Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus is a Bible manuscript from the 4th century. The Code contains large parts of the Old and New Testament in Greek complete. He is one of the most important known manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament and is the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Codex Sinaiticus is one of the NT essentially the Alexandrian text-type.

1844 Codex by Konstantin von Tischendorf in St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai (Egypt) was discovered when he searched for ancient manuscripts on behalf of the Russian Tsar Alexander II. About the way, as Tischendorf came into the possession of the scriptures, there are different statements.

Since 2009, the Codex Sinaiticus can see on the internet completely.

  • 2.1 A synopsis of the story
  • 2.2 discovery 2.2.1 Fragments of the Codex
  • 2.2.2 The ' export ' of the Codex
  • 2.2.3 assessment of the property situation
  • 2.2.4 Continuing the journey of the manuscript
  • 2.2.5 Recent Finds
  • 2.2.6 Transcription and web publication

The Codex


The Codex Sinaiticus is a particularly large-format edition of the Bible, the text is arranged in four columns. There are otherwise no other manuscript of the New Testament, which has four columns. For the parchment manufacture the skins of 700 goats were necessary, which meant a fortune at that time. Some researchers consider it one of the fifty copies, was the Emperor Constantine I as a supporter of the Christian Church roughly to 320 in order.

The Codex consists of 346 ½ Folia, 199 of the Old and the New Testament 147 ½. He is the only complete manuscript of the New Testament in uncial script.

Content of the Codex Sinaiticus comprises a large part of the Old Testament, the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation, as well as two apocryphal texts, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. It is therefore for these apocryphal writings a basic text tools.

The order of the New Testament books is: the four Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the remaining letters and the Revelation of John.


From the beginning of the Old Testament with the history books (1 Moses to 1 Chronicles ) only fragments are included.

The text of the New Testament is counted for the Alexandrian text-type by Bruce Metzger, in essence, a significant impact of the Western text-type, so at the beginning of John's Gospel (Jn 1.1 to 8.38 ). The Codex Sinaiticus contains numerous Singulärlesarten and volatilities. The Codex Vaticanus of the leaves as well as the doxology after the Lord's Prayer in Mt 6,13 EU, in both missing Mt 16.2-3 EFA; 17:21 EU; Mk 9.44 to 46 ELB; 16.8 to 20 EU; Jn 5:3-4 EU; 7.53 EU to 8.11 EU.

The text of the New Testament has gaps: Missing:

  • Matthew 12.47; 16.2 B -3; 17:21; 18.11; 23,14; 24.35;
  • Gospel according to Mark 7.16; 9,44.46; 11.26; 15.28; 16.9 to 20;
  • Luke 17.36;
  • Gospel of John 5.4; 7.53-8.11; (see Image " John 7:53-8:11 "); 16,15; 20.5 B-6 ​​; 21,25;
  • Acts 8.37; 15.34; 24.7; 28.29;
  • Romans 16:24.

Anniversary of the Russian monarchy in a course financed by Tsar Alexander II magnificent four-volume facsimile edition was first published the text of the Codex Sinaiticus in 1862 by Tischendorf to the 1000th. Tischendorf was specifically to make printing type, which were modeled on the manuscript.

The definitive publication of the Codex was carried out by Kirsopp Lake in 1911 and 1922 by Oxford University Press for photos as a facsimile.

In the text, apparatus of the Codex Sinaiticus is since Tischendorf referred to by the initials א ( Aleph ), after Gergory -Aland additionally with the number 01 addition to the actual text of the Codex Sinaiticus contains multiple levels of correction: The original text was still in the scriptorium of correctors corrected. This text variants are referred to with a א. Later, probably in the 6th or 7th century, brought together a group of correctors in Caesarea numerous changes in the text of the Old and New Testament. These changes are referred to as א א ca and cb. " Was a very old manuscript, which, by the hand of the holy martyr Pamphilus († 309) corrected " According to a colophon at the end of the books of Ezra and Esther was their base. According to his disciple Eusebius of Caesarea Pamphilus had a particularly rich library of biblical codices.


This Bible manuscript from the middle of the 4th century AD, is considered one of the most important witnesses to the text of the New Testament. It is also the oldest manuscript in the world, containing the New Testament completely.

For text- critical view of this codex is of enormous importance; He is, alongside with the Codex Vaticanus, from which he differs only insignificantly to the most important preserved Bible manuscripts at all. Tischendorf sets it as the first witness in his octavo edition, Kurt Aland placed it in the highest category I of the New Testament textual witnesses, only Codex Vaticanus is equal in the quality of text or even surpasses it. Various preserved papyrus manuscripts dating from the third century show a very similar form of the text, is proved that that this writing goes far back and was widespread and originated not from a subsequent reduction of manuscripts of the Byzantine text-type in the third or early fourth century.

In recent decades, more and some older Bible manuscripts have been discovered, such as the Bodmer and Chester Beatty Papyri, but never a whole whole New Testament. These remains of the biblical text for the New Testament can be traced from text to researchers at the beginning of the 2nd century.

History of the manuscript

A synopsis of the story

Because of different view of the history of the Codex, in particular with respect to the property rights by the owner of parts of the manuscript, reference is made here mainly to an English-language text, which have agreed as to current frame of historical reference to all four partners of the Codex Sinaiticus Project.


The first written record of the Codex Sinaiticus may be detectable in a diary of an Italian visitor of St. Catherine in 1761. In the film of Sciences Vitaliano Donati, that he had seen in the monastery a Bible, " the leaves of stately, large, filigree parchment in a rectangular format included, written in a round and beautiful handwriting ."

The German theologian Tischendorf made ​​in May 1844 one of the oldest still existing monasteries of the world to the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula in order to look for ancient manuscripts. The monks were hospitable, but about the resources in the library, none of the brothers could give precise information. So Tischendorf himself made to work and examined the holdings of the library, where he discovered 129 large format sheets of parchment. The Greek text was from the Old Testament and the letters form had a dating to the middle of the 4th century. 43 leaves of this manuscript allowed the German scholar according to his own published report - no other record of hitherto known - take to Leipzig, where he this 1846 - in honor of the supporter of his journey, the King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony - under the entitled ' Codex Frederico - Augustanus ' published. They are still kept in the university library.

The location of this ancient manuscript were no Tischendorf but cheap, but vaguely described him as " of a monastery in the Orient " because he hoped to acquire the remaining 86 sheets yet.

Fragments of the Codex

After 1844 several visits to the Codex were documented by visitors at the monastery. The Russian archimandrite Porfiry Uspensky examined according to his report, 347 leaves of the Codex during his visit in 1845. Figure includes the 86 of Tischendorf sighted, but remained in the monastery leaves. Uspensky received three fragments of two Codex leaves that had previously been used for book binding purposes in the monastery during his visit. They were purchased in 1883 by the Imperial Library in St. Petersburg, as did later, another fragment of the same two leaves that had received Tischendorf on his second visit in 1853, which had been discovered in the monastery as a bookmark. Another fragment from a book binding process was found in 1911 in the St. Petersburg Society for Ancient Literature.

The ' export ' of the Codex

In Tischendorf's second visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine 1853 86 leaves were untraceable. Also in his third and last visit in 1859 under the auspices of the Russian Tsar Alexander II initially none of monks knew something of the whereabouts of the ancient Bible manuscript. According to Tischendorf's report, he was invited on the eve of his departure from the administrator of the monastery in his cell because the latter wanted the researchers show a Greek Bible. As Tischendorf opened the wrapped in a red cloth Bible, he saw before him not only the missing 86 parchment leaves lie, but according to his report he saw on February 4, the 347 sheets of the Codex.

Tischendorf was aware of the considerable importance of transcription of their complete text of the Bible research, but also the difficulty to perform this activity in the monastery. Due to its request the Codex was brought on 24 February 1859 in the Metochion the monastery to Cairo, and Tischendorf got there permission for three months, from March to May to inspect the sheets individually. In this case, the conviction of the German scholars who leaves 347 are " the most precious Biblical treasure that there were " confirmed.

After a few months distance travel in the Middle East he returned in September 1859 back to Cairo and signed there on 16./28. September, a receipt for the loan of the 347 sheets of the Codex. In the receipt document, he described the purpose of the loan in order to enable it to entrainment of the manuscript to St. Petersburg, there to compare his earlier transcriptions with the original in preparation for its publication. He promised it at the same time the return of the undamaged Codex at the monastery as soon as this would be required, but at the same time, he referred to an earlier letter from the then Russian ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Prince Lobanov, to the monastery. Dated at 10./22. September 1859, this letter refers to Tischendorf's statement that the monastic community harbor the desire to present the Codex as a gift to the Tsar. Since the donation could not be accepted as proven, recognized the ambassador that until the confirmation of the gift - and always assumed they would be realized - the ownership of the manuscript at the monastery remain to which the manuscript was returned after its first request. In reply to Lobanov from 17./29. September brought the monastic community for their support Tischendorf in his efforts and his devotion to the Tsar expressed, but made ​​no explicit reference to the donation issue.

The subsequent events are essentially now clearly documented. 1862 Tischendorf published his elaborate facsimile print edition of the Codex. This edition was its Dedication addressees and promoter of transcription work, the Tsar Alexander II, presented in a formal audience at Tsarskoye Selo on 10 November 1862. On the same occasion, the Codex was passed by Tischendorf, since his scientific work was completed. During the following seven years, the manuscript remained in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg; until 1869, it was moved in the Imperial Library. In the same year, 1869, a deed of gift of Codex to the Tsar was signed, first on 13./25. November by the then Archbishop of Sinai, Kallistratos, and the Synaxis ( Assembly) of the Cairo Metochions to which the Codex had been delivered in 1859, and secondly on 18./30. November by Archbishop Kallistratos and synaxes both the Cairo Metochions and Saint Catherine's Monastery itself

Assessment of the property situation

Regarding Loan is an uncertainty as to whether a donation to the Tsar had been part of the original intent of all parties to the agreement of 1859. Looking at the ten years from manuscript receipt and the act of donation is obvious today that this period of great complexity and full of difficulties for the St. Catherine's Monastery was. The death of Archbishop Constantius in 1859 was followed by a prolonged vacancy of the archiepiscopal throne following a very turbulent period of the succession plan. The elected by the Brotherhood as successor Kyrillos Byzantios was denied the consecration of the charge of the Sinai Patriarch of Jerusalem. Eventually Cyril, the Patriarch of Constantinople Opel to receive and thus also the recognition by the political rulers of the Ottoman Empire, to which at that time also included the Egypt consecration as archbishop. However, shortly thereafter led Kyrillos ' actions at a fraction with the Brotherhood, he was deposed and the election of a new archbishop, Kallistratos, through them, this time though followed by the consecration by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, but without recognition by other Patriarchs and the political rulers. It was not until 1869 Kallistratos gained recognition as archbishop by all canonical and civil authorities.

The time parallel solution of such an obviously awkward situation and the status of Codex - both by the Russian diplomacy - has led to different interpretations. There is certainly reason to believe that Russian diplomats their intervention in the Archbishop's successor linked directly with the official donation of the Codex of the Monastery to the Tsar. A policy of delaying blockade, instability and fickleness of the monastery proved insufficient by them to the donation from 18./30. November 1859 led.

Continuing the journey of the manuscript

In the summer of 1933 was known in the UK, that the Soviet government wanted to recruit under Stalin foreign capital through the sale of Codex to finance her second five-year plan. With strong support from the British Prime Minister MacDonald, the curators of the British Museum moved from the Treasury to provide £ 100,000 for the delivery of the Codex to London. Thus, the Soviet government sold on December 27, 1933, the manuscript on the booksellers Maggs Brothers to the British Museum and was exhibited there publicly ( Add. Ms. 43 725 ). Of the purchase price was £ 7000 from the British Museum applied and been £ 93,000 initially provided from a civilian reserve fund under the condition of a fund-raising through the museum, which then within two years, " Community national effort" in a sum of £ 53,563 to the fund has been repaid.

The legality of the acquisition was discussed in the UK and subsequently confirmed by British expert, but the public was moving more will surely unintended retention of a tiny fragment of one of 347 sheets, which were in 1869 reaches the Imperial Library, by the Russians. On the other hand came up with a discussion about the continued separation of the parts of the Codex; the Archbishop of Sinai, Porphyrios put 1934 on the claim for the Monastery of Saint Catherine, to be the only rightful owner. In response, he was referred to the Soviet government.

After the Codex had come to the British Museum to England in 1933, he was thoroughly investigated by local Palaeologus, including ultraviolet lamps. HJM Milne and Skeat gave Th with Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus out the results in 1938, announced the additional information about the code.

Recent finds

Over 40 years later, in 1975, another, previously unknown parts of the Codex found in the monastery. On May 26, the sacristan, Father Sophronius discovered during the cleaning of a room below the St. George's chapel on the north wall of the St. Catherine's monastery a large, unidentified storage of manuscript fragments, including some leaves and fragments of the Codex Sinaiticus. Thus, today the monastery of Sinai - at least - eighteen sheets in whole or in fragments present, their origin either from the new fund in 1975 or book bindings of manuscripts in which they had been used from time to time.

A fragment was recently (2009) by a British graduate and member of the " St. Catherine 's Library Project " Teams on a picture of earlier book bindings in the monastery, which had been carried out in the 18th century. On the inside of the right book cover of the band " Sinai Greek 2289 " from the late 17th to early 18th century were parchment fragments of a manuscript in Greek uncial script arranged to see in narrow columns 13 to 15 letters per line. The librarian of the monastery, Father Justin, examined the tape and confirmed that the fragments belonged to the Codex Sinaiticus: Joshua Chap. 1 Verse 10 The writing was destroyed by the book binding process partially. It is not unusual that in the seclusion of the monastery parchment leaves have been re-used as a precious material for bookbinding, if you have not recognized the importance of their origin.

Transcription and web publication

In December 2006, a joint project between the British Library, Leipzig University Library, the Russian National Library and Saint Catherine's Monastery was presented to digitize the entire Codex to make available on the Internet and facsimile to publish. In May 2008, 43 digitized pages were published, since July 2009, the entire Codex online.