James White recently mentioned this article on his blog, and I thought it was interesting, so here’s how it starts:
One of the most important ancient manuscripts has just gone on-line. The manuscript, Codex Sinaiticus, was penned in Greek in the mid-fourth century and originally contained the whole Bible as well as some writings of the apostolic fathers. The manuscript is currently in four locations: St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai, Egypt; British Library, London; National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg; and Leipzig University, Germany. The British Library has the largest portion (about 350 leaves), Leipzig University has 43 leaves, St. Catherine’s has something like 18 complete or fragmentary leaves, and St. Petersburg has just a few leaves. This week marked the first time that all these leaves could be seen since the manuscript was dissembled 150 years ago.
I’ve written about the story of its discovery in previous blogs, noting that the well-known tale of Tischendorf stopping the monks from using leaves of this codex as kindling for the ovens needed significant revision in light of discoveries made at St. Catherine’s in 1975. But I’ll not go into that now. The significance of the manuscript can hardly be overestimated. Some highlights are as follows:
- Sinaiticus contains the oldest complete New Testament in the world; the next oldest is half a millennium younger.
- In the opinion of most New Testament scholars, Sinaiticus is one of two or three of the most important manuscripts for establishing the wording of the autographic text of the NT.
- Like the other fourth-century majuscule manuscript, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus lacks the story of the woman caught in adultery and Mark 16.9–20.
The manuscript has been in the news of late because of going on-line. Unfortunately, the media tend to get a lot of facts mixed up. A perusal of a few newspapers, magazines, and on-line sites revealed the following incorrect statements about the manuscript…