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Turkish authorities recover 1,100-year-old Tanach from smugglers

A photo from the 28-page, Hebrew manuscript shows the end of the book of Joshua and the beginning of Judges.

Istanbul, March 2, 2020. Credit: Mostafameraji via Wikimedia Commons.
Istanbul, March 2, 2020. Credit: Mostafameraji via Wikimedia Commons.

Working on a tip, Turkish authorities recovered 101 Roman- and Byzantine-era coins and an “1,100-year-old Bible written in Hebrew,” which smugglers sought to sell, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported earlier this month.

The 28-page manuscript is “written in Hebrew on leather and papyrus paper” and is valued at $500,000, the news agency claimed. If the dating is accurate, it would be roughly as old as the Sassoon Codex, which Sotheby’s recently sold for $38.1 million (including buyer’s premium).

A caption-less image accompanying the story shows the end of the book of Joshua and the beginning of the book of Judges. Given the manuscript reportedly has 28 pages (which presumably refers to 28 two-sided pages, or a total of 56 rectos and versos), and judging from the size of the words in the image, it must either be part of what was previously a full Tanach, or the manuscript was originally just part of the Tanach.

An article in Al-Monitor, which referred to the medieval manuscript as “ancient,” quoted an unnamed official of the Turkish cultural ministry, which now has custodianship of the manuscript. “An inspection of the manuscript was underway” and “it wasn’t immediately clear whether text was written in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic, which can look similar,” the publication reported.

Al-Monitor added that the smugglers, who were caught red-handed, were seeking to sell the Hebrew book and the coins for a combined $500,000.

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