Codex Zacynthius

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Codex Zacynthius (designated by siglum Ξ or 040 in the Gregory-Aland numbering; A1 in von Soden)[] is a Greek New Testament codex, dated paleographically to the 6th century.[] First thought to have been written in the 8th century,[] it is a palimpsest—the original (lower) text was washed off its vellum pages and overwritten in the 12th or 13th century. The upper text of the palimpsest contains weekday Gospel lessons; the lower text contains portions of the Gospel of Luke, deciphered by biblical scholar and palaeographer Tregelles in 1861. The lower text is of most interest to scholars.

The manuscript came from Zakynthos, a Greek island, and has survived in a fragmentary condition. It was brought to England in 1821 and transferred to Cambridge University in 1985. It is often cited in critical editions of the Greek New Testament.



The lower text of the manuscript contains fragments of the chapters 1:1-11:33 of the Gospel of Luke. The codex comprises 86 thick, coarse parchment leaves and three partial leaves;[][] it measures 36 x 29 cm.[] The text was written in a single column with well-formed uncial script. The letters are large, round and narrow, without spiritus asper, spiritus lenis, or accents.[] The manuscript was written by two scribes.[]

Abbreviations are rarely used in the codex. The handwriting is very close to that of the Rossano Gospels.[] The errors of itacism occur, but not so often as in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. It uses grammatical forms typical of the ancient manuscripts (e.g. ειπαν, ηλθαν, ευραν), which are not used in later medieval manuscripts.[]

The codex uses a peculiar system of chapter divisions, which it shares with Codex Vaticanus and Minuscule 579. A more common system divides chapters according to their titles.[] The capital letters at the beginnings of sections stand out in the margin as in the Codices Alexandrinus and Ephraemi.[]

The text is surrounded by a marginal commentary; it is the only codex that has both text and commentary in uncial script. The commentary is a catena of quotations of nine church fathers: Origen, Eusebius, Titus of Bostra, Basil, Isidore of Pelusium, Cyril of Alexandria, Sever from Antioch, Victor from Antioch, and Chrysostom.[] The commentary surrounds the single-column text of Luke on three sides.[] Patristic text is written in small uncial letters. Most of the quotations are those of Ciril of Alexandria (93 scholia); next comes Titus of Bostra (45 scholia).[][] The commentary was written in a different kind of uncial script than the biblical text.[]


The book contains the following chapters and verses of the Gospel of Luke: 1:1-9,19-23,27-28,30-32,36-60,77; 2:19,21-22,33-3; 3:5-8,11-20; 4:1-2,6-20,32-43; 5:17-36; 6:21; 7:6,11-37,39-47; 8:4-21,25-35,43-50; 9:1-28,32-33,35; 9:41; 10:18,21-40; 11:1-4,24-33.[]

Variations and omissions

  • Luke 9:55b-56a — καὶ εἶπεν, Οὑκ οἴδατε οἵου πνεύματος ἑστε ὐμεῖς; ὀ γὰρ υἰὸς τοῦ ἁνθρώπου οὑκ ἦλθεν ψυχὰς ἁνθρώπων ἁπολέσαι ἁλλὰ σῶσαι (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) is omitted, typical of Alexandrian text-type, as in codices Sinaiticus B C Θ L 33 700 892 1241 syr, and copbo.[]
  • Luke 4:17 it has the textual variant καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ βιβλίον (and opened the book) together with the manuscripts A, B, L, W, 33, 892, 1195, 1241, 547, syrs, h, pal, and copsa, bo, against variant καὶ ἀναπτύξας τὸ βιβλίον (and unrolled the book) supported by א, Dc, K, Δ, Θ, Π, Ψ, f1, f13, 28, 565, 700, 1009, and 1010.[]
  • Luke 9:10 it has the textual variant εις πολιν καλουμενην Βηθσαιδα (to a city called Bethsaida), as do codices B, L, and 33; but later hand-written in the margin εις τοπον ερημον πολεως καλουμενην Βηδσαιδα (into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida).[]


The textual character of the codex is representative of the late Alexandrian text-type, and is similar to the Codex Regius.[] Kurt and Barbara Aland gave the following textual profile of it: 21, 82, 21/2, 3s.[] This means the text of the codex agrees with the Byzantine standard text 2 times, it agrees 8 times with the original text against the Byzantine and it agrees both with the Byzantine and original text 2 times. There are 3 independent or distinctive readings. On the basis of this profile Alands considered the quality of the text to suit his Category III.[] According to the Claremont Profile Method, it represents the Alexandrian text in Luke 10 and mixed Byzantine text-type in Luke 1,[] which probably indicates sporadic Byzantine corrections.[]


The underwriting is 7th-century majuscule of Luke 3:7-8 with commentary; the upper writing is 13th-century minuscule of Matthew 26:39-51, part lection for Holy Thursday
The underwriting is 7th-century majuscule of Luke 3:7-8 with commentary; the upper writing is 13th-century minuscule of Matthew 26:39-51, part lection for Holy Thursday

The codex is a palimpsest, meaning that the original text was scraped off and overwritten and the parchment leaves folded in half. The upper text was written by a minuscule hand and contains lectionary 299 ( 299) from the 12th or 13th century,[] though the lectionary text is not complete; it is written on 176 leaves (), in one column per page, 33-36 lines per page.[] Three folios are only the lower halves of leaves, one folio was supplied with paper (folio LXVIII).[] The manuscript contains weekday Gospel lessons (Evangelistarium),[] but is lacunose.[] Tregelles did not collate its text because of its secondary value.[] Scrivener designated it by siglum 200,[] Gregory by 299.[]

Lectionary 299 in Mark 6:33 has textual reading ἐκεῖ καὶ προῆλθον αὐτούς along with Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, 0187 (omit εκει), 892, 49, 69, 70, 303, 333, 1579, ( 950 αυτους), itaur, vg, (copsa, bo).[]

The text of the lectionary is cited in some critical editions of the Greek New Testament (UBS3)[] in the following places: Matthew 10:4; 11:17; 12:47; 13:13; 14:22; 18:10; 22:30; 26:27; 28:9; Mark 1:27; 2:10.26; 4:16.20; 6:[] It is not cited in UBS4.[]



Tregelles dated the manuscript to the 8th century. Tregelles was aware that the handwriting is typical for the 6th century, but the handwriting of the commentary is much older. The letters ΕΘΟΣ are round, high, and narrow, and could not have been written before the 8th century. C. R. Gregory supported Tregelles's point of view. According to Nicholas Pocock, the manuscript could not have been written before the 6th century nor after the 8th century.[]

William Hatch in 1937, on the basis of palaeographical data, suggested that the codex should be dated to the 6th century. It does not use breathings and accents and the text of the commentary is written in uncial script.[] Aland supported Hatch's point of view.[] This date is accepted by the majority of scholars.[][]

David C. Parker in 2004 argued that manuscript was written later the 6th century, because it has a small number of square letters, and the handwriting is not typical for the 6th century. Some letters were compressed (Μ, Δ, Ε), the bar over the letter Τ is short and the letter Υ is written in several ways. According to Parker the manuscript should be dated to the 7th century.[]

Currently it is dated by the INTF to the 6th century.[]

Discovery and further research

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles
Samuel Prideaux Tregelles

The early history of the manuscript is unknown. In 1821 it was brought by general Colin Macaulay to England from the Greek island Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea. The manuscript was placed in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society (Mss 24) in London.[]

Scholz saw the manuscript in 1845, and Paul de Lagarde in 1853, but they did not decipher it.[] The lower text of the codex was deciphered, transcribed, and edited by Tregelles in 1861.[] Tregelles used types originally cast for printing the Codex Alexandrinus,<ref>Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament (London, 1863), Vol. 1, p. 113.</ref> which only approximately represented the shape of the letters of the codex. The hand-written letters are smaller than the type. Tregelles included one page of typographical facsimile in this edition.[] He did not decipher the small Patristic writing and doubted that it could be read without chemical restoration.[]

Nicholas Pocock found errors in Tregelles' edition,[] but William Hatch thought it satisfactory. J. Harold Greenlee corrected Tregelles' errors and edited the list of corrections in 1957,sup>[]</sup> which was examined by William Hatch. In 1959 Greenlee published a commentary.[] The codex probably needs another examination with modern technology.[]

Tischendorf cited the codex in his Editio Octava Critica Maior in 564 places.[] It is often cited in the critical editions of the Greek New Testament (UBS3,[] UBS4,[] NA26,[]).

In 1985 it was moved to the Cambridge University Library (BFBS Ms 213). In December 2013, the Bible Society announced plans to sell some manuscripts, among them the Codex Zacynthius, to raise funds for a Visitors Centre in Wales. The University was given right of first refusal and has until February 2014 to raise the money to acquire the codex.[]

See also



Further reading

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