Saturday, November 25, 2017

The first owners of the Leningrad Codex (of the Hebrew Bible)

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: The first owners of the Leningrad Codex: T-S 10J30.7 (Ben Outhwaite).
The question of ownership is a significant one, since it speaks to the wider context of the book’s intended use and potential audience, an aspect of the research on the biblical text which is often overlooked. Within which tradition or for which Jewish confessional congregation was this Bible produced? This is the sort of information that is not usually explicitly stated in colophons, but must be gleaned from our knowledge of the people involved, again relying on the Genizah documentary manuscripts to fill out the picture. ...

So, Codex Leningrad was produced for, most likely, a Persian Karaite, and was subsequently acquired by a Persian Karaite, who sold it to Maṣliaḥ ha-Kohen b. Solomon, Gaʾon (head) of the Jerusalem Yeshiva. Maṣliaḥ was the highest intellectual authority in Palestinian Judaism and ‘Head of the Jews’ (Raʾīs al-Yahūd) in the Fatimid Empire. That such a powerful and senior figure should acquire the Bible strongly attests to the value ascribed to it in its day (today’s critics of Samuel b. Jacob’s work should take note). In addition, evidently its Karaite provenance did not devalue it in Maṣliaḥ’s eyes and deter him from purchasing it.
Ben Outhwaite's earlier FOTM post on the author of the Leningrad Codex (a very old and important copy of the Hebrew Bible) was noted here. Other past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links. That post will also lead you to many past posts on the Karaites. Cross-file under Karaite Watch.

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