You’ll need that information to find the corresponding place in the manuscript in the external site.

From there, it’s just a matter of paging through the images on the external site to find the proper page number and side.

Conclusion

Even given INTF’s tools, it still might take you some time to sift through the different image repositories to find exactly what you’re looking for.

But it’s comparatively so easy that I’m reminded of how much more applicable to us are Martin Luther’s comments to the German city councilmen in his day:

What great toil and effort it cost the[ fathers] to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf!2


  1. Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

  2. Quoted in Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 1st ed., §11.9. 

How to Quickly See Manuscript Information in INTF’s Database

If you try to find digitized Greek New Testament manuscripts through Google, you’ll likely find that search rather painful.1

But once you’re familiar with INTF’s document ID system, it’s quite simple to use this ID to search their database.

From there, you can find detailed information about a particular manuscript, often including page images.

1. Find a Manuscript in the Database

When you load INTF’s Liste page, you’ll initially see the “Full Search” box as shown below.

Simply enter the proper document ID, then press enter or click the search button at the bottom of the pane (you might need to scroll down to see the button).

So, for instance, let’s say you want to consult manuscript 629. Since this is a minuscule, you’d search for “30629.”

You’ll then get just that one manuscript returned in the results in the left pane and a list of manuscript details in the right.

2. Find the Page You Need in a Given Manuscript

At this point, however, you still need to know where to look in this manuscript to find the text you want to review.

Sometimes, you might simply need to do this by paging through the manuscript’s images.

But INTF’s database often has at least some indexing available. To get to this, you’ll click the document ID number hyperlink (e.g., the “30629” shown in purple above).

This will take you to the manuscript work space. In the fly-over pane on the left-hand side, you can scroll up and down to review the middle “Content” column to find the particular page on which a given passage occurs.

So for instance, if you’re looking at something in 629 from Acts 1:1–12, you can find this on page 1. The recto has verses 1–6 (“1r”). The verso has verses 6–12 (“1v”).

You can click on any of these rows. Where it’s available, a transcription will then appear in the right-hand pane.

If you’re logged into INTF’s website, you’ll see in the image viewer INTF’s internal image for that page.

If INTF hasn’t granted you a user account, you may find the page image is restricted due to copyright (as shown above). In this case, you can follow the instructions in the image viewer area to request a user account.

(I’ve left the left-hand fly out menu open in the screenshot above to partly obscure the contact email address you’d use to request an account. You can see the full address by going to the manuscript work space for yourself and closing the left-hand fly out menu.)

Conclusion

INTF’s Liste search allows many more kinds of queries than pulling up any one manuscript.

But with the document ID handy, the Liste search makes it quite easy to see additional information about that manuscript—and possibly the manuscript itself.


  1. Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

What You Need to Know to Use INTF’s Document ID System

Once you understand INTF’s document ID system, you can easily call up any Greek New Testament manuscript in the database.

You can pull up a particular manuscript by either “ID” or “Name.” But for Greek witnesses, each document ID is a 5-digit code.

So once you’re familiar with the database’s conventions for this code, the “ID” search will probably be easiest.

Papyri

For papyri, the 5-digit code begins with a “1.” It ends with the number of the papyrus. And it has either one or two zeros between these two, depending on how many a final 5-digit sequence requires.

Thus, for example, “10046” is the manuscript number for 𝔓46, and “10100” is the number for 𝔓100.

Majuscules

For majuscules, the 5-digit sequence starts with a “2.” It ends with the number of the majuscule. And it may have up to two zeroes between these two to fill out the sequence.

Some majuscules are cited by number. When this is the case, a majuscule number always has a leading zero.

Others are cited alphabetically (e.g., by a Hebrew, Greek, or Roman letter). If this is the case, you’ll need to find the numeric abbreviation for that majuscule.

If you’re using the Nestle-Aland’s 28th edition, you’ll find majuscule numbers in the “Codices Graeci” appendix starting on page 799.

Numeric majuscule abbreviations are also available in the second edition of Aland and Aland’s Text of the New Testament starting on page 107.

Thus, for instance, “20001” is the manuscript number for Sinaiticus where the “2” designates the manuscript as a majuscule, “01” is the manuscript designation in numerical system. And the remaining two zeroes fill out the five-digit sequence.

Minuscules

For minuscules, the 5-digit sequence starts with a “3,” ends with the number of the miniscule, and may have up to 3 zeroes between these two to fill out the sequence.

Your apparatus should already cite minuscules by number.

To look up 1881, then you’d simply search for “31881.” Or to search for 20, you’d search for “30020,” using a couple zeros ahead of the minuscule number to fill out the 5-digit sequence.

Lectionaries

For lectionaries, the 5-digit sequence starts with a “4” but otherwise works like the sequencing for non-lectionary minuscules.

Conclusion

There’s more to INTF’s document ID system for other types of witnesses (e.g., Coptic, Latin, and Syriac).

But with just these basics, you’re well on your way to working with INTF document IDs for Greek witnesses to the New Testament.

Try it for yourself. Pick a Greek manuscript, and compose the INTF document ID for it as described above. Then post what you got in the comment box below.

Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

What Do You Do When Your Critical Apparatus Is Confusing?

You’re working through a passage in a critical edition of the Greek New Testament.1

You see some variations indicated in the apparatus. Only, for one of them, you’re confused about what the apparatus is saying about the reading of a particular manuscript.

You check the front matter for your Greek New Testament. You want to know if you’re missing or misinterpreting something in the apparatus.

As far as you can tell, you aren’t. You just aren’t exactly sure how to put together all the signs you see in the apparatus.

The commentaries and other resources you have on hand aren’t much help either.

What do you do next? The simplest solution might be to have a look at the manuscript you’re wanting to know more about.

Time to Check the Manuscript

If you try to read a Greek New Testament manuscript for yourself, you’d be right to come away with renewed appreciation for your printed, critical text.

Almost always, the critical apparatus makes it quite straightforward to see some of the different readings in different witnesses.

For this, New Testament students and scholars who don’t specialize in textual criticism are inexpressibly indebted to those who do. Critical editions of the Greek New Testament embody an inexpressible store of learned effort that’s been poured into their development.

Even so, you might sometimes not be exactly sure what the apparatus in that critical edition is telling you. And when that happens, it might be easiest to consult the cited manuscript.

Not so long ago, this would have required quite a bit of expense and travel. But now, it’s comparatively easy thanks to the excellent database provided by the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF).

How to Check the Manuscript

If you’re coming from a critical edition in search of a manuscript scan, try starting with INTF’s online Liste. You can try starting elsewhere, but it’s probably easiest to begin here.

From the online Liste, there are various ways to find manuscript images. But one of the simplest to begin with involves 3 steps:

  1. Understanding INTF’s numerical document ID system,
  2. Finding the proper manuscript and page in INTF’s database, and
  3. Finding additional images for that page in that manuscript.

For more information on each of these steps, just click through the links above.

Manuscripts and Apparatuses

For now, if it seems a bit daunting to consult a manuscript scan, your intuition isn’t wholly misplaced.

By comparison with modern, printed, critical texts, manuscripts of the Greek New Testament are often “the wild west.”

But those manuscripts are about as “primary” as primary literature gets. And by comparison, even a critical apparatus is secondary commentary.

You might not be specializing in textual criticism. And in that case, you need to be comparatively more tentative about judgments you make based on the manuscript images you consult.

But let’s grant this. Let’s also grant that looking at scans of handwritten manuscripts can present some challenges and require some work.

Even so, you might well find these manuscripts can sometimes be more transparent than their apparatus commentaries.

Conclusion

In the end, the situation is not at all unlike the difference C. S. Lewis describes between old and new books, which I’ve paraphrased below as it applies to this topic:

There is a strange idea abroad among students that New Testament manuscripts should be read only by professional text critics and that the amateur should content himself with the modern critical editions. Thus I have found as a tutor that if the average student wants to find out something about the text of the New Testament, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to look up a given manuscript and read it. He would rather read some list of witnesses in a modern critical edition ten times as long. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great manuscripts face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand it. But if he only knew, a given manuscript, just because of its character as a given manuscript is sometimes much more intelligible than its modern commentary. The simplest student of the Greek New Testament will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what the manuscript says. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavors as a teacher to persuade students that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.2


  1. Header image provided by Kelly Sikkema

  2. Adapted from “On the Reading of Old Books,” in God in the Dock, 200. 

Daily Gleanings: Textual Criticism (2 January 2020)

Now available from Brill is Donald Parry’s treatment of the Dead Sea Isaiah scrolls and their variants.

According to the publisher,

Donald W. Parry systematically presents, on a verse-by-verse basis, the variants of the Hebrew witnesses of Isaiah (the Masoretic Text and the twenty-one Isaiah Dead Sea Scrolls) and briefly discusses why each variant exists…. Variant characterizations include four categories: (a) accidental errors, e.g., dittography, haplography, metathesis, graphic similarity; (b) intentional changes by scribes and copyists; (c) synonymous readings; (d) scribes’ stylistic approaches and conventions.

HT: Jim Davila