The oldest known near-complete Hebrew Bible was presented to the press in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, where it is to be displayed to the public for a week before its auction in New York in May.
The Codex Sassoon, named after its best-known owner, David Solomon Sassoon (died 1942), dates from the tenth century of the Christian era, or even the end of the ninth, according to Sotheby's, which will proceed with the sale.
This bound manuscript (codex) contains the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, or “Tanakh,” the Hebrew acronym for Thorah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible), Prophets (“Neviim” in Hebrew), and other writings ( "Ketuvim").
Only 12 leaves are missing.
It is on display from Thursday at the Museum of the Jewish People, on the campus of Tel Aviv University.
"This is one of the greatest moments of my life as a curator," said Orit Shaham Gover, head of the museum, for whom "this ancient Bible reflects the history of the Jewish people from antiquity to Today".
This Hebrew Bible also contains passages in Greek and Aramaic and is in a visibly exceptional state of preservation.
Older and more complete than the Aleppo Codex
She had disappeared for more than 500 years after the destruction of the synagogue in Makisin (now Markada, in northeastern Syria) in which she was located before reappearing in 1929, said Sharon Mintz, a scholar of texts Judaism at Sotheby's.
According to carbon-14 dating, the Sassoon Codex is older and more complete than the Aleppo Codex, written in Galilee in the 10th century and brought back to Israel in the 1950s after being found in this Syrian city.
The manuscript is also believed to predate the Leningrad Codex, the earliest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible text in its entirety, and dated to the early 11th century.
"The Codex Sassoon was only shown to the public once, decades ago, and is now on display before being auctioned off at Sotheby's in New York for around $30-50 million, which potentially makes it the most expensive manuscript ever sold at auction,” the auction house said in a statement.
The sale is due to take place in May, during the classic spring sales season organized by the behemoths of the sector in New York.