A biblical manuscript is a handwritten copy of a section of the text of the Bible and the word Bible is derived from the Greek biblia or book, while manuscript comes from Latin manu or hand and scriptum or written. The original manuscript is known as the `autographs’.
These manuscripts are of different sizes from tiny scrolls comprising of individual verse of the Jewish scriptures to huge polyglot codices of both Hebrew Bible or Tanakh and the New Testament together with extracanonical works.
The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran pushed the manuscript history of the Tanakh back a millennium from the previous two complete codices and prior to this discovery, the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament were of Greek like the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.From the 800 manuscripts which were found at Qumran, 220 were from the Tanakh.
Sections of the New Testament are preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts of various other ancient languages comprising of Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Coptic, Ethiopic and Armenian.
Though there are several ancient Biblical manuscripts, the importance of the Leningrad Codex as well as the Aleppo Codex, codices created by Masoretic scholars is in the comments contained in the text. The ancient biblical manuscripts that are written in Hebrew does not have vowels and even if there is no question with regards to the letters of a given text, there still remains a question as to how a particular word could be pronounced and its meaning. Similarly, the ancient biblical manuscripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls could contain no indication on how the Torah sections and the prophetic reading should be chanted in the synagogue.
On the other hand codices like the Leningrad Codex and Aleppo Codex have vowel marking in the form of subscripts and superscripts and also contain other markings showing pitch relationships in guiding the cantor in chanting the prescribed Torah.
manuscripts as well as the version of the Hebrew Bible which eventually became the most authoritative text in Judaism and its loss was a big blow to Jewish scholarship though another complete codex existed in the Leningrad Code.
The only complete copy of the Hebrew Bible from the same period like the Aleppo Code was the Leningrad Codex in St. Petersburg which is similar to the Aleppo Codex in several respects with regards to dates as well as in distinction. The Leningrad Codex like the Aleppo Codex has vowel marking, extensive textual notes and cantillation signs.
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