This is one of the family of ancient codices in Greek used as a base for what is known as the Egyptian text of the Bible—the others are the Vaticanus, the Sinaiticus, and the Alexandrinus, in addition, of course, to the earlier papyri. Paleographically it is very similar to the others, except that it is written in one column and has neither accents nor breathings. Its words are continuous, without spacing. It is probably a little later than the other codices and may be dated to the fifth century.

It is probably the work of two hands, but it had two correctors in the sixth and ninth centuries who added occasional marginal inscriptions. However, it must be noted that this codex is a palimpsest, that is, a work in which the vellum was reused for another text after defacing the original—which still shows. In this case, during the twelfth century a who was short of vellum decided to remove the biblical text, possibly by rubbing it with pumice stone or lime or both, in order to write a new Greek version of the homilies of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, a theologian of the fourth century.

The original text remained visible, however, though not always legible. The first scholar to decipher the portion, in 1841-1842, was Constantine Tischendorf, the discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus. Only recently has Tischendorf’s work been brought under serious scrutiny.

The Codex Ephraemi Syri consists of only 209 leaves— approximately 12.5 inches by 9 inches (31.5 cm by 23 cm)—from a more extensive original. Of these, 145 contain sections of the New Testament, lacking 2 Thessalonians and 2 John. The story of the manuscript goes back to the Medici family; it is known to have been in the possession of Cardinal Ridolfi of Florence. Later it was passed to Catherine de’ Medici, queen of Henry II of France. She took it to Paris, where it was deposited in the National Library.

  • Jellicoe, S. The and Modern Study. Oxford, 1968. Kenyon, F. G. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 5th ed., rev. 1958. W. Adams, intro. G. R. Driver. London, 1958.
  • Lyon, R. W. “A Re-examination of Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus.”  Studies 5 (1958-1959):260-72.
  • Metzger, B. M. Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford, 1977. Scrivener, F. H. A. A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 2 vols., 4th ed. E. Miller. London and New York, 1894.
  • Swete, H. B. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. Cambridge, 1900.