Leningrad Codex

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Leningrad Codex (cover page E, folio 474a)
Leningrad Codex (cover page E, folio 474a)

The Leningrad Codex (or Codex Leningradensis) is one of the oldest manuscripts of the complete Hebrew Bible produced according to the Tiberian mesorah; it is dated 1008 according to its colophon. The Aleppo Codex, against which the Leningrad Codex was corrected, was the first such manuscript and is several decades older, but parts of it have been missing since 1947, making the Leningrad Codex the oldest complete codex of the Tiberian mesorah that has survived intact to this day.

In modern times, the Leningrad Codex is most important as the Hebrew text reproduced in Biblia Hebraica (1937) and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977). It also serves scholars as a primary source for the recovery of details in the missing parts of the Aleppo Codex.



The biblical text as found in the codex contains the Hebrew letter-text along with Tiberian vowels and cantillation signs. In addition are masoretic notes in the margins. There are also various technical supplements dealing with textual and linguistic details, many of which are painted in geometrical forms. The codex is written on parchment and bound in leather.

The Leningrad Codex, in extraordinarily pristine condition after a millennium, also provides an example of medieval Jewish art. Sixteen of the pages contain decorative geometric patterns that illuminate passages from the text. The Signature Page shows a star with the names of the scribes on the edges and a blessing written in the middle.

The order of the books in the Leningrad Codex follows the Tiberian textual tradition, which also matches the later tradition of Sephardic biblical manuscripts. This order for the books differs markedly from that of most printed Hebrew bibles for the books of Ketuvim. In the Leningrad Codex, the order of Ketuvim is: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah. The full order of the books is given below.


Leningrad Codex text sample
Leningrad Codex text sample

According to its colophon, the codex was copied in Cairo [1] from manuscripts written by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. It has been claimed to be a product of the Ben-Asher scriptorium itself; however, there is no evidence that ben Asher ever saw it. Unusually for a masoretic codex, the same man (Samuel ben Jacob) wrote the consonants, the vowels and the Masoretic notes. It is believed to be the manuscript most faithful to ben Asher's tradition apart from the Aleppo Codex (edited by ben Asher himself). There are numerous alterations and erasures, and it was suggested by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein that an existing text not following ben Asher's rules was heavily amended so as to make it conform to these rules.

The codex is now preserved in the National Library of Russia, accessioned as "Firkovich B 19 A". Its former owner, the Karaite collector Abraham Firkovich, left no word in his writings where he had acquired the codex, which was taken to Odessa in 1838 and later transferred to the Imperial Library in St Petersburg.


The Leningrad Codex (a codex as opposed to a scroll) is so named because it has been housed at the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg since 1863. After the Russian Revolution scholars renamed it the "Leningrad Codex." At the Library's request "Leningrad" was retained in its name even after the city's original name was restored after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Originally, the codex was known as Codex Petersburgensis or Petropolensis, or the St. Petersburg Codex.

Modern editions

Biblia Hebraica

In 1935, the Leningrad codex was lent to the Old Testament Seminar of the University of Leipzig for two years while Paul E. Kahle supervised its transcription for the Hebrew text of the third edition of Biblia Hebraica (BHK), published in Stuttgart, 1937. The codex was also used for Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) in 1977, and will be used for Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ).

As an original work by Tiberian masoretes, the Leningrad Codex was earlier by several centuries than other Hebrew manuscripts which had been used for all previous editions of printed Hebrew bibles until Biblia Hebraica.

The Westminster Leningrad Codex is an online digital version of the Leningrad Codex maintained by the J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research at the Westminster Theological Seminary. This is a verified electronic version of BHS, with further proofreading and corrections. The online version includes transcription notes and tools for analyzing syntax.

Jewish editions

The Leningrad Codex also served as the basis for two important Jewish editions of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh):

For minute masoretic details, however, Israeli and Jewish scholars have shown a marked preference for modern Hebrew editions based upon the Aleppo Codex. These editions use the Leningrad Codex as the most important source (but not the only one) for the reconstruction of parts of the Aleppo Codex that have been missing since 1947.


The Old Testament Masoretic Text in the new Bibles is not the Masoretic of the King James Version. Dr. D. A. Waite, said: "Here's some background on it. The Daniel Bomberg edition, 1516-1517, was called the First Rabbinic Bible. Then in 1524-25, Bomberg published a second edition edited by Abraham Ben Chayyim (or Ben Hayyim) iben Adonijah. This is called the Ben Chayyim edition of the Hebrew text. Daniel Bomberg's edition, on which the King James Bible is based was the Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text. This was called the Second Great Rabbinic Bible. This became the standard Masoretic text for the next 400 years. This is the text that underlies the King James Bible. For four hundred years, that was the Old Testament Hebrew text. Nobody translated the Old Testament except by using this text. [This is from Biblical Criticism Historical, Literal, Textual by Harrison, Walkie and Guthrie, 1978, pages 47-82.] (Defending The King James Bible, Rev. D. A. Waite, page 27.)

The new Masoretic is then described according to Dr. Waite as the following: "The edition we used when I was a student of Dr. Merrill F. Unger at Dallas Theological Seminary (1948-53), was the 1937 edition of the Biblia Hebraica by Kittel. All of a sudden in 1937, Kittel changed his Hebrew edition and followed what they called the Ben Asher Masoretic Text instead of the Ben Chayyim. They followed in that text, the Leningrad Manuscript, (B19a, or "L.") The date on it was A.D. 1008. This was not the traditional Masoretic Text that was used for 400 years and was the basis of the King James Bible. They changed it and used this Leningrad Manuscript. So even the main text used by the NKJV, NASV, and NIV in the Hebrew is different from that used for the King James Bible. In addition to the various changes in the Hebrew text at the top of the page, the footnotes in Kittel's BIBLIA HEBRAIC suggest from 20,000 to 30,000 changes throughout the whole Old Testament. (Defending The King James Bible, Rev. D. A. Waite, page 27.)

Sequence of the books

As explained in the Contents section above, this is different to most modern Hebrew bibles:

The Torah:

1. Genesis [בראשית / Breishit]
2. Exodus [שמות / Shmot]
3. Leviticus [ויקרא / Vayikra]
4. Numbers [במדבר / Bamidbar]
5. Deuteronomy [דברים / D'varim]

The Nevi'im:

6. Joshua [יהושע / Y'hoshua]
7. Judges [שופטים / Shophtim]
8. Samuel (I & II) [שמואל / Sh'muel]
9. Kings (I & II) [מלכים / M'lakhim]
10. Isaiah [ישעיה / Y'shayahu]
11. Jeremiah [ירמיה / Yir'mi'yahu]
12. Ezekiel [יחזקאל / Y'khezqel]
13. The Twelve Prophets [תרי עשר]
a. Hosea [הושע / Hoshea]
b. Joel [יואל / Yo'el]
c. Amos [עמוס / Amos]
d. Obadiah [עובדיה / Ovadyah]
e. Jonah [יונה / Yonah]
f. Micah [מיכה / Mikhah]
g. Nahum [נחום / Nakhum]
h. Habakkuk [חבקוק /Havakuk]
i. Zephaniah [צפניה / Ts'phanyah]
j. Haggai [חגי / Khagai]
k. Zechariah [זכריה / Z'kharyah]
l. Malachi [מלאכי / Mal'akhi]

The Ketuvim

14. Chronicles (I & II) [דברי הימים / Divrei Hayamim]
The "Sifrei Emet," "Books of Truth":
15. Psalms [תהלים / Tehilim]
16. Job [איוב / Iyov]
17. Proverbs [משלי / Mishlei]

The "Five Megilot" or "Five Scrolls":
18. Ruth [רות / Rut]
19. Song of Songs [שיר השירים / Shir Hashirim]
20. Ecclesiastes [קהלת / Kohelet]
21. Lamentations [איכה / Eikhah]
22. Esther [אסתר / Esther]

The rest of the "Writings":
23. Daniel [דניאל / Dani'el]
24. Ezra-Nehemiah [עזרא ונחמיה / Ezra v'Nekhemia]

See also

External links

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