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Codex Bezae

CODEX BEZAE (D) is named for Theodore Beza, Calvin’s friend, who, after obtaining it near Lyons, France, during the Wars of Religion, gave it in 1581 to Cambridge University, in whose library it still lies. It is a bilingual MS, Gr. on the left page facing Lat. on the right. It contains the four gospels (in the Western order, Matt, John, Luke, Mark) and Acts with a small fragment of 1 John. Perhaps originally it had the Revelation also. There are numerous lacunae in Acts, some caused since the presence of the MS in Cambridge. It is dated in the 4th or 5th cent.: a long series of correctors and annotators have worked on it, some emending the text, others adding liturgical notes, one a series of “fortunes” foretelling the future. Its place of origin has caused much debate and is still not quite settled. Greek was the language of the region, and of most of the later annotators. The liturgical links are Greek, but there are occasional Lat. contacts in the style of the MS. This combination of features has pointed for many scholars to some Western area: from Gaul, Sardinia, South Italy and Sicily, all of which partook of Gr. and Lat. culture. Sicily has seemed the most likely source, since its Gr. contacts were the least interrupted over the centuries. It is possible, however, that either Jerusalem or Alexandria might be the place of origin since it is known that bilinguals were in use for the sake of pilgrims. Both the Lat. and the Gr. of the MS are fairly typical of the vulgar form of the languages in the late empire; they give little guidance on origins. In its bilingual form it is prob. the descendant of earlier copies, since both Gr. and Lat. texts bear signs of being brought into close verbal agreement one with the other, which indicates a history behind this MS. Its Gr. text differs considerably from most Gr. MSS, esp. in Acts where it attests a longer text; but it is not without support among recently discovered papyri. In Acts, it may occasionally preserve the original reading; generally its text represents the rehandling by some group who wished to emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit and also may have been motivated by an anti-Jewish tendency. In the gospels, its peculiarities are often locutions more Sem. than Gr.; where this is true, a case can be made for their originality as dependent upon a slavishly rendered tradition of the words of Jesus. This would often be earlier than the form of other texts more polished in their Gr. Support for the readings of D comes sometimes from later Gr. MSS, but more often from the VSS, particularly the Old Latin, Old Syriac, and sometimes the Sahidic Coptic. These MSS represent an ancient text, often original, which has left its traces on the outskirts of the Christian world, in VSS made early in the 2nd cent., and in out-of-the-way places only in the mainstream of the Gr. transmission of the text. Hence, D has grown in interest with modern advances.


Bezae Codex Cantabrigiensis, edited by F. H. Scrivener (1864); Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis...phototypice repraesentatus (1899); J. H. Ropes, The Beginnings of Christianity Part I: The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. III, The Text of Acts (1926); A. C. Clark, The Acts of the Apostles, A Critical Edition (1933); A. J. F. Klijn, A Survey of the Research into the Western Text of the Gospels and Acts, (1949?); E. J. Epp. The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis in Acts (1966).