Codex Sinaiticus

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New Testament manuscripts
Uncial 01
Sinaiticus text.jpg
Book of Esther
Surname Sinaiticus
character א
text Old and New Testament
language Greek
date c. 330-360
Found Sinai 1844
Storage location British Library , Leipzig University Library , St. Catherine's Monastery , Russian National Library
source Lake, K. (1911). Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus , Oxford.
size 38 × 34 cm
Type Alexandrian text type
category I.
note very close to papyrus 66
Extract from the Codex Sinaiticus ( Est 2.3–8  EU )

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

In 1844 the Codex was discovered by Konstantin von Tischendorf in St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai ( Egypt ), and in 1846 he published 43 sheets of this manuscript - in honor of the supporter of his trip, King Friedrich August II of Saxony - under the title 'Codex Frederico- Augustanus'. There are different statements about the way in which Tischendorf came into possession of the scriptures. Tsarina Marie von Hessen-Darmstadt financed further trips for him and gave further finds to Tsar Alexander II.

The Codex was sold to England under Stalin and has been fully accessible on the Internet since 2009.

The Codex


The Codex Sinaiticus is a particularly large-format Bible edition, the text is arranged in four columns. There is no other New Testament manuscript that has four columns. The hides of 700 calves and sheep were needed to make parchment , which was a fortune at the time. The parchment is very fine and thin, light and of excellent quality and the state of preservation is very good given its old age. The suspicions of Tischendorf and Gregory that it could be antelope skin have not been confirmed by recent research. Some researchers believe the manuscript to be one of the fifty copies that Emperor Constantine I commissioned as a patron of the Christian church around 320.

The remaining parts of the Codex consist of 346½ folia , 199 of the Old and 147½ of the New Testament. It is the only complete manuscript of the New Testament in uncial script ; a significant part of the Old Testament is missing.

In terms of content, the Codex Sinaiticus comprises a large part of the Old Testament , the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation as well as two apocryphal writings , the letter of Barnabas and the beginning of the Shepherd of Hermas . He is therefore also a fundamental textual witness for these apocryphal writings.

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


Excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew ( Mt 8.28  EU )

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

Bruce Metzger counts the text of the New Testament essentially to the Alexandrian text type , with a clear influence of the Western text type , as at the beginning of the Gospel of John (Jn 1,1 to 8,38). The Codex Sinaiticus contains numerous singular types and volatilities. Like the Vatican, the Codex omits the doxology according to the Lord's Prayer in Mt 6,13  EU , in both Mt 16,2–3  ELB is missing ; 17.21 EU ; Mk 9.44-46  ELB ; 16.8-20 EU ; Joh 5,3-4  EU ; 7.53 EU to 8.11 EU . The text of the New Testament lacks verses that appear in other manuscripts: The following are missing:

The text of the Codex Sinaiticus was first published in 1862 by Tischendorf for the 1000th anniversary of the Russian monarchy in a magnificent four-volume facsimile edition financed by Tsar Alexander II . Tischendorf had printing types made especially for this, which were based on the handwriting.

The definitive publication of the Codex was made by Kirsopp Lake in 1911 and 1922 at Oxford University Press on the basis of photos as a facsimile.

In the text apparatus, the Codex Sinaiticus has been designated with the sigel א ( Aleph ) since Tischendorf , after Gregory-Aland also with the number 01. In addition to the actual text, the Codex Sinaiticus contains several levels of corrections: The original text was still in the scriptorium by correctors corrected. These text variants are designated with א a . Later, probably in the 6th or 7th centuries, a group of proofreaders in Caesarea made numerous changes to the text of the Old and New Testaments. These changes are referred to as א ca and א cb . According to a colophon at the end of the books of Esra and Esther , their basis was "a very old manuscript that had been corrected by the hand of the holy martyr Pamphilus († 309)". According to his student Eusebius of Caesarea , Pamphilus had a particularly rich library of biblical codes.


This Bible manuscript from the middle of the 4th century AD is considered one of the most important text witnesses for the New Testament today. It is also the oldest manuscript in the world that contains the New Testament in its entirety.

From a text-critical point of view, this codex is of enormous importance; Together with the Codex Vaticanus , from which it differs only insignificantly, it is one of the most important surviving Bible manuscripts. Tischendorf uses him as the first witness in his octave edition, Kurt Aland placed him in the highest category I of the New Testament text witnesses , only the Codex Vaticanus is equal in text quality or even surpasses it. Various surviving papyrus manuscripts from the third century show a very similar text form, so that it has been proven that this text form goes back a long way and was not the result of a subsequent abbreviation of manuscripts of the Byzantine text type in the third or early fourth century.

In the last few decades other and partly older Bible manuscripts have been discovered, such as the Bodmer and Chester Beatty papyri , but never a complete New Testament. Through these discoveries, text researchers can trace the Bible text for the New Testament back to the beginning of the 2nd century.

History of the manuscript

Synopsis of the story

As a result of the different views of the history of the Codex, in particular with regard to property rights, by the owners of parts of the manuscript, reference is essentially made here to an English-language text that all four partners of the Codex Sinaiticus project have agreed to as the current framework of historical reference.


Konstantin von Tischendorf around 1845
Catherine's Monastery

In May 1844, the German theologian Konstantin von Tischendorf went to one of the oldest still existing monasteries in the world, to the Katharinenkloster on the Sinai Peninsula , to look for old manuscripts there. The monks were hospitable, but none of the brothers could provide precise information about the library holdings. So Tischendorf went to work himself and examined the inventory of the library, where he discovered 129 large-format parchment sheets. The type of translation and the shape of the letters allowed it to be dated to the middle of the 4th century. According to his own published report - no other record of this is known to date - the German scholar was allowed to take 43 sheets of this manuscript with him to Leipzig, where he published them in 1846 in honor of the supporter of his trip, King Friedrich August II of Saxony under the title 'Codex Frederico-Augustanus' published. They are kept in the university library there to this day .

Tischendorf did not disclose the location of this old manuscript, but described it vaguely as “from a monastery in the Orient”, as he hoped to be able to acquire the remaining 86 sheets.

Fragments of the Codex

After 1844, several visits to the codex by visitors to the monastery were documented. According to his report, the Russian archimandrite Porfirij Uspenskij examined 347 sheets of the Codex during his visit in 1845. This contained the 86 sheets that Tischendorf had seen but remained in the monastery. During his visit, Uspensky received three fragments of two codex sheets that had previously been used for bookbinding purposes in the monastery. They were acquired by the Imperial Library in St. Petersburg in 1883 , as was another fragment of the same two sheets that Tischendorf had received on his second visit in 1853 and which had been discovered in the monastery as a bookmark. Another fragment from a bookbinding process was found in 1911 in the St. Petersburg Society for Ancient Literature.

The “export” of the Codex

On Tischendorf's second visit to St. Catherine's Monastery in 1853, the 86 sheets could not be found. Even on his third and last visit in 1859 under the auspices of the Russian Tsar Alexander II , none of the monks knew anything about the whereabouts of the Bible manuscript. According to Tischendorf's report, the administrator of the monastery invited him to his cell on the evening before his departure, because he wanted to show the researcher a Greek Bible. When Tischendorf opened the Bible wrapped in a red cloth, he not only saw the missing 86 parchment sheets lying in front of him, but according to his report he saw the 347 sheets of the Codex on February 4th.

Tischendorf was aware of the considerable importance of a transcription of her complete text for biblical research, but also of the difficulty of carrying out this activity in the monastery. On the basis of his request, the codex was brought to the Metochion of the monastery in Cairo on February 24, 1859 , and Tischendorf received permission there to examine the sheets individually for three months, from March to May. This confirmed the German scholar's conviction that the 347 sheets were “the most precious biblical treasure there was”.

After a few months of further travels in the Middle East, he returned to Cairo in September 1859 and signed there on 16/28. September an acknowledgment of receipt for the loan of the 347 sheets of the Codex. In the receipt document, he stated the purpose of the loan was to enable him to take the manuscript with him to St. Petersburg in order to compare his earlier transcriptions with the original in preparation for its publication. In it he also promised to return the intact codex to the monastery as soon as this was requested, 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 10/22 September 1859, this letter refers to Tischendorf's declaration that the monastery community would like to present the codex as a gift to the Tsar. Since the donation could not be accepted as proven, the ambassador recognized that until the donation was confirmed - and always provided that it was realized - the ownership of the manuscript would remain with the monastery, to which the manuscript was to be returned after its first request. In her answer to Lobanow of 17./29. September the monastery community expressed their support for Tischendorf in his efforts and his devotion to the Tsar, but made no explicit reference to the donation matter.

Tsar Alexander II of Russia

The events that followed are now essentially clearly documented. In 1862 Tischendorf published his lavish facsimile print edition of the Codex. This edition was presented to the recipient of the dedication and sponsor of the transcription work, Tsar Alexander II, in a formal audience in Tsarskoye Selo on November 10, 1862. On the same occasion the Codex was handed over by Tischendorf, since his scientific work was finished. During the following seven years the manuscript remained in the Foreign Ministry in St. Petersburg; it was only brought to the Imperial Library in 1869. In the same year, 1869, a deed of donation of the 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 Metochion, to which the Codex was delivered in 1859, and the second on 18./30. November by Archbishop Kallistratos and the Synaxes of both the Cairo Metochion and the Monastery of St. Catherine itself.

Assessment of the property situation

Regarding the loan, there is no uncertainty that a gift to the tsar was part of the original intent of all parties to the 1859 accord. In view of the ten years between the receipt of the manuscript and the act of donation, it is now evident that this period was of great complexity and full of difficulties for St. Catherine's Monastery. In Tischendorf's lifetime, there was never a charge of illegal appropriation of the Codex, either against himself or against the Tsar. The theft was charged when the deed of donation signed by the monastery was believed to have been lost. Fortunately, this error could be permanently eliminated by the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg publishing the existence of this document and giving details on the Internet. Although this clarifies the question legally, the monks of St. Catherine's Monastery are still looking for reasons for the recovery, as they regret the process after the transaction with the deed of donation. It is undisputed that the Codex Sinaiticus was only made accessible to academic text research worldwide through Tischendorf's discovery. He was not criticized for the unlawful removal of the codex, but his reputation was often called into question by unsubstantiated claims by so-called experts (the Katherinenkloster printed in its tourist brochure in 1995 the claim that Tischendorf had illegally stolen the document).

The death of Archbishop Constantius in 1859 was followed by a prolonged vacancy of the archbishop's throne as a result of a very turbulent period of succession. Chosen by the Brotherhood as a successor Cyril Byzantios was from the charge of the Sinai Patriarch of Jerusalem , the consecration denied. Finally, Kyrillos succeeded in receiving the ordination as archbishop from the Patriarch of Constantinople and thus also the recognition by the political rulers of the Ottoman Empire, which at that time also included Egypt. However, shortly thereafter, Kyrillos' actions led to a break with the brotherhood, his removal and the election of a new archbishop, Callistratos, by them, this time followed by consecration by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, but without recognition by other patriarchs and the political ones Ruler. It was not until 1869 that Kallistratos was recognized as archbishop by all canonical and state authorities.

The parallel solution of such an obviously delicate situation and the status of the Codex - both through Russian diplomacy - has led to different interpretations. There is certainly reason to believe that Russian diplomats linked their intervention in the archbishopric succession directly with the monastery 's official donation of the Codex to the Tsar. Due to the turbulent succession between Kyrillos and then Kallistratos, which was not recognized by other patriarchs, a donation from the monastery in agreement with the brotherhood would not have been feasible either, and the delay in signing the donation is a necessary consequence. Only after the recognized succession was settled was the deed of donation on 13/25. November signed by the then Archbishop of Sinai, Kallistratos.

Continuation of the manuscript's journey

In the summer of 1933, it was announced in Britain that the Stalinist Soviet government was selling the Codex to obtain foreign currency to fund its second five-year plan. With the strong support of British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald , the curators of the British Museum persuaded the Treasury to provide £ 100,000 for the delivery of the Codex to London. With this, the Soviet state sold the manuscript to the British Museum via the bookseller Maggs Brothers on December 27, 1933, and it was exhibited there publicly (Add. Ms. 43 725). Of the purchase amount, £ 7,000 was raised by the British Museum and £ 93,000 was initially made available from a civilian reserve fund on the basis of a fundraising by the museum, which then raised a total of £ 53,563 to the fund over two years in a "joint national effort" was repaid.

The legality of the purchase was discussed in Great Britain and subsequently also confirmed by British experts, but the public was more moved by the certainly inadvertent retention by the Russians of a tiny fragment of one of the 347 sheets that had entered the Imperial Library in 1869. On the other hand, a discussion arose about the continued separation of the parts of the Codex; Archbishop Porphyrios of Sinai made a claim in 1934 for St. Catherine's Monastery to be the sole legal owner. In the answer he was referred to the Soviet government.

After the Codex came to the British Museum in 1933, it was thoroughly examined by local palaeographers , including using ultraviolet lamps. HJM Milne and Th. Skeat published the results of Scribes and Correctors of Codex Sinaiticus in 1938, which provided additional information about the Codex.

Last finds

More than 40 years later, in 1975, other previously unknown parts of the codex were found in the monastery. On May 26, 1975, while cleaning a room below the St. George's Chapel on the north wall of St. Catherine's Monastery , the sacristan Father Sophronius discovered a large, unknown store of fragments of manuscripts, including some leaves and fragments of the Codex Sinaiticus. Kurt Aland and his research team from the Institute for New Testament Text Research had the exclusive opportunity in 1982 to examine the new fragments, to analyze them and to photograph them. Today in the monastery of Sinai there are - at least - eighteen leaves in their entirety or in fragments, the origin of which comes either from the new find in 1975 or from book bindings of manuscripts in which they were used from time to time.

A fragment was created in 2009 by a British doctoral student and member of the “St. Catherine's Library Project ”teams discovered in a photo of previous bookbinding in the monastery, carried out in the 18th century. On the inside of the right book cover of the volume "Sinaiticus graecus 2289" from the late 17th to early 18th centuries, fragments of parchment from a manuscript in Greek Uncial script, arranged in narrow columns of 13 to 15 letters per line, could be seen. The monastery librarian, Father Justin, examined the volume and confirmed that the fragments belonged to the Codex Sinaiticus: Book of Joshua chap. 1 verse 10. The script was partially destroyed in the bookbinding process. It is not uncommon for parchment sheets to have been reused as bookbinding material ( parchment waste ).

Transcription and web publication

In December 2006, a joint project between the British Library, Leipzig University Library, the Russian National Library and St. Catherine's Monastery was presented to digitize the entire codex, make it available on the Internet and publish it as a facsimile . In May 2008, 43 digitized pages were published and the entire Codex has been online since July 2009. The project is funded by various institutions, including The Arts and Humanities Research Council, the German Research Foundation and the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation. In addition to the partners mentioned, the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ISEE), University of Birmingham , the Institute for New Testament Text Research of the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster , the Göttingen State and University Library Göttingen , the Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta and many individuals with. It included preservation , digitization , transcription and documentation on the Internet.


Conservation was limited to what was necessary for photography. The sheets were physically analyzed individually and the results documented in a database comprising more than 300 categories. An internationally understandable terminology was developed to describe the results. Using non-destructive techniques, the types of inks, the preparation of the as yet unwritten leaves, and the types of animals whose skin had been used as parchment were analyzed.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Kurt and Barbara Aland , The Text of the New Testament. Introduction to the scientific editions as well as to the theory and practice of modern text criticism , Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart 1981, pp. 117–118. ISBN 3-438-06011-6 .
  2. The Codex Sinaiticus Project. Report on the condition of the parchment leaves
  3. Caspar René Gregory: Textual Criticism of the New Testament . Leipzig 1900, p. 18, Textarchiv - Internet Archive .
  4. ^ Bruce M. Metzger: Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-19-502924-6 , p. 76.
  6. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart 2001), pp. 315, 388, 434, 444.
  7. Bruce M. Metzger: A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2001
  8. NA26, p. 273
  9. Bruce M. Metzger: A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 315, 388, 434, 444.
  10. Kirsopp Lake, Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas , Oxford: Clarendon Press 1911.
  11. Bruce M. Metzger: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration , (3rd Ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 46
  12. ^ History of Codex Sinaiticus . English website of the Codex Sinaiticus project, ABOUT CODEX SINAITICUS; History. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  13. П. Успенский: Первое путешествие в Синайский монастырь в 1845 году. Petersburg 1856, p. 226.
  14. Kirsopp Lake, Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas , Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911, SV
  15. Kirsopp Lake, Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: The New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas , Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911, p. VI.
  16. a b
  17. Bruce M. Metzger: The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-516122-9 , p. 64.
  18. ^ TC Skeat, A four years work on the Codex Sinaiticus: Significant discoveries in reconditioned ms. In: TC Skeat and JK Elliott, The collected biblical writings of TC Skeat , Brill 2004, p. 9.
  19. FAZ, The Finds of the Monks from Sinai , May 11, 1983, No. 109, p. 10
  20. ^ Theodore Cressy Skeat: The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus . In: Novum Testamentum 42, 2000, pp. 313-315.
  21. Nikolas Sarris: The Discovery of a new fragment from the Codex Sinaiticus. "Sinaiticus", The Bulletin of the Saint Catherine's Foundation, London, New York, Geneva, 2010, p. 13
  23. Codex Sinaiticus - Participants . Project website. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  24. Codex Sinaiticus - Transcription . Project website. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  25. Codex Sinaiticus - Conservation . Website of the project, with further information (partly in English). Retrieved March 28, 2015.


  • Konstantin von Tischendorf: Fragmentum Codicis Friderico-Augustani ex Iesaia et Ieremia in: Monumenta sacra inedita Leipzig 1855, vol. 1, pp. 211-216.
  • Konstantin von Tischendorf: Bibliorum codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. 4 volumes. Petersburg 1862 (reprinted by Olms, Hildesheim 1969).
  • FH Baader, HJ Grieser: Codex Sinaiticus as the basic text edition of the writings of the New Covenant . Hans Jürgen Grieser, Schömberg 1993, ISBN 3-933455-01-4
  • Christfried Böttrich : The find of the century. Discovery and history of the Codex Sinaiticus . Leipzig 2011, ISBN 978-3-374-02586-2
  • Christfried Böttrich : One Story - Different Perspectives. The Case of the Codex Sinaiticus , in: Codex Sinaiticus - New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript, Scot McKendrick, David Parker, Amy David Myshrall, Cillian O'Hogan (eds.), London 2015. (Proceedings of the conference of July 2009 in the British Library London)
  • Christfried Böttrich , Sabine Fahl, Dieter Fahl: The dossier of the Russian Minister Golovnin from 1862 on the question of the “Codex Sinaiticus” . In: Scriptorium , 63/2, 2009, pp. 288–326.
  • Alexander Schick: Tischendorf and the oldest Bible in the world - The discovery of the CODEX SINAITICUS in the Katharinenkloster . Jota Verlag, Muldenhammer 2015, ISBN 978-3-935707-80-0 (biography on the 200th birthday of Tischendorf with a large number of previously unpublished documents from his estate. These offer insight into previously unknown details of the discoveries and the background to the donation. Latest research on Tischendorf and the Codex Sinaiticus, as well as its importance for the New Testament text research)
  • Victor Gardthausen : Greek paleography , Volume 2 1913, pp. 119-134.
  • Matthew Black, Robert Davidson: Constantin von Tischendorf and the Greek New Testament. University of Glasgow Press, Glasgow 1981, ISBN 0-85261-164-1
  • Ludwig Schneller : Tischendorf memories. Strange story of a lost manuscript. Memories of his son-in-law. Leipzig 1927, 1929; Schweikardt-St. Johannis, Lahr-Dinglingen 1954, 1983, 1991, ISBN 3-501-00100-2
  • Bruce M. Metzger : The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1992, ISBN 0-19-507297-9 , pp.?.
  • Bruce M. Metzger: Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-19-502924-6 , pp.?.
  • Kurt and Barbara Aland : The Text of the New Testament . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-438-06011-6 , p.?.
  • The legacy of the Jesus spy . In: Der Spiegel . No. 17 , 2007, p. 154-156 ( online ).
  • Konstantin von Tischendorf: The Sinai Bible its discovery, publication, and acquisition . Giesecke & Devrient, Leipzig 1871.
  • Konstantin von Tischendorf: When were our Gospels written? . JC Hinrichssche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1865.


Web links

Commons : Codex Sinaiticus  - collection of images, videos and audio files