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The Aleppo Codex: The True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the International Pursuit of an Ancient Bible

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,037 ratings  ·  189 reviews
A true-life thriller about the journey of one of the world's most precious manuscripts--the 10th century annotated Hebrew Bible known as the Aleppo Codex--from its hiding place in an ancient Syrian synagogue to the newly-founded Israel. Using his research, including documents which have been secret for 50 years and interviews with key players, AP correspondent Friedman tel ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,037 ratings  ·  189 reviews


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Lena
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Aleppo Codex is a thousand year old manuscript originally created to help Jews properly interpret their religious texts. For the six hundred years prior to 1947, it resided in a synagogue in the Syrian town of Aleppo. In the riots following the vote to create the State of Israel, however, its secure home was breached and the book thought to be destroyed.

The good news is that this priceless ancient book actually survived the riots. Today, 60% of it is in the hands of the Israeli government. W
...more
K
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
My original brilliant review was lost due to post-storm internet issues, so here is a far less brilliant synopsis.

The titular Aleppo Codex refers to what is probably the closest thing we have to an original bible. Written in 960, it includes the 24 books of the Hebrew bible with guiding notes on words that are written one way and read another or other ambiguities. Since its completion in 960, the Codex traveled around, was used by Maimonides, and eventually found its home for 600-something year
...more
Jan Rice


This book is about an ancient and near-perfect transcription of the Hebrew bible from a thousand years ago; in the twelfth century Maimonides relied on it. It was spirited out of Jerusalem after the catastrophe of the first crusade, landed in Cairo and eventually in Aleppo. It remained in Aleppo for six centuries, where it became the treasure of the ancient Jewish community there--a community that predated both Christianity and Islam. There the book became known as the Crown of Aleppo. Then, as
...more
Rabbi
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book read well, like a novel. It had the feel of being well-researched but I always find real mysteries leaving me with more questions than answers. For those in the know about the Israeli academic scene, this book will also open up one's eyes to the underworld of some of the star players who are deceased.
Literary Chic
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
The Aleppo Codex was interesting. I didn't find it as riveting as my coworker did. It was the history of a missing sacred text for Syrian Jews. While the author was very good, I just didn't enjoy the material. If you have a penchant for Jewish history, this is definitely a must read.
Brina
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-books
I give this book a 3.5. The Aleppo Codex is a 1000 year old manuscript written by Ahron ben Asher that is considered the most complete version of the Jewish people ever penned. For nearly 1000 years scholars studied the work and guarded it closely. After 1947 pages went missing. Friedman's work was to investigate those who were present at the time of the theft to find out where the missing pages are today.
The reason why I didn't give this book a higher review is because of the writing. Friedman
...more
Maggie Anton
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish, judaism
The Aleppo Codex is a thousand year old manuscript originally created to help Jews properly read the Torah. For the six hundred years prior to 1947, it resided in a synagogue in the Syrian town of Aleppo. In the riots following the vote to create the State of Israel, however, its secure home was breached and the book thought to be destroyed. The good news is that this priceless ancient book actually survived the riots and this books tells us how.

The bad news is that the most important parts of
...more
Judie
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We read of at least three victims as we follow Matti Friedman’s quest to learn the facts behind the Crown of Aleppo, a version of the Hebrew Bible written before 1000 CE.
When Friedman first sees it displayed in a secluded room at Israel’s National Museum in Jerusalem, he learns that very few of the pages are original. He sets off to learn more about it and finds much more than he anticipated.
The book, considered by Maimonides, who lived in the twelfth century and considered, even today, to b
...more
Emma
Do you like a good mystery? Do you like “serious” books about things that actually happened? Do you have lots of commuting time? Well, these are three reasons you have to listen to this book!

I decided to teach myself Biblical Hebrew a few decades ago, with the desire to see what the text did actually say, cleansed from all adaptations to Western tastes. This, plus my fascination for anything bookish, made this book really intriguing to me. I had no idea I was actually plunging into a real myster
...more
Ariella
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this most interesting ancient and important book! What a fascinating history- I am surprised it is not more well-known. It was not a novel, but I don't think a person could've made up anything more interesting or twisted than this story! Well done Matti Friedman for his thorough research.
Diana Barshaw
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about the Aleppo Codex itself and its history, I also enjoyed reading about the Jewish community that lived in Aleppo. However, I didn't quite believe the solution of the "mystery" of what happened to the codex, and the investigation leaves more questions than answers.
Melissa Service
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I don't. The author is a journalist and many of the chapters are deadening facts and details thrown on the page, and by the end of the novel, I didn't walk away with an answer to the "mystery." While some of it was intriguing, I had to force myself to continue reading to the end....which is sad because I love reading non-fiction and Biblical type books. Not my cup of tea, but maybe it will be yours.
Wendy
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nooit gedacht dat een boek over een boek zo boeiend kon zijn! De auteur gaat op zoek naar het verhaal achter de Aleppo-codex en de verdwenen bladzijden daaruit, en doet dit op een indrukwekkende manier. Je leert het belang van De Kroon (zoals de codex ook wordt genoemd) kennen, en je krijgt inzicht in de joodse gemeenschap en de geschiedenis van het boek (voor zover die te achterhalen valt). Erg boeiend geschreven, het leest bijna als een -zij het dan waargebeurde- detective.
Jim Leffert
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Journalist Friedman peels away much myth and misinformation to tell the eventful and in many ways tragic true story of the People of the Book's most cherished physical book--the more than 1000 year old Aleppo Codex. This handwritten 10th century codex preserves the authoritative Masoretic version of the 24 books of Jewish Bible on parchment, in clear calligraphy, with vowel and cantillation markings and scholarly annotations.

The Codex, produced by Aaron Ben Asher and colleagues in Tiberias, foun
...more
Dale
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story comes to life in the audiobook.

Published by Highbridge in 2012.
Performed by Simon Vance.
Duration: 7 hours, 27 minutes.


"The story of this book...should come as no surprise to any who have read it."

I'm going to be brutally honest here. I picked up this audiobook on a lark. I thought it sounded like it was going to be interesting but I have a little pile of audiobooks and this one was quickly heading to the bottom of the pile because I was having a serious case of buyer's remorse. It loo
...more
E. Ce Miller
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love nothing more than a great book about a great book--and that is exactly what "The Aleppo Codex" is. "The Aleppo Codex" tells the story of one investigative journalist's dive into the politically-charged crossroads where ancient texts, book smuggling, the black market and religion all meet. The Aleppo Codex itself, also known as The Crown of Aleppo, was considered the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible, prior to it's round-world adventure from Syria to Israel, the United States and beyon ...more
Tony
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THE ALEPPO CODEX: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible. (2012). Matti Friedman. ****.
The Aleppo Codes (book) was considered to be one of the most truthful renderings of the Torah and subsequent books of the Bible. It was used by Maimonides in his biblical work and studies. It is believed to have been composed in about 1100 A.D. It was kept secure in a special alcove in the temple at Aleppo, in Syria. In 1947, after the United Nations approved the partition of Pa
...more
Paula Howard
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Aleppo Codex is about sacred scripture that is owned and protected by the Aleppo community. As WWII rages and Jews are being taken to the camps, there is also destruction of of synagogues. The Aleppo Community sends it the the Israel. The newly established Israeli government wants the document for them self not going the Aleppo rabbit in Jerusalem.

The Aleppo Codex ws very well written. Novel was not only about the path taken by the Aleppo The good of the State of Israel was considered more i
...more
Susan
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, I recommend it highly, if you want to know more about the Aleppo Codex, the Jewish Aleppo community. What happened to this highly sacred Crown. Why was everyone after this book. Israel was suppose to keep for safekeeping. All of sudden 200 pages are missing. Why was there a cover up? What community owns history? Or doesn't. Matti Friedman a journalist, kept us guessing. My only complaint at times he kept repeating the same thing, over clarifying, several times. I wanted to jump ...more
Pat
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a mystery! First time I realized that Jews can persecute other Jews. And I never thought about a people with no country, no capital, no library of congress, where do they house their important papers and documents? What happens in time of war and conflict? A story that reflects on religion, history and document conservation.
Christopher
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Intriguing study of the fate of one of the most revered Hebrew manuscripts of the Middle Ages--reads like a thriller combined with a solid academic investigation.
Janet Lavine
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyable who-done-it about a thousand year old Jewish bible (- a codex - written like a book and not on scrolls) that was kept and treasured in Aleppo Syria since the 15th century -- and would probably still be there today if the once-thriving Jewish people of Aleppo hadn't had to flee for their lives when the state of Israel was created in 1948. IF Jews believed in holy icons, this "crown" -- that's what this manuscript is called -- would be it. As Syrian synagogues were torched by ...more
Susan
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you want to know exactly what the Bible really says, the Bible Jesus knew, then you can’t rely on the King James Version (Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal) or any other English translation. Nor can you rely on the Latin Vulgate (non occides  non moechaberis non furtum facies) on which that is based, or even the Greek Septuagint (οὐ μοιχεύσεις.— οὐ κλέψεις.— οὐ φονεύσεις) which the Latin translators used. You need to go all the way back to the ori ...more
Mw
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faith, reviews-2019
This book on the Aleppo Codex is a slice of the history of a 1000 year old collection of the Jewish holy book (“Old Testament”), the oldest known. Treasured manuscripts of human history experience the challenges of emotional enemies, avaricious collectors, carelessness, heretical cleanses, fire, and other elements. The author explains a great deal about the 20th Century experiences of this Codex and his efforts to research its experiences in whole or part. One way I measure the value of a book f ...more
Nina
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I had not been familiar with this Codex, but apparently it ranks right up there with the Dead Sea scrolls. Written in Jerusalem in 930 AD, it is considered the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible: the singular and authoritative version of God's word. The book survived the Crusades and survived centuries in a synagogue in Syria. It even survived the riots and burning of the synagogue in 1947 when the state of Israel was declared. What it was unable to fully survive was the greed of an academici ...more
Lynn Horton
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am a history geek and seminary graduate, and I really enjoyed The Aleppo Codex. It's well-researched, well-written, and enlightening. It provides an excellent historic context for understanding today's Middle Eastern conflict, as well as reveals aspects of the Jewish diaspora and state's early government that help me comprehend tensions in the region by adding layers of detail.

I've read extensively about the formation of the State of Israel—both contemporary and historic accounts—and this book
...more
Steve Majerus-Collins
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
You know you're heading into something juicy when you learn of an important old volume protected zealously for generations that vanishes during a riot that leaves mounds of burned and scattered papers across an ancient synagogue in Aleppo. Matti Friedman no doubt makes more of the book itself than it probably deserves, but who cares? It's a great tale of what happened, with twists and turns offered with insight. That there's greed, pride and patriotism clashing helps, of course. I found it all f ...more
Atif Rahman
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Seemed this book as written for a movie script rather than for general readership. Too much details in setting of scenes but not much real content except for overwhelming details that a typical history buff would respect. But then again, this book doesn’t read like a history book as it has personal opinions nuanced and a lot of facts left unknown. Might be a good book for enthusiasts of the crown, not sure if it would appeal to other audiences
Avi Eisenman
A somewhat depressing yet captivating piece of investigative journalism about the most ancient and perfect manuscript of the Hebrew bible and its journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem. While the official account is simple and straightforward, Friedman reveals that the true story is anything but. Every time the story seems to slow down, Friedman peels away another layer of intrigue and deception.

Along the way, readers are treated to fascinating glimpses of Jewish history from the Tiberias of the sage
...more
Linden
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally well written. A fascinating story of a vastly important yet little know book about the Hebrew bible. Lots of people, people , places, and events kept in a an understandable and very readable text.
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Matti Friedman is an Israeli Canadian journalist and author.

Friedman was born in Canada and grew up in Toronto. In 1995, he made aliyah to Israel and now he lives in Jerusalem.

Between 2006 and the end of 2011, Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (AP) news agency. During his journalistic career, he also worked as a reporter in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon,
...more
“At first these stories were one of many threads making up the national life of the Jews. They also had a land, and a language, and a temple that was the center of their religion. But that changed with the destruction of the temple by Rome in AD 70 and the exile of the Jews. There was no precedent for a scattered people’s remaining a people; dispersion meant disappearance. If the Jews were to be an exception, instead of being bound by a king, a temple, or geography, they needed to be bound by something else, something portable. What emerged was the idea that a people could be held together by words.” 4 likes
“Since the rise of Islam, Jews had lived as a tolerated minority, or dhimmi, a status granted to Jews and Christians because they were monotheists. Despite a growing tendency in our own times to paint the premodern Islamic world as an Eden of religious tolerance in which Jews flourished, they always lived by the whims of fickle rulers and the mood of a hostile majority. In the eyes of that majority they were effete, lacking in honor, and powerless by definition, but as long as they accepted the supremacy of Muslims they were usually allowed to live and observe their faith and occasionally to prosper.” 2 likes
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