Codex Sinaiticus

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Sinaiticus Text
Sinaiticus Text

Codex Sinaiticus (קודקס סינאיטיקוס, Σιναϊτικός Κώδικας; Shelfmarks and references: London, Brit. Libr., Additional Manuscripts 43725; Gregory-Alandא [Aleph] or 01, [Soden δ 2]) or "Sinai Bible" is called one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible.

Modern scholarship, following Constantin von Tischendorf, places it as being a 4th century manuscript but there is growing evidence among scholars that the manuscript is a fraud[1]. The codex is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript in uncial letters on parchment. Scholars in favor of the critical text of the bible, view the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the greatest Greek texts of the New Testament and the codex is a celebrated historical treasure by many modern scholars, along with that of the Codex Vaticanus. Most supporters of the Received Text reject the Codex as a corruption of the scriptures. Until the discovery by Tischendorf of the Sinaiticus text, the Codex Vaticanus was unrivaled.

The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Mount Sinai, 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 today resides within the British Library. Since its discovery, supporters of the critical text believe the study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be extremely useful to scholars for critical studies of biblical text. Supporters of the Received Text view the Codex as a corruption of the scriptures and perhaps even a forgery written by Constantine Simonides.

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



Luke 11, 2 in Codex Sinaiticus
Luke 11, 2 in Codex Sinaiticus

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), in this codex written in full and abbreviated. Almost regularly, a plain iota is substituted for the epsilon-iota diphthong (error of iotacism), e.g. δαυειδ instead δαυιδ.

Each line 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. In result the eight columns thus presented to the reader when the volume is opened have much of the appearance of the succession of columns in a papyrus roll. The poetical books of the Old Testament written in στίχοι, only in two columns per page. There are no breathings or accents. The codex has almost 4 000 000 uncial letters.

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".

The folios are made of vellum parchment made from calf or sheep 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.

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 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. 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, 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.

The text of the codex


The text of the Old Testament lacks the following passages:

John 7:53-8:11 in Codex Sinaiticus
John 7:53-8:11 in Codex Sinaiticus

The text of New Testament lacks several passages:

Omitted verses
Omitted phrases
  • Matthew 6:13 "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." omitted.
  • Matthew 13:35 "son of Barachiah" omitted.
  • Mark 1:1 "the Son of God" omitted.
  • Luke 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" - included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but a third corrector removed the mark.

These omissions are typical for the Alexandrian text-type.


Matthew 8:13

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.

Matthew 27:49

In Gospel of Matthew 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.

Unique textual variants

In 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.

In Matthew 13:54 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.

In 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.

In John 1:28 second corrector made unique textual variant Βηθαραβα. This textual variant has only codex 892, syrh and several other manuscripts.

In John 1:34 it reads ὁ ἐκλεκτός (choosen one) together with the manuscripts <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>5, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>106, b, e, ff2, syrc, and syrs instead of ordinary word υἱος (son).

In 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); in Acts 11:20 εὐαγγελιστας (Evangelists) instead of ἑλληνιστάς (Hellenists); in Acts 14:9 "not" inserted before "heard"; in Hebrews 2:4 "harvests" instead of "distributions"; in 1 Peter 5:13 word "Babylon" replaced into "Church".

Text-type and relationship to other manuscripts

For most of the New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus is in general agreement with Codex Vaticanus 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 judgment".

[[Image:Codex sinaticus.jpg|thumb|A portion of the Codex Sinaiticus, containing Esther 2:3-8:31. 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. 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, "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 Matthew 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.

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 portion which was held in Petersburg (2/3 of the codex).[] It means all the codex can 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 in codices: Bodmer II, Regius (L), Ephraemi (C), and Sangallensis (Δ). They were discovered by Button.

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 Rome. Kenyon, Gardthausen, Ropes and Jellicoe thought it was written in Egypt. Harris, Streeter, Skeat, and Milne tended to think that it was produced in Caesarea. It was written in the fourth century. It could not have been written before A.D. 325 because it contains the Eusebian Canons, and it is a terminus post quem. It could not be written after A.D. 360 because of certain references to Church fathers in the margin. It means A.D. 360 is a terminus ad quem.

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). 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.

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. Modern analysis identifies at least three scribes. Scribe B was a poor speller, and scribe A was not very much better; the best scribe was D. 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. A made unusually serious mistake. It is now agreed, after Milne and Skeat's reinvestigation, that Tischendorf was wrong—scribe C never existed. 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 colums) and 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 (a, b, c, ca, cb, cc, e).

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. In the sixth or seventh century, many alterations were made, 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 AD 309). If this is so, material which begin 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.

Constantine Simonides

The cover of the book which is available today at the Aristotelian University Library in Thessaloniki Greece
The cover of the book which is available today at the Aristotelian University Library in Thessaloniki Greece

A recent development has pointed to the codex being created by a forger called Constantine Simonides. Before the Codex Sinaiticus, the first five letters of Barnabas were not known to us, but with the "discovery" of the Codex Sinaiticus we were able to know what was in them. The Codex Sinaiticus was found by Constantin von Tischendorf in 1845. The only problem that we have is that in 1843, a good 2 years before the discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus, Constantine Simonides had published a book called the "The Letters of Barnabas" which he even had the first 4 letter that were first found in the Codex Sinaiticus exactly the same, word for word.

Below is the cover of the book which is available today at the Aristotelian University Library in Thessaloniki Greece with a library number of 30543. The title page of the book has the Greek letter of ΑΩΜΓ, which represents the year 1843. The Greek letters can also be used as numbers.

The newspaper the Star of the East on August 1, 1843 wrote about Constantine Simonides new book
The newspaper the Star of the East on August 1, 1843 wrote about Constantine Simonides new book

The newspaper the Star of the East on August 1, 1843 wrote about Constantine Simonides new book. The image of the newspaper article of the book review.

In Oct 15, 1862, Kallinikos Hieromachos, wrote a letter, were it stated that:

...I do myself declare to all men by this letter, that the Codex of the Old and New Testaments, together with the Epistle of Barnabas and of the Shepherd Hermas, which was abstracted by Dr. Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai, is a work of the hands of the unwearied Simonides himself. Inasmuch as I myself saw him in 1843 ... in the month of February writing it in Athos...Dr. Tischendorf, coming to the Greek monastery of Sinai in 1844, in the month of May (if my memory does not deceive me), and remaining there several days, and getting into his hands, by permission of the librarian, the codex we are speaking of, and perusing and re-perusing it frequently, abstracted secretly a small portion of it, but left the largest portion in the place where it was, and departed undisturbed...And I know yet further, that the codex also was cleaned with lemon-juice, professedly for the purpose of cleaning its parchments, but in reality in order to weaken the freshness of the letters, as was actually the case.

In 1815, some 50 years before the book was found, William Turner visited the St. Catherine's Monastery and wrote:

“To my enquires after manuscripts and a library the priest answered, that they had only three Bibles and I took their word more readily as Richard Pococke in the mid 1700s states they had no rare manuscripts.”

This means that from the mid-1700’s till 1815 there had only been Three Bibles in St. Catherine's Monastery. Unlike other old community, St. Catherine had never been plundered and the scholar considered it as an inexhaustible mine of antiquity.

In 1845, Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky of Russia visited St. Catherine's Monastery and he examined the Codex Sinaiticus and maintained a firm position that the Codex Sinaiticus was a relatively new bible and he disputed with Constantin Tischendorf about its age. Constantin Tischendorf, in turn, presented Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky with several sheets from the publication of the Codex Sinaiticus, as indicated by the inscription on one leaf.

In 1850, Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky revisited the St. Catherine's Monastery from June to August where he compiled a catalogue of Greek manuscripts from the monastery library at the request of the community. That was the first scientific based catalogue of the oldest and richest library collections of the Orthodox East.

In his writings he states:

The best Greek manuscripts are stored in the priors' cells. There are only four of them, but they are very precious for their antiquity rarity and handwriting features, for their content, for the elegance of the beautiful faces of the Saints and entertaining drawings and paintings…The first manuscript, containing the Old Testament which was incomplete and the entire New Testament with the epistle of St. Barnabas and the book of Hermas, was written on the finest white parchment...

In 1850, Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky stated that the Codex Sinaiticus was written on the finest white parchment. This is also the case today for the 43 sheets that Constantin Tischendorf took in 1844 and then later gave it to Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky in their dispute. Those 43 sheets are called the Codex Friderico Augustanus and are now located in Saxony. Today, the Codex Sinaiticus are yellowed and darkened in color. For some reason after 1850 these pages became yellow and they look much older than they truly are. But miraculously the other 43 sheets that were sent to Fr. Porphyrius Uspensky remain white. There is growing forensic evidence that the Codex Sinaiticus is a 19th century forgery, sponsored by the Catholic Church, in order to undermine the Protestant Bible. For more information you can read Dr Bill Cooper PhD, ThD, books “The Forging of the Codex Sinaiticus” and “New Testament Fragments. Amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

The evidence given by Dr Cooper on this subject and the surprised response from the British Library staff at the youthful condition of the manuscripts is very compelling. For example the Magna Carta (1200 AD) is so frail and desiccated that it is enclosed in a sealed environment, to prevent total disintegration. The Codex Sinaiticus is allegedly 800 year older than that, and yet it has had no special preservative treatment or conditions all this time, the parchment condition is fresh, supple and un-oxidized. This is the cause of the surprise, of the British Library staff, who are acknowledged as world class experts in handling such manuscripts. Additionally, there is evidence of textual tampering, attempts at artificially aging the manuscript, and alleged bookworm tracks that start in the middle of the page.


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”.[]
“Bibbia in membrane bellissime... scritta in carattere rotondo e belissimo” it is probably the Codex Sinaiticus.
Constantin von Tischendorf in 1870
Constantin von Tischendorf in 1870
In 1844, during his first visit to Monastery of Saint Catherine, 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",[] 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 University Library at Leipzig, where they still remain. In 1846 Tischendorf published their contents, naming them the 'Codex Frederico-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.

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.

In 1853 Tischendorf revisited the monastery at Sinai, to get the remaining 86 folios, but without success. The Codex Sinaiticus was shown to Constantin von Tischendorf on his third visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, in 1859. (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.[]) 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), and in 1922 (Old Testament). It was the full-sized black and white facsimile of the manuscript, made on the basis two earlier facimiles editing. Lake did not have access to the manuscript.

[[Image:Sinai litografia.jpg|thumb|Lithography of the Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai based on sketches made by archimandrite Porphiryj Uspienski 1857]]

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:

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.
The monastery of the St. Catherine; litography from the album of P. Uspensky
The monastery of the St. Catherine; litography 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." 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. The Tsar sent the monastery 9 000 rubles by way of compensation. 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 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.

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'.
View to the Monastery of St. Catherine.
View to 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 6 months). 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".

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.

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. After coming to Britain it was examined by T. C. Skeat and H.J.M. Milne using an ultra-violet lamp.[]

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. Together with these leaves 67 Greek Manuscripts of New Testament have been found (uncials 02780296 and some minuscules).

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. 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. This project will cost $1m.

More than 1/4 of the manuscript was made publicly available at The Codex Sinaiticus Website on July 24, 2008. In July 2009, the entire manuscript will be available.

Present location

The British Library
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.

At the present day, the monastery in Sinai officially considers that the codex was stolen. Visitors in our day have reported that the monks at St. Catherine's Monastery display the receipt they received from Tischendorf for the Codex, in a frame that hangs upon the wall.[] However, recently published documents, including a deed of gift dated 11th September 1868 and signed by Archbishop Kallistratos and the monks of the monastery, prove that the manuscript was acquired entirely legitimately.[] 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 was expressed to present the manuscript to the Tsar, no legal gift could be made at that time. Resolution of the matter was delayed during the abnormal conditions prevailing during the turbulent reign of Archbishop Cyril (consecrated 7th December 1859, deposed 24th August 1866), 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 judgments, 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.


Along with Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most valuable manuscripts for establishing the original text -see 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. Only 300 years away from the original manuscripts of the New Testament, it is highly important and considered a very accurate copy as opposed to most of the later copies, "preserving obviously superior readings where the great mass of later manuscripts is in error".

In the Gospels, Sinaiticus is the second most important 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 important witness of the text. In the Book of Revelation, however, its text is corrupted and not good quality; it is inferior to the texts of Codex Alexandrinus, Papyrus 47, and even some minuscule manuscripts in this place (f.e. Minuscule 2053, 2062).

See also



1. Aland, Kurt and Aland, Barbara (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, transl. Erroll F. Rhodes, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 107-108. 2. Jongkind, Dirk (2007). Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, p. 74 ff. 3. K. Lake, (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. XVI. 4. Kenyon, F. G., (1939). Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, (4th ed.), London, p. 191.

External links


Facsimile of Codex Sinaiticus



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