Saturday, February 10, 2007

Codex Sinaiticus detected on Feb 7th, 1844

Remember Oscar Wilde's line, " Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it has merely been detected." Well, the same applies to the detection of Codex Sinaiticus by Constantine Von Tischendorf in 1844, the anniversary of which falls this past week.

The earliest complete copy of the New Testament, it is the antecedent of all bound copies of the Bible. Containing over 400 large leaves (pages) of animal skin, partly calf, on which half of the Old Testament and Apocrypha (2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1&4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach, all of the New Testament with the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas is written in Greek. Named after the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, 347 leaves of the Codex are now in the British Library. Eleven leaves from the beginning and end of the Codex remain in the monastery of St. Catherine while 43 leaves are at the University Library in Leipzig and parts of five leaves are at the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg. An estimated 330 leaves completing the Old Testament are lost.

Dated to the mid-fourth century, the Greek is without word division (scriptio continua) and in capital letters. The text is arranged in four columns on each page. On every page one can see thousands of corrections dating from the fourth to the twelfth century visible in the margins and between the columns. It is perhaps the most corrected early manuscript of the Christian Bible.

While we know nothing about the producers of the codex or the place they worked (Alexandria, Rome, Caesarea?), we can detect three copyists of the text known as A, B, and D. Each scribe copied and corrected his or her work. Scribe A added to the ending of John's Gospel the verse 21:25, "And there are also many things which Jesus did, the which, if they were tobe written every one, I suppose even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Scribe D noticed an omission from scribe A's copy of I Cor 13:1-3 and inserted the missing text into the margin above.

Between the 5th and 7th Centuries, a corrector known as Ca not only emended earlier errors but also attempted to bring the entire text into line with a version of the text more familiar to him or her. In the Lucan account of the crucifixion, for example, Ca restored the passage, "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Now the entire Codex in its four separate parts is being digitized and will appear in 2009 or 2010.

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