Codex Sinaiticus

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Codex Sinaiticus (Greek: Σιναϊτικός Κώδικας, Sinaïtikós Kṓdikas) or "Sinai Bible" is one of the four great uncial codices, ancient, handwritten copies of the Greek Bible. The codex Sinaiticus is one of the many known historical biblical manuscripts and a celebrated historical treasure.


The codex is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in uncial letters on parchment in the 4th century. Scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of the New Testament, along with the Codex Vaticanus. Until Constantin von Tischendorf's discovery of the Sinaiticus text, the Codex Vaticanus was unrivaled. The codex has almost 4,000,000 uncial letters. The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Manuscript Details

circa 340 CE

The codex was written in the 4th century. It could not have been written before 325 because it contains the Eusebian Canons, which is a terminus post quem. "The terminus ante quem is less certain, but, according to Milne and Skeat, is not likely to be much later than about 360." Although parts of the codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript is held today in the British Library in London, where it is on public display. The codex Sinaiticus has been extensively repaired (inspect) and restored.

circa 340 CE

The codex consists of parchment, originally in double sheets, which 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. Each line of the text has some twelve to fourteen Greek uncial letters, arranged in four columns (48 lines per column) with carefully chosen line breaks and slightly ragged right edges. When opened, the eight columns thus presented to the reader have much the same appearance as the succession of columns in a papyrus roll.

circa 340 CE

While large portions of the Old Testament are missing, it is assumed that the codex originally contained the whole of both Testaments. About half of the Greek Old Testament (or Septuagint) survived, along with a complete New Testament, the entire Deuterocanonical books, the Epistle of Barnabas and portions of The Shepherd of Hermas. Some of the pages carry the fingerprints (inspect) of either the scribs, editors or later readers of the manuscript.

circa 340 CE

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important witnesses to the Greek text of the Septuagint (the Old Testament in the version that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians) and the Christian New Testament. No other early manuscript of the Christian Bible has been so extensively corrected. A glance at the transcription will show just how common these corrections are. They are especially frequent in the Septuagint portion. They range in date from those made by the original scribes in the fourth century to ones made in the twelfth century. They range from the alteration of a single letter to the insertion of whole sentences.

Discovery and the Location

circa 1844 CE

In 1844 Tischendorf travelled the first time to Saint Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, where he found the oldest complete known Bible. Tischendorf held a position as Theological Professor at Leipzig University, also under the patronage of Frederick Augustus II. Of the many pages which were contained in an old wicker basket he was given 43 pages as a present. He donated those 43 pages to King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony (reigned 1836–1854), to honour him and to recognise his patronage as the funder of Tischenforf's journey.

circa 340 CE

Monastery of Saint Catherine
The Saint Catherine’s Monastery, where the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered by Constantin Von Tischendorf, lies on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai. Although it is commonly known as Saint Catherine’s, the monastery’s full official name is the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. The monastery was built by order of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush.


See Also


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