An ancient Greek biblical text discovered in Sinai at the Monastery of Saint Catherine by Constantine Tischendorf, and consisting of 390 vellum leaves, although the original could have been at least 730 leaves. The existing parts of the manuscript include 148 leaves of the New Testament, which is complete, and 242 leaves of the Old Testament. Its size averages approximately 15 inches (37.5 cm) in height and 13.5 to 14.25 inches (34 cm to 36 cm) in breadth, and each page has 4 columns of 48 lines each. The lines are written continuously in fine uncials without spaces between words. It has no accents and no breathings, but has some punctuation.
Sacred names are abbreviated as in the CODEX VATICANUS. Apparently it was written by at least three hands, as is shown by the peculiarities of each hand, especially in the spelling. The New Testament was almost wholly written by one scribe. Numerous corrections have been made in the text, not only by the original scribes themselves but also by others from the fourth to the twelfth century. One corrector states at the end of Esdras that the book was revised in accordance with a text corrected by Pamphilus of Caesarea on the basis of Origen’s Hexapla.
The manuscript has the dignified simplicity of the Codex Vaticanus in its calligraphy and, like Vaticanus, originated most probably in Alexandria. It has been thought to be one of the fifty vellum copies of the Bible ordered by Constantine in 332, although this remains open to question. Some scholars mention Caesarea (Milne and Skeat, 1938) and Rome as places of origin for this codex, but without convincing proof.
Since the Sinaiticus predates the foundation of the MOUNT SINAI MONASTERY OF SAINT CATHERINE, it is likely that a monk who came to live there brought this codex with him. It is well established that, especially during the Middle Ages, monks flocked to that monastery from many countries with their religious treasures. Even so, it is impossible to say when Codex Sinaiticus reached the monastery.
The discovery and recovery of the codex began in May 1844, when Constantine Tischendorf, one of the nineteenth-century scholars who came to the monastery’s library for study, was attracted by a basket full of old parchments, of which some moldering specimens had been destroyed by fire. A closer examination revealed “a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the O.T. in Greek.” He was allowed to take forty-three leaves, which he says were destined for the flames, to Leipzig, where he edited them under the title Codex Frederico Augustanus (1846).
After an unsuccessful visit in 1853 to look for the remainder of the manuscript, he returned in 1859 with a letter from Emperor Alexander II, of Russia, but found no more until, as he was preparing for departure, the steward of the convent privately produced a bulky mess of material wrapped in red cloth. Remarkably, it included the rest of the parchments from the basket of discarded leaves in 1844. Tischendorf was allowed to take them to Cairo for further study. He finally took the lot to Europe and placed the manuscript in the hands of the Russian czar, who donated the equivalent of $6,750 to the monks in recognition of the acquisition.
The codex remained at the Russian capital until 1933, when it was sold to the British Museum for £100,000. It was delivered to the museum on 27 December. Its vellum leaves were treated, organized, and bound in two separate volumes consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is registered in the museum under the pressmark B. M. Addit. 43725.
In the second half of the twentieth century an unspecified number of the missing leaves of this codex have been found in a hoard of varied manuscripts discovered in the monastery. The exact content of this hoard is closely guarded by the monks and remains open to future identification.
- Brock, S. P., et al., comps. A Classified Bibliography of the Septuagint. Leiden, 1973.
- Jellicoe, S. The Septuagint and Modern Study. Oxford, 1968. Kenyon, F. G. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 5th ed., rev. 1958. W. Adams, intro. G. R. Driver. New York, 1958.
- Lake, H., and K. Lake. Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus et Frederico-Augustanus Lipsiensis. The Old Testament . . . Reproduced in Facsimile from Photographs, 2 vols. Oxford, 1911-1922.
- Metzger, B. M. The Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford, 1977.
- Milne, H. J. M., and T. C. Skeat. Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus. London, 1938.
- Moir, J. A. “Tischendorf and the Codex Sinaiticus.” New Testament Studies 23 (1976):108-115.
- Scrivener, F. H. A. A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Bible Students, 2 vols., 4th ed. E. Miller. London and New York, 1894.
- Tischendorf, C. von. Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus, 4 vols. St. Petersburg, 1862.
- . Codex Sinaiticus. The Ancient Biblical Manuscript Now in the British Museum. Tischendorf’s Story Related by Himself. London, 1933.