Codex Sinaiticus: The Oldest Bible Holds Surprises

Codex_Sinaiticus_open200The Codex Sinaiticus, which means 'the Sinai Book' holds a special place in history. And now the whole world has access to it for free. Here, let the website explain. This is from their about page:
Codex Sinaiticus, a manuscript of the Christian Bible written in the middle of the fourth century, contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament. The hand-written text is in Greek. The New Testament appears in the original vernacular language (koine) and the Old Testament in the version, known as the Septuagint, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians. In the Codex, the text of both the Septuagint and the New Testament has been heavily annotated by a series of early correctors.

The significance of Codex Sinaiticus for the reconstruction of the Christian Bible's original text, the history of the Bible and the history of Western book-making is immense.

First, the many corrections are quite telling, spanning the centuries. Letters, words and whole sentences are added or removed. The books are in a different order, and there are some books in there that have since been removed. The codex is dated to the middle of the 4th century. This is one of the earliest manuscripts. The only other is at the vatican, so therefore out of the reach of the public.

What is contained in the codex as described by the Codex Sinaiticus website:
As it survives today, Codex Sinaiticus comprises just over 400 large leaves of prepared animal skin, each of which measures 380mm high by 345mm wide. On these parchment leaves is written around half of the Old Testament and Apocrypha (the Septuagint), the whole of the New Testament, and two early Christian texts not found in modern Bibles. Most of the first part of the manuscript (containing most of the so-called historical books, from Genesis to 1 Chronicles) is now missing and presumed to be lost.

The Septuagint includes books which many Protestant Christian denominations place in the Apocrypha. Those present in the surviving part of the Septuagint in Codex Sinaiticus are 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach.

The number of the books in the New Testament in Codex Sinaiticus is the same as that in modern Bibles in the West, but the order is different. The Letter to the Hebrews is placed after Paul's Second Letter to the Thessalonians, and the Acts of the Apostles between the Pastoral and Catholic Epistles.

The two other early Christian texts are an Epistle by an unknown writer claiming to be the Apostle Barnabas, and 'The Shepherd', written by the early second-century Roman writer, Hermas.

I think this will prove extremely useful to the debate of the legitimacy of christianity. With this online resource, you can see the original manuscript and the transcription in one of several languages. For the first time, we are all able to access this historical work for ourselves. It's amazing and awesome.

brain on religionIf you spend some time with the codex and find anything interesting, please feel free to share it with us. You can comment or email us at and we'll share it with the rest of the class. :)


(Your brain on religion picture submitted by groovecat, thanks!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this morsel of biblical history. The debate over the bible, its meaning and origins will continue ad nauseum. Above all, it is most notable that The Bible, for all it's hoopla, is a book of christian mythology. It is a shabby patchwork of rumor, fantasy, axioms and lore that has been translated, copied, embellished, edited, and splintered. Bible study is the perhaps the greatest waste of human resources since gambling.