Codex Sinaiticus or "Sinai Bible" is one of the four great uncial codices, ancient, handwritten copies of a Christian Bible in Greek. The codex is a historical treasure.
The codex is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in uncial letters on parchment and dated paleographically to the mid-4th century. Scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the most important Greek texts of the New Testament, along with the Codex Vaticanus. Until Constantin von Tischendorf's discovery of the Sinaiticus text, the Codex Vaticanus was unrivaled.
The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although parts of the codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript is held today in the British Library in London, where it is on public display. Since its discovery, study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be useful to scholars for critical studies of biblical text.
While large portions of the Old Testament are missing, it is assumed that the codex originally contained the whole of both Testaments. About half of the Greek Old Testament survived, along with a complete New Testament, the entire Deuterocanonical books, the Epistle of Barnabas and portions of The Shepherd of Hermas.
DescriptionThe codex consists of parchment, originally in double sheets, which may have measured about 40 by 70 cm. The whole codex consists, with a few exceptions, of quires of eight leaves, a format popular throughout the Middle Ages. Each line of the text has some twelve to fourteen Greek uncial letters, arranged in four columns with carefully chosen line breaks and slightly ragged right edges. When opened, the eight columns thus presented to the reader have much the same appearance as the succession of columns in a papyrus roll. The poetical books of the Old Testament are written stichometrically, in only two columns per page. The codex has almost 4,000,000 uncial letters.
Throughout the New Testament of Sinaiticus the words are written continuously in the style that comes to be called "biblical uncial" or "biblical majuscule". The parchment was prepared for writing lines, ruled with a sharp point. The letters are written on these lines, without accents or breathings. A variety of types of punctuation are used: high and middle points and colon, diaeresis on initial iota and upsilon, nomina sacra, paragraphos: initial letter into margin.
The work was written in scriptio continua with neither breathings nor polytonic accents. Occasional points and a few ligatures are used, though nomina sacra with overlines are employed throughout. Some words usually abbreviated in other manuscripts, are in this codex written in both full and abbreviated forms. The following nomina sacra are written in abbreviated forms: ΘΣ ΚΣ ΙΣ ΧΣ ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙΚΟΣ ΥΣ ΑΝΟΣ ΟΥΟΣ ΔΑΔ ΙΛΗΜ ΙΣΡΛ ΜΗΡ ΠΗΡ ΣΩΡ.
Almost regularly, a plain iota is replaced by the epsilon-iota diphthong, e.g. ΔΑΥΕΙΔ instead οf ΔΑΥΙΔ, ΠΕΙΛΑΤΟΣ instead of ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ, ΦΑΡΕΙΣΑΙΟΙ instead of ΦΑΡΙΣΑΙΟΙ, etc.
Each rectangular page has the proportions 1.1 to 1, while the block of text has the reciprocal proportions, 0.91. If the gutters between the columns were removed, the text block would mirror the page's proportions. Typographer Robert Bringhurst referred to the codex as a "subtle piece of craftsmanship".
The folios are made of vellum parchment primarily from calf skins, secondarily from sheep skins. Most of the quires or signatures contain four sheets, save two containing five. It is estimated that the hides of about 360 animals were employed for making the folios of this codex. As for the cost of the material, time of scribes and binding, it equals the lifetime wages of one individual at the time.
The portion of the codex held by the British Library consists of 346½ folios, 694 pages, constituting over half of the original work. Of these folios, 199 belong to the Old Testament, including the apocrypha, and 147½ belong to the New Testament, along with two other books, the Epistle of Barnabas and part of The Shepherd of Hermas. The apocryphal books present in the surviving part of the Septuagint are 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 4 Maccabees, Wisdom, and Sirach. The books of the New Testament are arranged in this order: the four Gospels, the epistles of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the General Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. The fact that some parts of the codex are preserved in good condition while others are in very poor condition implies they were separated and stored in several places.
ContentsThe text of the Old Testament contains the following passages:
The text of the New Testament lacks several passages:
Some passages were excluded by the correctors:
These omissions are typical for the Alexandrian text-type.
Unique and other textual variants– It has additional word πολλα : "and cast out numerous demons in your name?". It is not supported by any other manuscript.
– It has ἐξελεύσονται instead of ἐκβληθήσονται. This variant is supported only by one Greek manuscript Uncial 0250, and by Codex Bobiensis, syrc, s, p, pal, arm, Diatessaron.
– Ordinary reading εις την πατριδα αυτου changed into εις την αντιπατριδα αυτου, and in Acts 8:5 εις την πολιν της Σαμαρειας replaced into εις την πολιν της Καισαριας. These two variants do not exist in any other manuscript, and it seems they were made by a scribe. According to T. C. Skeat they suggest Caesarea as a place in which the manuscript was made.
– It has textual variant της ζυμης των αρτων των Φαρισαιων και Σαδδουκαιων supported only by Codex Corbeiensis I and Curetonian Gospels.
Luke 1:26 – "Nazareth" is called "a city of Judea".
Luke 2:37 – εβδομηκοντα, all manuscripts have ογδοηκοντα ;
John 1:28 – The second corrector made unique textual variant Βηθαραβα. This textual variant has only codex 892, syrh and several other manuscripts.
John 1:34 – It reads ὁ ἐκλεκτός together with the manuscripts 5, 106, b, e, ff2, syrc, and syrs instead of ordinary word υἱος.
John 2:3 – Where ordinarily reading "And when they wanted wine", or "And when wine failed", Codex Sinaiticus has "And they had no wine, because the wine of the marriage feast was finished" ;
John 6:10 – It reads τρισχιλιοι for πεντακισχιλιοι ; the second corrector changed into πεντακισχιλιοι.
Acts 11:20 – It reads εὐαγγελιστας instead of ἑλληνιστάς ;
In Acts 14:9, the word "not" inserted before "heard"; in Hebr. 2:4 "harvests" instead of "distributions"; in 1Peter 5:13 word "Babylon" replaced into "Church".
2 Timothy 4:10 – it reads Γαλλιαν for Γαλατιαν This reading of the codex is supported by Ephraemi Rescriptus, 81, 104, 326, 436.
Witness of some readings of "majority"It is the oldest witness for the phrase μη αποστερησης in Mark 10:19. This phrase was not included by the manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus, Codex Cyprius, Codex Washingtonianus, Codex Athous Lavrensis, f1, f13, 28, 700, 1010, 1079, 1242, 1546, 2148, ℓ 10, ℓ 950, ℓ 1642, ℓ 1761, syrs, arm, geo. This is variant of the majority manuscripts.
In Mark 13:33 it is the oldest witness of the variant και προσευχεσθε. Codex B and D do not include this passage.
In Luke 8:48 it has θυγατερ as in the Byzantine manuscripts, instead of the Alexandrian θυγατηρ, supported by the manuscripts: B K L W Θ.
Orthodox readingIn 1 John 5:6 it has textual variant δι' ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνεύματος together with the manuscripts: Codex Alexandrinus, 104, 424c, 614, 1739c, 2412, 2495, ℓ 598m, syrh, copsa, copbo, Origen. Bart D. Ehrman says this was a corrupt reading from a proto-orthodox scribe, although this conclusion has not gained wide support.
Text-type and relationship to other manuscriptsFor most of the New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus is in general agreement with Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, attesting the Alexandrian text-type.
A notable example of an agreement between the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus texts is that they both omit the word εικη from Matthew 5:22 "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement".
In John 1:1–8:38 Codex Sinaiticus differs from Vaticanus and all other Alexandrian manuscripts. It is in closer agreement with Codex Bezae in support of the Western text-type. For example, in John 1:4 Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae are the only Greek manuscripts with textual variant ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἐστίν instead of ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ᾓν. This variant is supported by Vetus Latina and some Sahidic manuscripts. This portion has a large number of corrections.
There are a number of differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus; Hoskier enumerated 3036 differences:
A large number of these differences are due to iotacisms and variants in transcribing Hebrew names. These two manuscripts were not written in the same scriptorium. According to Fenton Hort Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were derived from a common original much older source, "the date of which cannot be later than the early part of the second century, and may well be yet earlier".
Example of differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in Matt 1:18–19:
|Codex Sinaiticus||Codex Vaticanus|
|Του δε ΙΥ ΧΥ η γενεσις ουτως ην |
μνηστευθισης της μητρος αυτου
Μαριας τω Ιωσηφ πριν ην συνελθιν αυτους
ευρεθη εν γαστρι εχουσα εκ ΠΝΣ αγιου
Ιωσηφ δε ο ανηρ αυτης δικαιος ων
και μη θελων αυτην παραδιγματισαι
εβουληθη λαθρα απολυσαι αυτην
|Του δε ΧΥ ΙΥ η γενεσις ουτως ην |
μνηστευθεισης της μητρος αυτου
Μαριας τω Ιωσηφ πριν ην συνελθειν αυτους
ευρεθη εν γαστρι εχουσα εκ ΠΝΣ αγιου
Ιωσηφ δε ο ανηρ αυτης δικαιος ων
και μη θελων αυτην δειγματισαι
εβουληθη λαθρα απολυσαι αυτην
B. H. Streeter remarked a great agreement between the codex and Vulgate of Jerome. According to him, Origen brought to Caesarea the Alexandrian text-type that was used in this codex, and used by Jerome.
Between the 4th and 12th centuries, seven or more correctors worked on this codex, making it one of the most corrected manuscripts in existence. Tischendorf during his investigation in Petersburg enumerated 14,800 corrections only in the portion which was held in Petersburg. According to David C. Parker the full codex has about 23,000 corrections. In addition to these corrections some letters were marked by dots as doubtful. Corrections represent the Byzantine text-type, just like corrections in codices: Bodmer II, Regius, Ephraemi, and Sangallensis. They were discovered by Edward Ardron Hutton.
ProvenanceLittle is known of the manuscript's early history. According to Hort, it was written in the West, probably in Rome, as suggested by the fact that the chapter division in the Acts of the Apostles common to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus occurs in no other Greek manuscript, but is found in several manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. Robinson countered this argument, suggesting that this system of chapter divisions was introduced into the Vulgate by Jerome himself, as a result of his studies at Caesarea. According to Kenyon the forms of the letters are Egyptian and they were found in Egyptian papyri of earlier date. Gardthausen Ropes and Jellicoe thought it was written in Egypt. Harris believed that the manuscript came from the library of Pamphilus at Caesarea, Palestine. Streeter, Skeat, and Milne also believed that it was produced in Caesarea.
DateThe codex has been dated paleographically to the mid-4th century. It could not have been written before 325 because it contains the Eusebian Canons, which is a terminus post quem. "The terminus ante quem is less certain, but, according to Milne and Skeat, is not likely to be much later than about 360."
Tischendorf theorized that Codex Sinaiticus was one of the fifty copies of the Bible commissioned from Eusebius by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity. This hypothesis was supported by Pierre Batiffol, Gregory and Skeat believed that it was already in production when Constantine placed his order, but had to be suspended in order to accommodate different page dimensions.
Frederic G. Kenyon argued: "There is not the least sign of either of them ever having been at Constantinople. The fact that Sinaiticus was collated with the manuscript of Pamphilus so late as the sixth century seems to show that it was not originally written at Caesarea".
Scribes and correctorsTischendorf believed that four separate scribes copied the work and that five correctors amended portions. He posited that one of the correctors was contemporaneous with the original scribes, and that the others worked in the 6th and 7th centuries. It is now agreed, after Milne and Skeat's reinvestigation, that Tischendorf was wrong, in that scribe C never existed. According to Tischendorf, scribe C wrote the poetic books of the Old Testament. These are written in a different format from the rest of the manuscript – they appear in two columns, written stichometrically. Tischendorf probably interpreted the different formatting as indicating the existence of another scribe. The three remaining scribes are still identified by the letters that Tischendorf gave them: A, B, and D. Correctors were more, at least seven.
Modern analysis identifies at least three scribes:
- Scribe A wrote most of the historical and poetical books of the Old Testament, almost the whole of the New Testament, and the Epistle of Barnabas
- Scribe B was responsible for the Prophets and for the Shepherd of Hermas
- Scribe D wrote the whole of Tobit and Judith, the first half of 4 Maccabees, the first two-thirds of the Psalms, and the first five verses of Revelation
A paleographical study at the British Museum in 1938 found that the text had undergone several corrections. The first corrections were done by several scribes before the manuscript left the scriptorium. Readings which they introduced are designated by the siglum אa. Milne and Skeat have observed that the superscription to 1 Maccabees was made by scribe D, while the text was written by scribe A. Scribe D corrects his own work and that of scribe A, but scribe A limits himself to correcting his own work. In the 6th or 7th century, many alterations were made – according to a colophon at the end of the book of Esdras and Esther the source of these alterations was "a very ancient manuscript that had been corrected by the hand of the holy martyr Pamphylus". If this is so, material beginning with 1 Samuel to the end of Esther is Origen's copy of the Hexapla. From this colophon, the correction is concluded to have been made in Caesarea Maritima in the 6th or 7th centuries. The pervasive iotacism, especially of the ει diphthong, remains uncorrected.
DiscoveryThe Codex may have been seen in 1761 by the Italian traveller, Vitaliano Donati, when he visited the Saint Catherine's Monastery at Sinai in Egypt. His diary was published in 1879, in which was written:
In questo monastero ritrovai una quantità grandissima di codici membranacei... ve ne sono alcuni che mi sembravano anteriori al settimo secolo, ed in ispecie una Bibbia in membrane bellissime, assai grandi, sottili, e quadre, scritta in carattere rotondo e belissimo; conservano poi in chiesa un Evangelistario greco in caractere d'oro rotondo, che dovrebbe pur essere assai antico.
In this monastery I found a great number of parchment codices... there are some which seemed to be written before the seventh century, and especially a Bible of beautiful vellum, very large, thin and square parchments, written in round and very beautiful letters; moreover there are also in the church a Greek Evangelistarium in gold and round letters, it should be very old.
The "Bible on beautiful vellum" may be the Codex Sinaiticus, and the gold evangelistarium is likely Lectionary 300 on the Gregory-Aland list.
German Biblical scholar Constantin von Tischendorf wrote about his visit to the monastery in Reise in den Orient in 1846, without mentioning the manuscript. Later, in 1860, in his writings about the Sinaiticus discovery, Tischendorf wrote a narrative about the monastery and the manuscript that spanned from 1844 to 1859. He wrote that in 1844, during his first visit to the Saint Catherine's Monastery, he saw some leaves of parchment in a waste-basket. They were "rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning it in the ovens of the monastery", although this is firmly denied by the Monastery. After examination he realized that they were part of the Septuagint, written in an early Greek uncial script. He retrieved from the basket 129 leaves in Greek which he identified as coming from a manuscript of the Septuagint. He asked if he might keep them, but at this point the attitude of the monks changed. They realized how valuable these old leaves were, and Tischendorf was permitted to take only one-third of the whole, i.e. 43 leaves. These leaves contained portions of 1 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Esther. After his return they were deposited in the Leipzig University Library, where they remain. In 1846 Tischendorf published their contents, naming them the 'Codex Friderico-Augustanus'. Other portions of the same codex remained in the monastery, containing all of Isaiah and 1 and 4 Maccabees.
In 1845, Archimandrite Porphyrius Uspensky, at that time head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem and subsequently Bishop of Chigirin, visited the monastery and the codex was shown to him, together with leaves which Tischendorf had not seen. In 1846, Captain C. K. MacDonald visited Mount Sinai, saw the codex, and bought two codices from the monastery.
In 1853, Tischendorf revisited the Saint Catherine's Monastery to get the remaining 86 folios, but without success. Returning in 1859, this time under the patronage of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, he was shown the Codex Sinaiticus. He would later claim to have found it discarded in a rubbish bin. Tischendorf had been sent to search for manuscripts by Russia's Tsar Alexander II, who was convinced there were still manuscripts to be found at the Sinai monastery. The text of this part of the codex was published by Tischendorf in 1862:
- Konstantin von Tischendorf: Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Giesecke & Devrient, Leipzig 1862.
It was reprinted in four volumes in 1869:
- Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms : Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 1. Prolegomena. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1869.
- Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms : Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 2. Veteris Testamenti pars prior. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1869.
- Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms : Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 3. Veteris Testamenti pars posterior. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1869.
- Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms : Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 4. Novum Testamentum cum Barnaba et Pastore. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1869.
The story of how Tischendorf found the manuscript, which contained most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament, has all the interest of a romance. Tischendorf reached the monastery on 31 January; but his inquiries appeared to be fruitless. On 4 February, he had resolved to return home without having gained his object:
of Saint Catherine's Monastery, based on sketches made by Porphyrius Uspensky in 1857.
On the afternoon of this day I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighbourhood, and as we returned, towards sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room, when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said: "And I, too, have read a Septuagint" – i.e. a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy. And so saying, he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume, wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and, in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Shepherd of Hermas.
After some negotiations, he obtained possession of this precious fragment. James Bentley gives an account of how this came about, prefacing it with the comment, "Tischendorf therefore now embarked on the remarkable piece of duplicity which was to occupy him for the next decade, which involved the careful suppression of facts and the systematic denigration of the monks of Mount Sinai." He conveyed it to Tsar Alexander II, who appreciated its importance and had it published as nearly as possible in facsimile, so as to exhibit correctly the ancient handwriting. In 1869 the Tsar sent the monastery 7,000 rubles and the monastery of Mount Tabor 2,000 rubles by way of compensation. The document in Russian formalising this was published in 2007 in Russia and has since been translated.
Regarding Tischendorf's role in the transfer to Saint Petersburg, there are several views. The codex is currently regarded by the monastery as having been stolen. This view is hotly contested by several scholars in Europe. Kirsopp Lake wrote:
Those who have had much to do with Oriental monks will understand how improbable it is that the terms of the arrangement, whatever it was, were ever known to any except a few of the leaders.
In a more neutral spirit, New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger writes:
Certain aspects of the negotiations leading to the transfer of the codex to the Tsar's possession are open to an interpretation that reflects adversely on Tischendorf's candour and good faith with the monks at Saint Catherine's Monastery. For a recent account intended to exculpate him of blame, see Erhard Lauch's article 'Nichts gegen Tischendorf' in Bekenntnis zur Kirche: Festgabe für Ernst Sommerlath zum 70. Geburtstag ; for an account that includes a hitherto unknown receipt given by Tischendorf to the authorities at the monastery promising to return the manuscript from Saint Petersburg 'to the Holy Confraternity of Sinai at its earliest request'.
SimonidesOn 13 September 1862 Constantine Simonides, skilled in calligraphy and with a controversial background with manuscripts, made the claim in print in The Manchester Guardian that he had written the codex himself as a young man in 1839 in the Panteleimonos monastery at Athos. Constantin von Tischendorf, who worked with numerous Bible manuscripts, was known as somewhat flamboyant, and had ambitiously sought money from several royal families for his ventures, who had indeed funded his trips. Simonides had a somewhat obscure history, as he claimed he was at Mt. Athos in the years preceding Tischendorf's contact, making the claim at least plausible. Simonides also claimed his father had died and the invitation to Mt. Athos came from his uncle, a monk there, but subsequent letters to his father were found among his possessions at his death. Simonides claimed the false nature of the document in The Manchester Guardian in an exchange of letters among scholars and others, at the time. Henry Bradshaw, a British librarian known to both men, defended the Tischendorf find of the Sinaiticus, casting aside the accusations of Simonides. Since Bradshaw was a social 'hub' among many diverse scholars of the day, his aiding of Tischendorf was given much weight. Simonides died shortly after, and the issue lay dormant for many years.
Tischendorf answered Simonides in Allgemeine Zeitung, that only in the New Testament there are many differences between it and all other manuscripts. Henry Bradshaw, a bibliographer, combatted the claims of Constantine Simonides in a letter to The Manchester Guardian. Bradshaw argued that the Codex Sinaiticus brought by Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai was not a modern forgery or written by Simonides. The controversy seems to regard the misplaced use of the word 'fraud' or 'forgery' since it may have been a repaired text, a copy of the Septuagint based upon Origen's Hexapla, a text which has been rejected for centuries because of its lineage from Eusebius who introduced Arian doctrine into the courts of Constantine I and II.
Not every scholar and Church minister was delighted about the codex. Burgon, a supporter of the Textus Receptus, suggested that Codex Sinaiticus, as well as codices Vaticanus and Codex Bezae, were the most corrupt documents extant. Each of these three codices "clearly exhibits a fabricated text – is the result of arbitrary and reckless recension." The two most weighty of these three codices, א and B, he likens to the "two false witnesses" of Matthew.
Recent historyIn the early 20th century Vladimir Beneshevich discovered parts of three more leaves of the codex in the bindings of other manuscripts in the library of Mount Sinai. Beneshevich went on three occasions to the monastery but does not tell when or from which book these were recovered. These leaves were also acquired for St. Petersburg, where they remain.
from 1859 until 1933
For many decades, the Codex was preserved in the Russian National Library. In 1933, the Soviet Union sold the codex to the British Museum for £100,000 raised by public subscription. After coming to Britain it was examined by Skeat and Milne using an ultra-violet lamp.
In May 1975, during restoration work, the monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery discovered a room beneath the St. George Chapel which contained many parchment fragments. Kurt Aland and his team from the Institute for New Testament Textual Research were the first scholars who were invited to analyse, examine and photograph these new fragments of the New Testament in 1982. Among these fragments were twelve complete leaves from the Sinaiticus, 11 leaves of the Pentateuch and 1 leaf of the Shepherd of Hermas. Together with these leaves 67 Greek Manuscripts of New Testament have been found.
In June 2005, a team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt, Russia and USA undertook a joint project to produce a new digital edition of the manuscript, and a series of other studies was announced. This will include the use of hyperspectral imaging to photograph the manuscripts to look for hidden information such as erased or faded text. This is to be done in cooperation with the British Library.
More than one quarter of the manuscript was made publicly available at on 24 July 2008. On 6 July 2009, 800 more pages of the manuscript were made available, showing over half of the entire text, although the entire text was intended to be shown by that date.
The complete document is now available online in digital form and available for scholarly study. The online version has a fully transcribed set of digital pages, including amendments to the text, and two images of each page, with both standard lighting and raked lighting to highlight the texture of the parchment.
Prior to 1 September 2009, the University of the Arts London PhD student, Nikolas Sarris, discovered the previously unseen fragment of the Codex in the library of Saint Catherine's Monastery. It contains the text of Book of Joshua 1:10.
Present locationThe codex is now split into four unequal portions: 347 leaves in the British Library in London, 12 leaves and 14 fragments in the Saint Catherine's Monastery, 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library, and fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg.
Saint Catherine's Monastery still maintains the importance of a letter, handwritten in 1844 with an original signature of Tischendorf confirming that he borrowed those leaves. However, recently published documents, including a deed of gift dated 11 September 1868 and signed by Archbishop Kallistratos and the monks of the monastery, indicate that the manuscript was acquired entirely legitimately. This deed, which agrees with a report by Kurt Aland on the matter, has now been published. Unfortunately this development is not widely known in the English-speaking world, as only German- and Russian-language media reported on it in 2009. Doubts as to the legality of the gift arose because when Tischendorf originally removed the manuscript from Saint Catherine's Monastery in September 1859, the monastery was without an archbishop, so that even though the intention to present the manuscript to the Tsar had been expressed, no legal gift could be made at the time. Resolution of the matter was delayed through the turbulent reign of Archbishop Cyril, and the situation only formalised after the restoration of peace.
Skeat in his article "The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus" concluded in this way:
This is not the place to pass judgements, but perhaps I may say that, as it seems to me, both the monks and Tischendorf deserve our deepest gratitude, Tischendorf for having alerted the monks to the importance of the manuscript, and the monks for having undertaken the daunting task of searching through the vast mass of material with such spectacular results, and then doing everything in their power to safeguard the manuscript against further loss. If we accept the statement of Uspensky, that he saw the codex in 1845, the monks must have worked very hard to complete their search and bind up the results in so short a period.
Impact on biblical scholarshipAlong with Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus is considered one of the most valuable manuscripts available, as it is one of the oldest and likely closer to the original text of the Greek New Testament. It is the only uncial manuscript with the complete text of the New Testament, and the only ancient manuscript of the New Testament written in four columns per page which has survived to the present day. With only 300 years separating the Codex Sinaiticus and the proposed lifetime of Jesus, it is considered by some to be more accurate than most New Testament copies in preserving readings where almost all manuscripts are assumed by them to be in error.
For the Gospels, Sinaiticus is considered among some people as the second most reliable witness of the text ; in the Acts of the Apostles, its text is equal to that of Vaticanus; in the Epistles, Sinaiticus is assumed to be the most reliable witness of the text. In the Book of Revelation, however, its text is corrupted and is considered of poor quality, and inferior to the texts of Codex Alexandrinus, Papyrus 47, and even some minuscule manuscripts in this place.
Text of the codex
- Constantin von Tischendorf, Fragmentum Codicis Friderico-Augustani, in: , vol. I, pp. 211 ff.
- Constantin von Tischendorf: Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Giesecke & Devrient, Leipzig 1862.
Introductions to the textual criticism of NT
- T. C. Skeat, A four years work on the Codex Sinaiticus: Significant discoveries in reconditioned ms., in: T. C. Skeat and J. K. Elliott, , Brill 2004, pp. 109–118.
Facsimiles of Codex Sinaiticus
- at the Center for the Study of NT Manuscripts
- at the Encyclopedia of Textual Criticism
- Biblical Archaeology Review Library
- The National Library of Russia, 2009
- The Telegraph