Librarian's Lobby 
The Leningrad Codex -- part 2
by
Daniel D. Stuhlman

May 1998
In my last column I described the project that prepared The Leningrad Codex (hereafter L) for publication. This month I would like to describe some of the features that add to our understanding of the transmission of the Biblical text.

I. Order of the Biblical Books

A librarian is interested in keeping books in a set order to enable readers to find the books they need. Ordering the Biblical books is one of the earliest classification systems. The order of the books of the Torah and Early Prophets is in chronological order. The tradition for the rest of the Later Prophets and the Writings is not the same in all the sources. The earliest discussion on the order of the books is in Bava Batra 14b. With the exception of Iyov the order in the Talmud is meant to be chronological. The order from the Talmud was used in some German and French manuscripts. The Spanish and oriental manuscripts contain the order that we use in our printed Bibles.
 
 

Talmud BB 14b 
Modern Hebrew Bibles
Leningrad Codex
Yermiyahu 
Yeshayahu 
Yeshayahu
Yechezkel 
Yermiyahu 
Yermiyahu 
Yeshayahu 
Yechezkel 
Yechezkel 
Minor prophets 
Minor prophets 
Minor prophets 
Ruth
Tehilim 
Divre Ha-Yamim
Tehilim 
Mishlei 
Tehilim 
Job
Job
Job
Mishlei
Shir ha-Shirim
Mishlei
Kohelet
Ruth
Ruth
Shir ha-Shirim
Aicha
Shir ha-Shirim
Kinot
Kohelet
Kohelet
Daniel
Esther 
Aicha 
Divre Ha-Yamim
Nehemiah 
Ezra 
 
Divre Ha-Yamim 
Nehemiah 
 
 
 
 
 
 

II. Large and Small Letters

The custom of writing small and large letters never became legally fixed, although some examples are well known. The Massorah itself gives more than one list. Megillah 16b mentions some of the letters written in small print.

Meanings or interpretations are associated with these letters. 2 The Leningrad Codex does not have large or small letters in all of the places mentioned in the Massoretic lists. In most of the cases in the L a careful examination with a magnifying glass was required to determine if the letters were enlarged. Without the Massoretic lists of words containing large or small letters, one may miss finding them, in a casual reading of a page in L.

For example: the word ???? (Num. 14:14). According to one Massoretic list, the initial yod is enlarged; according to a second list the gimmel is enlarged. The gimmel in L is enlarged. In our Hebrew printed text and Sifrei Torah, the yod is enlarged. The Aleph of beginning word of Va-yikra is not small in L. In Genesis 27:46, ???? has a small ? in the Massorah list, our printed Hebrew text, and the Torah scroll; but L has a normal letter.
 

III. The Reading Tradition

The written text is generally conceived as stable since the second century. 3 Verse divisions show almost no variations in any of the vocalized manuscripts. Vowel letters (Aleph, Vav, and Yod) differ among the manuscripts. These variations occassionally effect the meaning of the words or their translations. The vocalization was not stabilized until much later than the orthography. For example, the reading tradition of ben-Asher and ben-Naftali disagree concerning the placement of the vowel before a yod as in ??????. Ben-Asher requires that a sheva be under the yod. Ben-Naftali treats the yod as a vowel letter and places a heriq under the bet and no vowel under the yod. 4 Codex L follows the ben-Asher tradition.

There are few places in L with variations that may be classified as "typos". For example Gen. 15:10 in the word : ???? is missing the dagesh in the ?. The grammar rules indicate that after a hey ha-yediah (definite article) a dagesh is required. The dagesh or lack of one may change the meaning, however, most readers would not change the way this word is pronounced.

Some places may be following a different tradition for the vocalization. For example, in Gen. 22:13, the word ???? has a kamatz under the het in many manuscripts while L and other manuscripts have a patah. After examining the text, one can not call this a careless error.

IV. Conclusion

The Leningrad Codex5 is one of the most important manuscripts of the Bible in existence due to its completeness, Massoretic notes and beauty. While the scribe who prepared this Codex was very careful, there are a few cases of errors in vocalization or diacritical marks. These errors are minor, but nonetheless emphasize the enormous responsibility required to transmit a holy text.

Notes:

1. The Talmud uses Kinot for the book we call Aicha or in English Lamentations. Ezra and Nehemiah were considered as one book in the Talmud. The Talmud text discusses some of the reasons for the order of the books.

2. For example in Deut. 6:4 the large letters in ??? and ??? are interpreted as the word ?? and used as an interpretation of the first verse of the Shema. The full list of these words is from the Massorah and can be found on page 230 of : Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible by Jacob Ben Chajim ibn Adonijah edited by C.D. Ginsburg. New York, 1968. The Massorah has two lists ; one with 25 examples and the second with 27 examples.

3. R. Isaac, a 3rd cent. Amora, said that the text was handed down as law to Moses at Sinai (Ned. 37b-38a). The division of the verses was handled down orally with evidence in the Talmud for the divisions. Kid. 30a says the Torah contains 5,888 verses; according to the Massorah there are 5,845. See Encyclopedia Judaica, v. 16 "Massorah" .

4. This is the way modern Hebrew is vocalized.

5. Codex L is the basis for our Hebrew printed Bibles. Modern editors have made changes based on halakhah, Massorah, and other manuscripts. This article is a very brief treatment of topic that requires further study.
 


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~DDStuhlman/liblob.htm.

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Last revised July 7, 2003