Codex Sinaiticus


A MS of the whole Bible formerly at Sinai, then at St. Petersburg, was bought for the British nation in 1934. It now contains parts of Genesis, Numbers, 1 Chronicles, 2 Esdras, the poetical books, Esther, Tobit, Judith, the prophets apart from Hosea, Amos, Micah, Ezekiel, Daniel, 1 and 4 Maccabees, the whole NT, the Epistle of Barnabas, and a large part of the “Shepherd of Hermas.” Its discovery by Tischendorf, apparently in a wastebasket, has often been romantically rehearsed. Recently found letters have shown, however, that an element of the unscrupulous entered into its removal to Russia. It may be dated in the 4th cent. on paleographical grounds and by the presence of the Eusebian apparatus, a system of finding the correlations of the Synoptics, devised by Eusebius in the early part of the cent.

Its place of origin is also a little difficult to ascertain. Two curious errors in the NT may point to Caesarea: “antipatrida” (Matt 13:54 for “patrida,” “homeland”) may reflect Antipatris, a town nearby, while “Caesarea” is read in error for “Samaria” (Acts 8:40). Furthermore, one of the correctors whose work may be seen in the MS worked from a MS written by Pamphilus, a Caesarean martyr. This at least shows that it was in Caesarea in the 6th or 7th cent., the corrector’s probable date.

The textual value of the codex is high, but its affinities vary from book to book. It often agrees with B in the OT, sometimes giving a Hexaplaric text, sometimes a pre-Hexaplaric. In the Synoptic gospels, it is a close ally of the Codex B; but in the Gospel of John it agrees with D against its former ally. In the Acts and epistles it is again in harmony with B and other witnesses to its text. In Revelation (where B is no longer extant) it is the ally of the Chester Beatty Papyri and the quotations of Origen, giving a text which does not command the assent of present-day scholars. The correctors in both Testaments have a different affiliation.


a MS of the whole Bible, already in the Vatican library by 1475. The first forty-five chapters of Genesis are missing, a part of 2 Kingdoms (2 Samuel), some psalms, the end of Hebrews, and all of Revelation. It is datable in the 4th cent. Its place of origin is unknown; many scholars have remarked its close congruence with the ideas of Athanasius about the canon of Scripture, with which it agrees both in content and order. Textually the codex generally agrees closely with Egyp. fathers and versions, and these two facts lead many to suggest Egyp. origin for it. In the view of competent palaeographers, however, one of the scribes of Aleph also wrote part of B. Caesarea then may be a more likely place of origin. Its textual value is high. In the OT it is sometimes a witness to the Hexaplaric text, sometimes to the pre-Hexaplaric. In the NT, it has perhaps been overrated in the past; it represents the product of very good editorial activity rather than an uncontaminated “original Greek.” Recent papyrus discoveries have shown its textual type to be perhaps as much as two centuries older. It is also noteworthy for two systems of chapter division later superseded by others. The chapter divisions in the gospels, the Vatican Sections, known in one other MS only, are topical. In the Acts and epistles, an ancient system important for the history of the Canon is attested: in it 2 Peter had no place and Hebrews followed Galatians.


Bibliorum SS. Graecorum Codex Vaticanus 1209 (Cod. B) (phototypice expressus) 4 vols. (1889-1904); M. J. Lagrange, Critique Textuelle. II. La Critique Rationelle (1935), 83-90 et al.; The Beginnings of Christianity. Part I. The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. III. The Text of Acts by J. H. Ropes (1926).


Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus, reproduced in facsimile from photographs, 2 vols. (1911, 1922); H. J. Milne, T. C. Skeat, Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus (1938).