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DStv Channel 403 Wednesday, 04 October 2023

World's oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible sells for $38 mn

A Hebrew Bible more than 1,000 years old sold for $38.1 million in New York on Wednesday.
The 'Codex Sassoon' Bible is displayed at Sotheby's in New York in February 2023

A Hebrew Bible more than 1,000 years old sold for $38.1 million in New York on Wednesday, setting a record for the most valuable manuscript ever sold at auction. 

The Codex Sassoon -- which dates to the late ninth to early tenth century -- is the earliest, most complete Hebrew Bible ever discovered.

It was sold by Sotheby's following a four-minute bidding battle between two bidders, the auction house said in a statement.

The bible was bought by former US diplomat Alfred Moses on behalf of an American non-profit that will gift it to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sotheby's said.

"The Hebrew Bible is the most influential book in history and constitutes the bedrock of Western civilization. I rejoice in knowing that it belongs to the Jewish People," said Moses, a US ambassador under president Bill Clinton.

The sale surpassed the $30.8 million paid for Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester manuscript in 1994 as the most expensive hand-written document ever sold at auction.

The most expensive historical document remains one of the first prints of the US Constitution, which Sotheby's sold for $43 million in November 2021.

The Codex Sassoon is one of only two codices, or manuscripts, containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to have survived into the modern era.

It is substantially more complete than the Aleppo Codex and older than the Leningrad Codex, two other famous early Hebrew Bibles, Sotheby's said.

Sotheby’s auctioneer Benjamin Doller (R) takes bids during the Codex Sassoon sale at Sotheby’s in New York City on May 17, 2023

The manuscript bridges the Dead Sea Scrolls -- which date back as early as the third century BC -- and today's modernly accepted form of the Hebrew Bible.

It is named for previous owner David Solomon Sassoon (1880-1942) who assembled the most significant private collection of ancient Jewish texts in the world.

The document was auctioned for the first time in more than 30 years and had a pre-sale estimate of between $30 million and $50 million.

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