World treasure: UNESCO recognizes oldest surviving copy of Hebrew Bible

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It is one of the world's greatest treasures.

Written sometime around 930 A.D. in the town of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Aleppo Codex is the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible, according to experts.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, added the millennium-old manuscript earlier this week to its International Memory of the World Register, which honors some of the most important discoveries in human history.

"It is regarded as the oldest complete Hebrew Bible in the world," Don Bassett, director of the Biblical Museum of History in Tennessee, told "The text has been preserved with phenomenal accuracy," Bassett said.

All current versions of the Old Testament are believed to have stemmed "in one way or another, from this ancient manuscript," Adolfo Roitman, head curator of the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem, told the Christian Post.

"The best Bible for scholarly study available today is traceable back to the Aleppo Codex," added Bassett.

The Codex, which was smuggled out of Syria and brought into Israel in 1958, currently resides at the museum.

Some 190 pages of the Codex -- around 40 percent of the total -- are missing, Bassett told

The missing pages include four out of five books of the Pentateuch -- the first section of books in the Bible also called the Five Books of Moses -- and five books from the last section --Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel and Ezra, i24News reported.

“It’s fitting the Aleppo Codex has been designated as a world treasure, given its storied past and significance to Jews and Christians through the ages,” said Michael Holmes, Ph.D., executive director of the Museum of the Bible’s research arm, the Scholar’s Initiative. “It’s simply unparalleled in the world of biblical manuscripts.”

There is also a disagreement over who owns the priceless text.

Filmmaker Avi Dabach, who is making a documentary on the ancient manuscript, told the newspaper he believes the Codex belongs to the Jewish community that fled Syria.

"In the 1960s the Aleppo-Jewish community sued the people who brought the Codex to Israel," Dabach said, according to the Christian Post. "The Israeli authorities decided to confiscate this item and then, from a position of strength, force on the community an arrangement."

UNESCO says on its website that the manuscript, also known as the "Crown," is "the oldest extant nearly complete Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)."

"It is considered by many scholars to be the most exact and authoritative Hebrew Bible and served as a source of text, cantillation and vocalization of the Bible – both in the past and present," according to UNESCO.