Of Egyptian origin, one of the oldest known Greek texts of the Bible on vellum, the others being the CODEX VATICANUS, the CODEX SINAITICUS, and the CODEX EPHRAEMI SYRI. Like them, it is written in simple but beautiful uncials; unlike them, it is slightly ornamented, with rubrications at the beginning of every book and its paragraphs indicated by larger capitals in the margin. But since its lines are continuous, without spaces between the words, often the initial capital of a new verse is placed at the beginning of the following line though the previous verse ends in the middle of the line.
The text has few breathings and no accents. Quotations from the Old Testament are marked in the New, and sacred names are abbreviated. Colophons appear at the end of each book. Apparently the manuscript is the work of three scribes or, possibly, one scribe and two correctors. It has numerous corrections of the same style and approximately the same date.
Written a little later than both the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus, this codex has been reasonably dated to the early part of the fifth century. While it is evident that this text coincides to a great extent with the recension of Saint Lucian of Antioch, it is also clear that it shares features with the Hesychian recension and Origen’s Hexapla.
In addition to the New Testament, the codex contains two epistles of Saint Clement of Rome. An “Epistle to Marcellinus,” ascribed to ATHANASIUS I, appears as a preface to Psalms along with Eusebius’s summary of the Psalter. Sections of Psalms and Genesis, together with the opening folios of Matthew, are lacking and must have been lost. The Old Testament includes, besides the Maccabees of the Apocrypha, two additional Maccabee books.
The manuscript contains 773 leaves, though it is estimated that it must originally have consisted of 882. The Old Testament appears on 630 leaves and the New Testament on 143; the size of each leaf is about 12.5 inches by 9 inches (31.5 cm by 23 cm). Each page has two columns of forty-nine to fifty-one lines. The codex is composed of quires of eight leaves, and its pagination appears in three sets of numbers: one in Greek at the head of each folio, another in fourteenth-century Arabic at the outer lower corner of the verso side of the folios, and a third in relatively modern ink by Patrick Young, Charles I’s librarian.
The early history of Codex Alexandrinus is obscure. Originating in Egypt, it is said to have returned to Alexandria via Mount Athos. Afterward, its journey to the Royal Library in the British Museum started from the Melchite patriarchate in Alexandria when Patriarch Cyril Lucar took it with him to Constantinople after his preferment to the ecumenical Greek patriarchate in 1621. He presented it to King James I through the British ambassador to Turkey, Sir Thomas Roe, on 30 January 1625. Sir Thomas brought it to England in 1627 and placed it in the hands of Charles I, who had succeeded James I. The king then deposited it in the Royal Library, which passed it to the British Museum in 1757.
The codex is bound in four volumes bearing the arms of Charles I. The first three contain the Old Testament and the fourth, the New Testament and Saint Clement’s epistles. On the first page of Genesis, there is an inscription by a certain “Athanasius the Humble,” possibly the Melchite patriarch of Alexandria at the beginning of the fourteenth century, who dedicated it to the patriarchal cell of the city of Alexandria, with a curse on anyone who might succumb to the temptation of removing it from there. His curse did not alter the course of later
- Burkitt, F. C. “Codex Alexandrinus.” Journal of Theological Studies 11 (1910):603-606.
- Jellicoe, S. The Septuagint and Modern Study. Oxford, 1968. Kenyon, F. G. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 5th ed., rev. W. Adams, intro. G. R. Driver. New York, 1958.
- Kenyon, F. G., and H. J. M. Milne. The Codex Alexandrinus in Reduced Photographic Facsimile, 5 vols. London, 1909-1957.
- Metzger, B. M. Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford, 1977. Milne, H. J. M., and T. C. Skeat. The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus. London, 1938.
- Scrivener, F. H. A. A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Biblical Students, 2 vols., 4th ed. E. Miller. London and New York, 1894.
- Swete, H. B. Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. Cambridge, 1900.
AZIZ S. ATIYA