Codex Sinaiticus -

           The Most Ancient of New Testament Texts


Jackson Snyder's H. T. Anderson English Translation of the Sinaitic Manuscript (1866)

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Sacred Name in the Sinaiticus



(Shelfmarks and references: London, Brit. Libr., Additional Manuscripts 43725; Gregory-Alandא [Aleph] or 01, [Soden δ 2]) is an ancient hand-written copy of the Greek Bible.[1] It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters.

It came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at the Greek Monastery of Mount Sinai, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st century. Although parts of the Codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript today resides within the British Library.[2] Since its discovery, study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be extremely useful to scholars for the purposes of biblical translation.

Originally, it contained the whole of both Testaments. Approximately half of the Greek Old Testament (or Septuagint) survived, along with a complete New Testament, plus the Epistle of Barnabas, and portions of The Shepherd of Hermas.[2]


New Testament manuscripts
papyri uncials minuscules lectionaries Uncial 01

Book of Esther

Name Sinaiticus

Sign \aleph

Text Old and New Testament

Date c. 330-360

Script Greek
Found Sinai 1844
Now at Brit. Libr., Leipzig University, St. Catherine's Monastery, Russian Nat. Libr.
Cite Lake, K. (1911).Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus,
Oxford. Size 38 cm × 34 cm (15 in × 13 in)
Type Alexandrian text-type
I Note very close to
Papyrus 66






Luke 11, 2 in Codex Sinaiticus


The codex consists of parchment from both sheepskin and goatskin. The parchment, originally in double sheets, 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.[3] Each line of the text has some twelve to fourteen Greek uncial letters, arranged in four columns (48 lines in column) with carefully-chosen line breaks and slightly ragged right edges.[4] When opened, the eight columns thus presented to the reader have much of the appearance of the succession of columns in a papyrus roll.[5] The poetical books of the Old Testament written stichometrically, in only two columns per page. There are no breathings or accents.[6] The codex has almost 4 000 000 uncial letters.[n 1]

The work was written in scriptio continua with neither breathings nor polytonic accents. Occasional points and few ligatures are used, though nomina sacra with overlines are employed throughout. Some words usually abbreviated in other manuscripts (such as πατηρ and δαυειδ), are in this codex both written in 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.[7]

Almost regularly, a plain iota is substituted for the epsilon-iota diphthong (known as iotacism), e.g. ΔΑΥΕΙΔ instead οf ΔΑΥΙΔ, ΠΕΙΛΑΤΟΣ instead of ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ, ΦΑΡΕΙΣΑΙΟΙ instead of ΦΑΡΙΣΑΙΟΙ, ΣΑΔΔΟΥΚΑΙΕΟΙ instead of ΣΑΔΔΟΥΚΑΙΟΙ, etc.[8]

Each rectangular page has the proportions 1.1 to 1, while the block of text has the reciprocal proportions, 0.91 (the same proportions, rotated 90°). 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".[9]

The folios are made of vellum parchment made from donkey or antelope skin. Most of the quires or signatures contain four leaves save two containing five. It is estimated that about 360 animals were slaughtered for making the folios of this codex, assuming all animals yielded a good enough skin. As for the cost of the material, time of scribes and binding, it equals the life time wages of one individual at the time.[10]

The portion of the codex held by the British Library consists of 346½ folios, 694 pages (38.1 cm x 34.5 cm), constituting over half of the original work. Of these folios, 199 belong to the Old Testament including the apocrypha (deuterocanonical) 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 & 4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach.[10][11] The books of the New Testament are arranged in this order: the four Gospels, the epistles of Paul (Hebrews follows 2 Thess), the Acts of the Apostles,[n 2] 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.[12]

The codex has been corrected many thousands of times, making it one of the most corrected manuscripts in existence; see below.

The text of the codex


The text of the Old Testament contains the following passages:[13][14]


John 7:52-8:12 without the pericope 7:53-8:11 in Sinaiticus

The text of the New Testament lacks several passages:[15]

Omitted verses

Omitted phrases

  • Matthew 5:44 ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμας, καλως ποιειτε τοις μισουσιν υμας (bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you);[17]

  • Matthew 6:13οτι σου εστιν η βασιλεια και η δυναμις και η δοξα εις τους αιωνας. αμην "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." omitted.

  • Matthew 10:39a — ο ευρων την ψυχην αυτου απολεσει αυτην, και (Ηe who finds his life will lose it, and);[18]

  • Matthew 15:6 — η την μητερα (αυτου) (or (his) mother);[19]

  • Matthew 20:23 και το βαπτισμα ο εγω βαπτιζομαι βαπτισθησεσθε (and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with)[20]

  • Matthew 23:35 — υιου βαραχιου (son of Barachi'ah) omitted; this omission is supported only by codex 59 (by the first hand), three Evangelistaria ( 6, 13, and 185), and Eusebius.[21]

  • Mark 1:1υιου θεου "the Son of God" omitted.

  • Mark 10:7 — omitted και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου (and be joined to his wife), as in codices Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, Codex Athous Lavrensis, 892, 48, syrs, goth.[22]

  • Luke 9:55b-56a — και ειπεν, Ουκ οιδατε ποιου πνευματος εστε υμεις; ο γαρ υιος του ανθρωπου ουκ ηλθεν ψυχας ανθρωπων απολεσαι αλλα σωσαι (and He said: "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them) omitted as in codices: P45, P75, B, C, L, Θ, Ξ, 33, 700, 892, 1241, syr, copbo;[23]

  • John 4:9 – ου γαρ συνχρωνται Ιουδαιοι Σαμαριταις (Jews have no dealings with Samaritans), it is one of so-called Western non-interpolations; omission is supported by D, a, b, d, e, j, copfay, it was supplemented by the first corrector (before leaving scriptorium);[24]

Some passages were excluded by the correctors


Additional phrase to John 21:7 on the margin — οι δε ειπον δι οληϲ τηϲ νυκτοϲ ε κοπιαϲαμεν και ουδεν ελαβομεν επι δε τω ϲω ρηματι βαλουμεν

  • Matthew 24:36 — phrase ουδε ο υιος (nor the Son) the first corrector marked as doubtful, but the second corrector (b) removed the mark.[25]

  • Mark 10:40 ητοιμασται υπο του πατρος μου (instead of ητοιμασται) — the first corrector phrase "υπο του πατρος μου" marked as doubtful, but the second corrector removed the mark.[26]

  • In Luke 11:4 αλλα ρυσαι ημας απο του πονηρου (but deliver us from evil) included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector (a) as doubtful, but the third corrector (c) removed the mark.[27]

  • Christ's agony at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43-44) — included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but a third corrector (c) removed the mark.[28]

  • Luke 23:34a, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" — it was included by the first scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but a third corrector removed the mark.[29]

These omissions are typical for the Alexandrian text-type.[30]


Matthew 8:13 (see Luke 7:10)

It has additional text: και υποστρεψας ο εκατονταρχος εις τον οικον αυτου εν αυτη τη ωρα ευρεν τον παιδα υγιαινοντα (and when the centurion returned to the house in that hour, he found the slave well) as well as codices C, (N), Θ, (0250), f1, (33, 1241), g1, syrh.[31]

Matthew 27:49 (see John 19:34)

In Matt. 27:49 codex contains added text: ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἒνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὖδορ καὶ αἳμα (the other took a spear and pierced His side, and immediately came out water and blood). This reading was derived from John 19:34 and occurs in other manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type.[32]

Unique textual variants

Matthew 7:22

It has additional word πολλα (numerous) in sentence: "and cast out numerous demons in your name?". It is not supported by any other manuscript.[33]

Matthew 8:12

It has ἐξελεύσονται (will go out) instead of ἐκβληθήσονται (will be thrown). This variant is supported only by one Greek manuscript Uncial 0250, and by Codex Bobiensis, syrc, s, p, pal, arm, Diatessaron.[34]

Matthew 13:54

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.[35]

Matthew 16:12

It has textual variant της ζυμης των αρτων των Φαρισαιων και Σαδδουκαιων (leaven of bread of the Pharisees and Sadducees) supported only by Codex Corbeiensis I and Curetonian Gospels.

Luke 1:26

"Nazareth" is called "a city of Judea", in John 2:3, where is ordinary 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" (supported by a and j);

Luke 2:37

εβδομηκοντα (seventy), all manuscripts have ογδοηκοντα (eighty);[36]

John 1:28

The second corrector made unique textual variant Βηθαραβα. This textual variant has only codex 892, syrh and several other manuscripts.[37]

John 1:34

It reads ὁ ἐκλεκτός (chosen one) together with the manuscripts 5, 106, b, e, ff2, syrc, and syrs instead of ordinary word υἱος (son).

John 6:10

  • It reads τρισχιλιοι (three thousands) for πεντακισχιλιοι (five thousands); the second corrector changed into πεντακισχιλιοι.[38]

Acts 11:20

It reads εὐαγγελιστας (Evangelists) instead of ἑλληνιστάς (Hellenists);

Some other readings In Acts 14:9 The word "not" inserted before "heard"; in Hebr 2:4 "harvests" instead of "distributions"; in 1 Peter 5:13 word "Babylon" replaced into "Church".[39]

Witness of some readings of "majority"

It is the oldest witness for the phrase μη αποστερησης (do not defraud) in Mark 10:19. This phrase was not included by the manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus (added by second corrector), Codex Cyprius, Codex Washingtonianus, Codex Athous Lavrensis, f1, f13, 28, 700, 1010, 1079, 1242, 1546, 2148, 10, 950, 1642, 1761, syrs, arm, geo. This is variant of the majority manuscripts.[40]

In Mark 13:33 it is the oldest witness of the variant και προσευχεσθε (and pray). Codex B and D do not include this passage.[41]

In Luke 8:48 it has θυγατερ (daughter) as in the Byzantine manuscripts, instead of the Alexandrian θυγατηρ (daughter), supported by the manuscripts: B K L W Θ.[42]

Orthodox corruption readings

In 1 John 5:6 it has textual variant δι' ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνεύματος (through water and blood and spirit) together with the manuscripts: Codex Alexandrinus, 104, 424c, 614, 1739c, 2412, 2495, 598m, syrh, copsa, copbo, Origen.[43][n 3] Bart D. Ehrman identifies this as a corrupt reading from the orthodox party.[44]

Text-type and relationship to other manuscripts

For 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 ('without cause', 'without reason', 'in vain') 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".[n 4]


A portion of the Codex Sinaiticus, containing Esther 2:3-8.

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 1:3 Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae are the only Greek manuscripts with textual variant ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἐστίν (in him is life) instead of ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ᾓν (in him was life). This variant is supported by Vetus Latina and some Sahidic manuscripts. This portion has a large number of corrections.[45] There is 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 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".[47]

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 which was used in this codex, and used by Jerome.[48]

Between the 4th and 12th centuries, seven or more correctors worked on this codex, making it one of the most corrected manuscripts in existence.[49] Tischendorf during his investigation in Petersburg enumerated 14 800 corrections only in the portion which was held in Petersburg (2/3 of the codex).[50] This implies that the full codex could have about 20 000 corrections. In addition to these corrections some letters were marked by dots as doubtful (e.g. ṪḢ). Corrections represent the Byzantine text-type, just like corrections in codices: Bodmer II, Regius (L), Ephraemi (C), and Sangallensis (Δ). They were discovered by Button.[51]

History of the codex

Early history of codex


Little 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 common to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus occurs in no other Greek manuscript, but is found in several manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate.[52] Robinson easily disproved this argument, suggesting that this system of chapters divisions was introduced into the Vulgate by Jerome himself, as a result of his studies at Caesarea.[53] Kenyon, Gardthausen, Ropes and Jellicoe thought it was written in Egypt. Harris, Streeter,[48] Skeat, and Milne tended to think that it was produced in Caesarea.[35]

Date of the codex

It was written in the fourth century. It could not have been written before 325 CE because it contains the Eusebian Canons, which is a terminus post quem. It could not have been written after 360 CE because of certain references to Church fathers in the margin. This means that 360 CE is a terminus ad quem.[10]

According to Tischendorf, Codex Sinaiticus was one of the fifty copies of the Bible commissioned from Eusebius by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity (De vita Constantini, IV, 37).[54] This hypothesis was supported by Pierre Batiffol,[55] Gregory, and T. C. 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.[35]

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".[56]

Scribes and correctors

Tischendorf also believed that four separate scribes copied the work (whom he named A, B, C and D) and that five correctors (whom he designated a, b, c, d and e) amended portions. He posited that one of the correctors was contemporaneous with the original scribes, and that the others dated to the sixth and seventh centuries. It is now agreed, after Milne and Skeat's reinvestigation, that Tischendorf was wrong—scribe C never existed.[57] According to Tischendorf, scribe C wrote poetic books of the Old Testament. These are written in a different format from the rest of the manuscript — they are in two columns (the rest of books is in four columns) and written stichometrically. Tischendorf probably interpreted the different formatting as indicating the existence of another scribe.[58] The three remaining scribes are still identified by the letters that Tischendorf gave them: A, B, and D.[58] Correctors were more, at least seven (a, b, c, ca, cb, cc, e).[2]

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 Epistle of Barnabas. Scribe B was responsible for the Prophets and the Shepherd of Hermas. Scribe D wrote the whole of Tobit and Judith, the first half of 4 Maccabees, and first 2/3 of the Psalms, and first five verses of Revelation. Scribe B was a poor speller, and scribe A was not very much better; the best scribe was D.[59] Metzger states: "scribe A had made some unusually serious mistakes".[50] Scribes A and B more often used nomina sacra in contracted forms (ΠΝΕΥΜΑ contracted in all occurrences, ΚΥΡΙΟΣ contracted except 2 occurrences), scribe D more often used forms uncontracted.[60] D distinguished between sacral and nonsacral using of ΚΥΡΙΟΣ.[61] His errors are the substitution of ΕΙ for Ι, and Ι for ΕΙ in medial positions, both equally common. Otherwise substitution of Ι for initial ΕΙ is unknown, and final ΕΙ is only replaced in word ΙΣΧΥΕΙ, confusing of Ε and ΑΙ is very rare.[59] In the Book of Psalms this scribe has 35 times ΔΑΥΕΙΔ instead of ΔΑΥΙΔ, while scribe A normally uses an abbreviated form ΔΑΔ.[62] Scribe A was "worse type of phonetic error". Confusion of Ε and ΑΙ occurs in all contexts.[59] Scribe B was characterised by Milne and Skeat as "careless and illiterate".[63] The work of the original scribe is designated by the siglum א*.[2]


In the 6th or 7th century the codex may have been housed at Caesarea

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.[50] Readings which they introduced are designated by the siglum אa.[64] Mile and Skeat have observed that the superscription to 1 Maccabees was made by scribe D, while the text was written by scribe A.[65] Scribe D corrects his own work and that of scribe A, but scribe A limits to correcting his own work.[66] In the sixth or seventh century, many alterations were made (אb), which, according to a colophon at the end of the book of Esdras and Esther states, that the source of these alterations was "a very ancient manuscript that had been corrected by the hand of the holy martyr Pamphylus" (martyred 309 CE). 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.[67] The pervasive iotacism, especially of the ει diphthong, remains uncorrected.


The Codex was probably seen in 1761 by the Italian traveller, Vitaliano Donati, when he visited Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai. 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".[68]

"Bibbia in membrane bellissime... scritta in carattere rotondo e belissimo" ("a Bible on beautiful vellum, very large, thin and square, written in beautiful round letters)" is probably the Codex Sinaiticus.


Tischendorf, 1870

In 1844, during his first visit to Monastery of Saint Catherine, Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf claimed that he saw some leaves of parchment in a waste-basket. He said they were "rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning it in the ovens of the monastery",[69] 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 still remain. In 1846 Tischendorf published their contents, naming them the 'Codex Friderico-Augustanus' (in honor of Frederick Augustus). In the monastery left other portions of the same codex, containing all of Isaiah and 1 and 4 Maccabees.[70]

In 1845 Archimandrite Porfirij Uspenskij (1804–1885), 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.[n 5] In 1846 captain C. K. MacDonald visited Mount Sinai, saw the codex, and bought two codices 495 and 496 from the monastery.[71]


The codex was presented to Alexander II of Russia

In 1853 Tischendorf revisited the Monastery of Saint Catherine 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. (However, this story may have been a fabrication, or the manuscripts in question may have been unrelated to Codex Sinaiticus: Rev. J. Silvester Davies in 1863 quoted "a monk of Sinai who... stated that according to the librarian of the monastery the whole of Codex Sinaiticus had been in the library for many years and was marked in the ancient catalogues... Is it likely... that a manuscript known in the library catalogue would have been jettisoned in the rubbish basket." Indeed, it has been noted that the leaves were in "suspiciously good condition" for something found in the trash.[n 6]) 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 (Hrsg.): Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 1. Prolegomena. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1969 (Repr.).

  • Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms (Hrsg.): Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 2. Veteris Testamenti pars prior. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1969 (Repr.).

  • Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms (Hrsg.): Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 3. Veteris Testamenti pars posterior. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1969 (Repr.).

  • Konstantin von Tischendorf, G. Olms (Hrsg.): Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 4. Novum Testamentum cum Barnaba et Pastore. G. Olms, Hildesheim 1969 (Repr.).

The complete publication of the codex was made by Kirsopp Lake in 1911 (New Testament),[72] and in 1922 (Old Testament). It was the full-sized black and white facsimile of the manuscript, made by editing two earlier facsimiles. Lake did not have access to the manuscript.

The story of how von Tischendorf found the manuscript, which contained most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament, has all the interest of a romance. Von 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:


Lithography of the Monastery of St. Catherine based on sketches made by archimandrite Porphiryj Uspienski 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.[73]


The Monastery of St. Catherine; lithograph from the album of P. Uspensky

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."[74] 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.[75] The document in Russian formalising this has been published in 2007 in Russia and has since been translated.[76]

Regarding Tischendorf's role in the transfer to Saint Petersburg, there are several views. Although when parts of Genesis and Book of Numbers were later found in the bindings of other books, they were amicably sent to Tischendorf, 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 of the leaders.[77]

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 St. Catherine's. 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 (Berlin, c. 1961); 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'.[78][79]


View of the Monastery of St. Catherine

In 13 September 1862 Constantine Simonides, a forger of manuscripts who had been exposed by Tischendorf, by way of revenge made the claim in print in The Guardian that he had written the codex himself as a young man in 1839 in the Panteleimonos monastery at Athos.[80][81] Henry Bradshaw, a scholar, contributed to exposing the frauds of Constantine Simonides, and exposed the absurdity of his claims in a letter to the Guardian (January 26, 1863). Bradshaw showed that the Codex Sinaiticus brought by Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai was not a modern forgery or written by Simonides. Simonides' "claim was flawed from the beginning".[82]

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."[83] The two most weighty of these three codices, א and B, he likens to the "two false witnesses" of Matthew 26:60.[84]

Later story of codex

In the early 20th century Vladimir N. Beneshevich (1874–1938) subsequently 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 (1907, 1908, 1911) but does not tell when or from which book he recovered. These leaves were also acquired for St. Petersburg, where they remain to the present day.[85][86]


2/3 part of the codex was held in the National Library of Russia 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 (after 1973 British Library) for £100 000 raised by public subscription (worth £5.3 million in 2010). After coming to Britain it was examined by T. C. Skeat and H.J.M. Milne using an ultra-violet lamp.[87]

In May 1975, during restoration work, the monks of St. Catherine's monastery discovered a room beneath the St. George Chapel which contained many parchment fragments. Among these fragments were twelve complete leaves from the Sinaiticus, 11 leaves of the Pentateuch and 1 leaf of the Shepherd of Hermas.[12] Together with these leaves 67 Greek Manuscripts of New Testament have been found (uncials 0278 0296 and some minuscules).[88]

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 (involving all four holding libraries), and a series of other studies was announced.[89][90][91] This will include the use of hyperspectral imaging to photograph the manuscripts to look for hidden information such as erased or faded text.[92] This is to be done in cooperation with the British Library.[93]

More than 1/4 of the manuscript was made publicly available at The Codex Sinaiticus Website on July 24, 2008. On July 6, 2009, 800 more pages of the manuscript were made available, showing over half of the entire text,[94] although the entire text was intended to be shown by that date.[95]

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.[96]

Prior to September 1, 2009, the University of the Arts London PhD student, Nikolas Sarris, discovered the previously unseen fragment of the Codex in the library of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. It contains text of Book of Joshua 1:10.[97][98]

Present location


The British Library

The codex is now split into four unequal portions: 347 leaves in the British Library in London (199 of the Old Testament, 148 of the New Testament), 12 leaves and 14 fragments in the St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai, 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library, and fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg.[2]

St. Catherine's monastery still maintains the importance of a letter, typewritten in 1844 with an original signature of Tischendorf confirming that he borrowed those leaves.[99] However, recently published documents, including a deed of gift dated 11 September 1868 and signed by Archbishop Kallistratos and the monks of the monastery, prove that the manuscript was acquired entirely legitimately.[100] 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 St Catherine's 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 (consecrated 7 December 1859, deposed 24 August 1866), and the situation only formalised after the restoration of peace.[100]

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 them 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.[101]

Impact on biblical scholarship

Along with Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be one of the most valuable manuscripts for establishing the original text (textual criticism) of the Greek New Testament, as well as the Septuagint. 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.[2] With only 300 years separating the Codex Sinaiticus and the original manuscripts of the New Testament, it is considered to be very highly accurate, as opposed to most later copies, in preserving obviously superior readings where many later manuscripts are in error.[5]

For the Gospels, Sinaiticus is generally considered among scholars as the second most reliable witness of the text (after Vaticanus); in the Acts of the Apostles, its text is equal to that of Vaticanus; in the Epistles, Sinaiticus is 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 (for example, Minuscule 2053, 2062).[10]

See also


  1. ^ It was estimated by Tischendorf and used by Scrivener in his Introduction to the Sinaitic Codex (1867) as an argument against authorship of Simonides (‘‘Christianity’’, p. 1889.)

  2. ^ Also in Minuscule 69, Minuscule 336, and several other manuscripts Pauline epistles precede Acts.

  3. ^ For another variants of this verse see: Textual variants in the First Epistle of John.

  4. ^ The same variant present manuscripts: P67, 2174, in manuscripts of Vulgate, and in manuscripts of Ethiopic version.

  5. ^ Uspienski described: «Первая рукопись, содержащая Ветхий Завет неполный и весь Новый Завет с посланием ап. Варнавы и книгой Ермы, писана на тончайшем белом пергамене. (...) Буквы в ней совершенно похожи на церковно-славянские. Постановка их прямая и сплошная. Над словами нет придыханий и ударений, а речения не отделяются никакими знаками правописания кроме точек. Весь священный текст писан в четыре и два столбца стихомерным образом и так слитно, как будто одно длинное речение тянется от точки до точки.» (Порфирий (Успенский), Первое путешествие в Синайский монастырь в 1845 году, Petersburg 1856, с. 226.)

  6. ^ Davies words are from a letter published in The Guardian on 27 May 1863, as quoted by Elliott, J.K. (1982) in Codex Sinaiticus and the Simonides Affair, Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, p. 16; Elliott in turn is quoted by Michael D. Peterson in his essay "Tischendorf and the Codex Sinaiticus: the Saga Continues", in The Church and the Library, ed. Papademetriou and Sopko Boston: Somerset Hall Press (2005), p. 77. See also notes 2 and 3, p. 90, in Papademetriou.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Metzger, Bruce; Bart D. Ehrman (2005). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. New York - Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-19-516122-9. 

  2. ^ a b c d e f Aland, Kurt; Barbara Aland; Erroll F. Rhodes (transl.) (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 107-108. ISBN 978-0-8028-4098-1. 

  3. ^ T. C. Skeat, Early Christian book-production, in: Peter R. Ackroyd & Geoffrey William Hugo Lampe (eds.) The Cambridge history of the Bible (Cambridge 1975), pp. 77-78.

  4. ^ Kirsopp Lake, (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. XVI.

  5. ^ a b Kenyon, F. G., (1939). Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, (4th ed.), London, p. 191.

  6. ^ Scrivener F. H. A., (1864). A Full Collation of the Codex Sinaiticus with the Received Text of the New Testament, Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., p. XIII.

  7. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007), pp. 22-50. Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, pp. 67-68.

  8. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007). Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, p. 74 ff, 93-94.

  9. ^ Bringhurst, Robert (2004). The Elements of Typographic Style (version 3.0), pp. 174–75. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-205-5.

  10. ^ a b c d Metzger, Bruce M., (1991). Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 76.

  11. ^ "The Codex Sinaiticus Website". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

  12. ^ a b Skeat, T. C. "The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus", Novum Testamentum XLII, 4, pp. 313-315.

  13. ^ Würthwein Ernst (1988). Der Text des Alten Testaments, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, p. 85.

  14. ^ Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge 1902), pp. 129-130.

  15. ^ Bruce M. Metzger (2001). "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament", Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart: United Bible Societies.

  16. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart 2001), pp. 315, 388, 434, 444.

  17. ^ UBS3, p. 16.

  18. ^ NA26, p. 26.

  19. ^ NA26, p. 41.

  20. ^ NA26, 56.

  21. ^ Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose; Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. 1. London: George Bell & Sons. p. 342. 

  22. ^ UBS3, p. 164.

  23. ^ NA26, p. 190.

  24. ^ NA26, p. 256; UBS3, p. 333.

  25. ^ UBS3, p. 95.

  26. ^ UBS3, p. 168.

  27. ^ UBS3, p. 256.

  28. ^ UBS3, p. 305.

  29. ^ Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece 26th edition, Stuttgart 1991, p. 239.

  30. ^ UBS3, p. 311.

  31. ^ NA26, p. 18

  32. ^ Bruce M. Metzger (2001). "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament", Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, p. 59.

  33. ^ NA26, p. 17.

  34. ^ UBS4, p. 26.

  35. ^ a b c Skeat, T. C. (1999). "The Codex Sinaiticus, The Codex Vaticanus and Constantine". Journal of Theological Studies 50: 583–625. 

  36. ^ NA26, p. 158.

  37. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

  38. ^ NA26, p. 264

  39. ^ F. H. A. Scrivener, Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament and the Ancient Manuscripts which contain it (Deighton, Bell, and Co: Cambridge; London, 1875), p. 47.

  40. ^ UBS3, p. 165.

  41. ^ NA26, p. 136.

  42. ^ NA26, p. 184.

  43. ^ UBS3, p. 823.

  44. ^ Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1993, p. 60.

  45. ^ Fee, G. D. (1968-9). Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John, NTS 15, pp. 22-44.

  46. ^ Hoskier, H. C. (1914). Codex B and Its Allies, a Study and an Indictment, London, p.1.

  47. ^ Westcott, B. F. and Hort, F. J. A. (1860). Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p.40.

  48. ^ a b Streeter, B. H. (1924). The Four Gospels, a Study of Origins treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, & Dates, pp. 590-597.

  49. ^ Milne, H. J. M. and Skeat, T.C. (1938). Scribes and Correctors of Codex Sinaiticus. London: Trustees of the British Museum.

  50. ^ a b c Metzger, Bruce M., (1991). Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 77.

  51. ^ Button, E. A. (1911). An Atlas of Textual Criticism, Cambridge, p. 13.

  52. ^ Brook F. Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper & Bros., 1882; reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), pp. 264-267.

  53. ^ Robinson, Euthaliana, pp. 42, 101.

  54. ^ Price, I. M. (1923). The Ancestry of Our English Bible an Account of Manuscripts, Texts and Versions of the Bible, Sunday School Times Co, p. 146 f.

  55. ^ Pierre Batiffol, Codex Sinaiticus, in DB. 1, 1883-1886.

  56. ^ Frederic G. Kenyon, "Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament", London2, 1912, p. 83.

  57. ^ Milne, H. J. M. and Skeat, T. C., (1938). Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus, London: British Museum, pp. 22-50.

  58. ^ a b Jongkind, Dirk (2007), pp. 22-50. Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, pp. 12-13.

  59. ^ a b c Jongkind, Dirk (2007), Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, p. 90.

  60. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007), Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, pp. 77-78.

  61. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007), Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, pp. 80-81.

  62. ^ Milne-Skeat. Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus, (London: British Museum, 1938), p. 94.

  63. ^ Milne-Skeat. Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus, (London: British Museum, 1938), pp. 53-55.

  64. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.; Ehrman, Bart D. (2005), The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 66-67.

  65. ^ Milne, H. J. M. and T. C. Skeat, (1938). Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus, London: British Museum, p. 33.

  66. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007), Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, p. 44.

  67. ^ Metzger, Bruce M., (1992). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, (3rd Ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 46.

  68. ^ Lumbroso, G. (1879). Atti della R. Accademia dei Lincei, p. 501.

  69. ^ Skeat, T. C. (2000). "The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus". Novum Testamentum. Vol. 42, Fasc. 3, Jul., 2000. p. 313.

  70. ^ Tischendorf, C. v. (1866). When Were Our Gospels Written? An Argument by Constantine Tischendorf. With a Narrative of the Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript, New York: American Tract Society.

  71. ^ Gregory, Caspar René (1900). Textkritik des Neuen Testaments, Vol. 1. Leipzig. p. 195. 

  72. ^ Kirsopp Lake, (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  73. ^ See Constantin von Tischendorf, The Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript, Extract from Constantin von Tischendorf, (1866) When Were Our Gospels Written? An Argument by Constantine Tischendorf. With a Narrative of the Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript New York: American Tract Society.

  74. ^ Bentley, James (1986). Secrets of Mount Sinai. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, p. 95.

  75. ^ Kirsopp Lake, (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. VI.

  76. ^ [1]

  77. ^ Lake, Kirsopp, (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. VI.

  78. ^ See Ihor Ševčenko, "New Documents on Tischendorf and the Codex Sinaiticus", published in the journal Scriptorium, xviii (1964), pp. 55–80.

  79. ^ Metzger, Bruce A. (1992) The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, (3rd Ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 45.

  80. ^ J. K. Elliott (1982) in Codex Sinaiticus and the Simonides Affair, Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, p. 16.

  81. ^ Странное объявление Симонидеса о Синайском кодексе и ответ Тишендорфа.

  82. ^ McKitterick, David (1998) A history of Cambridge University Press, Volume 2: Scholarship and Commerce (1698-1872), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 052130802X, page 369.

  83. ^ Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 9.

  84. ^ Burgon, Revised Revision, p. 48.

  85. ^ Бенешевич Владимир Николаевич, "Памятники Синая археологические и палеографические", Вып. 2, Sankt Petersburg, 1912; V. N. Beneshevich, "Catalogus Codicum Manuscriptorum Graecorum qui in Monasterio Sanctae Catherinae in Monte Sina Asservantur" St. Petersburg (1911).

  86. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

  87. ^ T. C. Skeat, A four years work on the Codex Sinaiticus: Significant discoveries in reconditioned ms., in: T. C. Skeat and J. K. Elliott, The collected biblical writings of T. C. Skeat, Brill 2004, p. 9.

  88. ^ Codex Sinaiticus finds 1975 with images

  89. ^ World's oldest Bible goes global: Historic international digitisation project announced, British Library: Press Room

  90. ^ British Library Heads Project in Digitalising the World’s Oldest Bible Christianity Today, March 15, 2005

  91. ^ Schneider, Ulrich Johannes (ed.) (2007). Codex Sinaiticus. Geschichte und Erschließung der «Sinai-Bibel». Leipzig: Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, p. 42.

  92. ^ Oldest known Bible to go online. 31 August 2005. Retrieved 08 June 2006.

  93. ^ Henschke, E. (2007). "Digitizing the Hand-Written Bible: The Codex Sinaiticus, its History and Modern Presentation", Libri, vol. 57, pp. 45-51.

  94. ^ Historical Bible pages put online BBC News

  95. ^ "The world's oldest Bible goes online". Press release. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 

  96. ^ "ctv news story". 2009-07-06. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

  97. ^ Oldest Bible fragment found in Egypt Press TV

  98. ^ "Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery". The Independent, 2 Sept, 2009.

  99. ^ Ο Σιναϊτικός Κώδικας.

  100. ^ a b "История приобретения Синайской Библии Россией в свете новых документов из российских архивов", А.В.Захарова, Монфокон: исследования по палеографии, кодикологии и дипломатике, Ι, Москва—С.-Петербург, 2007, 209-266

  101. ^ Skeat, T. C. (2000). "The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus." Novum Testamentum. Vol. 42, Fasc. 3, Jul., 2000. p. 315.

Further reading