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Codex Vaticanus - Coptic Wiki


One of the oldest known Bible texts of likely Alexandrian provenance, most probably written during the first half of the fourth century. Its dating is clear from its paleographical style and the absence of calligraphic ornamentation. It is written on excellent vellum, probably antelope skin, comprising 759 leaves, of which 142 are from the New Testament. The 617 folios of the Old Testament are based on the except for Daniel, whose origin is Theodotion’s version. The Old Testament version lacks passages from Genesis, 2 Samuel, Psalms, and Maccabees. In the New Testament the portion from Hebrews 9:14 on is missing.

The size of each leaf is approximately 11 inches 10 inches (27 cm 25 cm), and each page has 3 columns of 40 to 42 lines to the column, except in the poetical books, where the scribe resorts to the stichometric division of the lines in two columns. Its simple uncials are continuous, the words are not spaced, and the have no punctuation. The has few majestic initials and a simple separation at the head of each book. Sacred names are abbreviated, and quotations from the Old Testament are presented in a special angular parenthesis (>).

Apparently two participated in copying the text, one for the Old Testament and another for the New Testament. A reader revised and corrected the text, and a later reader from the tenth or eleventh century also worked on the manuscript, retracing pale letters (presumably incorrect words were left without tracing), and added the breathings and accents.

This codex is known to have been in the Vatican Library before the publication both of its first catalog of 1475 and of the second of 1481, where it is cited as “Biblia in tribus columnis ex membranis in rubeo.” It was taken to Paris by Napoleon during the Italian Wars (1809), and remained in the French capital until 1815, when it was returned to Rome after Napolean’s defeat at Waterloo. During its sojourn in Paris, it was scrutinized by Professor Leonard Hug at Tübingen, who assessed its age and value for the first time.

It was studied again in Rome in 1843 by Constantine Tischendorf, discoverer of the CODEX SINAITICUS. But its real value and importance were revealed only after its text was made accessible to scholars and classicists through a complete photographic facsimile of the entire extant manuscript, published at Rome in 1889-1890. Today the is preserved in the Vatican Library (Vat. Gr. 1209).


  • 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. New York, 1958.
  • Metzger, B. M. Early Versions of the New Testament. Oxford, 1977.