Leningrad Codex

The Leningrad Codex (also called Codex Leningradensis) is the oldest complete edition of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament in Hebrew) in existence. It dates to around 1008-1010 A.D. and this date is confirmed by its colophon as well as internal and external evidence. Thus, at about the time the Crusaders were starting to march from Europe on their way to conquer the Holy Land, Hebrew Bible editions such as the Leningrad Codex were in use by Jews across the Middle East.

Because the Leningrad Codex is the oldest intact, complete, edition of the Hebrew Bible, it is frequently used as the basis for modern editions of the Hebrew Bible. For instance, BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), BHQ (Biblia Hebraica Quinta) and BHL (Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia) are all based on the Leningrad Codex. Modern Bible software such as BibleWorks, Accordance and Logos all have electronic editions of the Leningrad Codex based on the text created by the Westminster Theological Seminary, and referred to as the Michigan-Claremont-Westminster Electronic Hebrew Bible.

However, the Leningrad Codex, although complete, is not the best quality Hebrew manuscript. Although carefully hand-written, it was corrected against the Aleppo Codex - and the Aleppo Codex remains the best quality manuscript exemplar. Other better quality manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are also available, such as the Lisbon Bible. Thus, the main "claim to fame" of the Leningrad Codex is that it is the oldest complete Hebrew Bible.

Nevertheless, comparing the Leningrad Codex to modern Hebrew Old Testaments proves how accurately God’s Word has been preserved. In fact, the Leningrad Codex is so reliable that, as noted above, most modern printed Hebrew Old Testaments take it as the official "Hebrew Massoretic Text" which they use, and it is the Hebrew text from which nearly all modern translations have been translated.

Consider just how amazing and incredible the Leningrad Codex is. Unlike modern printed editions which can be mass-produced by computer typesetting, every word, every letter and every dot in the Leningrad Codex was carefully copied by hand by the scribe, Samuel ben Jacob. No computers or typesetting were available in those days. Despite this, and despite the passage of more than one thousand years, the Leningrad Codex provides irrefutable proof that the Hebrew Old Testament has remained unchanged down through more than one thousand years, copied faithfully from manuscripts one thousand years earlier.

Think about the implications of that for a moment. Down through more than two thousand years, though world empires have come and gone, across cities, counties and continents, the Hebrew Old Testament has been miraculously and meticulously preserved. Wars have ravished. Cities have been plundered. Rulers have come and gone. Empires have long since arisen, died and disappeared into the history books. Yet amazingly, miraculously, the Hebrew Old Testament has been preserved intact down through all those intervening centuries, remaining as free from corruption and variation as mortal man is capable of.

Is not this a testimony to how great the Word of God is, that He has preserved His Word as a sign and a testimony for this final generation? As it is written in Isaiah 8:20; "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

The original Leningrad Codex was found by the Karaite Jewish collector Abraham Firkovich. It was taken to Odessa in 1838 and later transferred to the Imperial Library in St Petersburg. It is now preserved in the National Library of Russia, recorded as Hebrew manuscript Firkovich B19A.

A facsimile edition of the Leningrad Codex is available, produced by Astrid Beck and David Noel Freedman. The bulk of the facsimile edition is reproduced as greyscale photographs, with the carpet pages reproduced in full color.

The order of books in the Leningrad Codex is unusual, in that the order of books in the Writings is Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, rather than following the traditional order of books in the Hebrew Bible.