The Oldest Complete Hebrew Bible goes up for Auction
The Codex Sassoon is yet further evidence of the validity of the Bible we have today
Friday, February 17, 2023
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The Dead Sea Scrolls, despite being even older than the Codex Sassoon were a collection of manuscripts, which include copies of all books of the Hebrew Bible, with the exception of Esther, among other religious texts. The Codex Sassoon on the other hand is single book that contains the complete Old Testament, bar a few pages, and so is very similar to what you could buy today.
The book is expected to fetch up to $50 million, making it the potentially the most valuable historical document ever sold – and little wonder, because this is an incredibly special document.
Carbon dating indicates that the book was copied out during the 9th or 10th century AD, and it was dedicated to the synagogue of Makisin in Syria which was destroyed in the 14th century AD. The codex was then taken care of by the community leader Salama bin Abi al-Fakhr, who vowed to return it when the synagogue was rebuilt. However, the synagogue was never rebuilt, and little was known of what happened to the book until, in 1929 it appeared in Frankfurt and was sold to a Jew named David Solomon Sassoon for the sum of £350 (around £50k in today’s money). David had an extensive collection of over 1000 Biblical manuscripts and the codex made a welcome addition and was an expert on Biblical texts. After studying the text he concluded it was from the 10th century, and carbon dating supported this view.
The remarkable thing about this book is that despite it having been copied out by hand so many times, the lack of variation from other ancient Hebrew Bibles is truly remarkable. Similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the differences between them are down to grammatical and spelling differences, and do not take away from the meaning of the text.
In a time when the validity of the Bible is questioned more than ever, it is helpful to be reminded of the evidence that support the reliability of the text we have in our Bibles. From this codex we can see that over the last 1,000 the word of God did not change, and from the Dead Sea scrolls we can see that over 2,000 years the word of God again has not changed.
Although this may baffle atheists, this should be of no surprise to us as Bible believers. In Isaiah chapter 55 we read:
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
And so we see that God sent out his word for a purpose, and it will accomplish that purpose – and so God could not allow his word to be corrupted through transcribing errors – it will accomplish that purpose.
And so what is that purpose? In 2 Tim 3:15-17 we read:
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
And so we see that the Word of God is able to make us wise unto salvation – it has the purpose of saving us, it also is profitable for doctrine – to teach us the truth, but also to correct us and instruct us on how to live godly lives – so we can have hope in that way of salvation.
And so we see that this book that is expected to sell for up to $50 million, is in fact priceless - for it offers the a hope of salvation. But we don’t even have to pay $50 million for it, because we can pick up a copy, in our own language, from almost any bookshop for just a few pounds – but how few take the time to read it or act on the message of salvation!
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this week’s Bible in the News.