Monday, October 06, 2008

The Oldest Bible in the News!

The BBC has an article on Codex Sinaiticus here.

What can we say about this article? It took me till the seventh paragraph before I found a paragraph without a factual mistake (oops Roger Bolton, this is even for sensationalist journalism rather poor).


1. Codex Sinaiticus is not the world oldest (Christian) Bible.


2. It did not lay undisturbed in a monastery. It was disturbed over the centuries given the corrections from the 7th/8th century, the mediaeval Arabic notes, and the fact that the manuscript had been split up sometime before the end of the 18th century. When the manuscript arrived in the monastery no-one knows.

The year 1844 is correct, at least for a part of the manuscript. Other parts were 'discovered' in the years 1845-50 (Uspenski), 1853, 1859 (both Tischendorf), early 20th century (Beneshevich), 1975 (the opening of blocked off room).


3. Ok, no factual mistake in this paragraph, I was too quick with my judgment above, penitentiam agite.

Well, I hope there will be no mistake.

I very much hope, because it would be great if by next July the whole codex is on-line including all the recent bits found at Mt Sinai.


4. Will there be uncomfortable questions to answer? Will there be anything 'new' in the on-line publication that was not known for the past 140 years? Come off it. I'm glad the codex comes on-line, but there is very little about the text of this codex that was not known before (the text of the 1975 fragments comes from the Greek Old Testament and from the last book added to the New Testament, the Shepherd). And let's face it, the Christian church has known about and studied and written on the differences between Bible manuscripts since the second century!


5. "Crucial verses about the Resurrection are missing." I have read the New Testament a couple of times, and I may be one of the few people who can say that I have read the New Testament text of this codex more than once. I found the resurrection narrative complete in Matthew's gospel: the text of Codex Sinaiticus does not miss out on verses telling about the resurrection. Neither is the resurrection in Luke missing, and the story is all there in the gospel according to John. I have not counted all the times that the resurrection is mentioned in any of the other books of the New Testament, but most of these verses are all there. Makes me wonder what Roger Bolton is referring to (as there are so many references to the resurrection it is difficult to single some out as 'crucial'). Perhaps he is thinking about the last verses of Mark, where the AV has an account of the resurrection in Mark 16:9-20, but which is not present in many modern Bible translations (as it is suspected by many to be a later addition to this particular gospel). I don't think any user of a modern Bible translation has felt the need to answer the so-called uncomfortable question of why these 'crucial' verses on the resurrection are not there as the resurrection is everywhere in the New Testament.


6. Constantin Tischendorf (the German who took part of the Old Testament to Leipzig in 1844 and most of the remainder to St Petersburg in 1859) as Indiana Jones! This must be correct, everyone will see the likeness between the two at first sight!

The codex was indeed made in the 4th century, yet the monastery was built in the 6th century. Unlikely - let's call it impossible - that the codex was hidden in it since the 4th century.


Yet I haven't lost faith because of this article: I still believe that there are people at the BBC who know what they are writing about (clearly, the desperate call of someone who duly pays his licence fee). I wouldn't expect that either Bart or David are particularly impressed with this article. Having said this, bad publicity is often better than no publicity: keep manuscripts in the news!


I am not going to continue with the numerous other errors, misconstruals, and straw-men in the BBC article; after all, this is a serious blog.

10 Comments:

bogoizbrania said...

Great post, why you don't describe political situation around manuscript? There a lot of politics in 'discovery's', will be an interesting manner of people in power get involved in this deal.

The White Man said...

"Perhaps he is thinking about the last verses of Mark, where the AV has an account of the resurrection in Mark 16:9-20"

Ha ha, very funny. The versification of Mark predates the AV by several decades and is behind every popular translation in every language ever since. No one hoping to actually sell his translation to the public would end Mark at v. 8 (although I have seen one newsprint edition of Mark with no verses whatsoever--it doesn't end with gar, But.

Not much to wonder about.

Brett said...

Can you clarify your clarification:

1. Codex Sinaiticus is not the world oldest (Christian) Bible.

Are you saying that the Aleph is the oldest "Christian" Bible?

Mitch

Brett said...

Can you clarify your clarification:

1. Codex Sinaiticus is not the world oldest (Christian) Bible.

Are you saying that the Aleph is the oldest "Christian" Bible?

Mitch Larramore (on another site) has indicated that there is an older Version but he didn't name it. Is there an older "Version" than Sinaiticus?

Dirk Jongkind said...

Brett,

First a rather trivial remark: people who study the text of the NT reserve the term 'version' for translations of the Greek text into another language (thus the Coptic version, the Syriac, etc.) Different manuscripts of the Greek New Testament (and a few of these have also the Greek translation of the Old Testament) are just different manuscripts.
There are quite a number of manuscripts that contain sections of the NT which are older than Codex Sinaiticus. It seems that before the very end of the third century / start of the fourth century the art of making books had not developed so far as to get the whole NT in a single physical volume. The oldest of this type of book (including the OT) is Codex Vaticanus. However, before this we have already a 'book' (papyrus-codex) containing the gospels with Acts and one containing the letters of Paul. These are also 'Bibles' in a sense, even though they do not (and could not) contain everything you will find in modern printed ones.

David said...

Any chance one of your number could offer to write a response for the BBC website?

(This would probably do more good than me adding to the slanging match which seems to characterise the comments on all religious news stories these days.)

James Snapp, Jr. said...

Yes; there are lots of mistakes in Roger Bolton's BBC article "The rival to the Bible." The mistake about Mark 1:41 is particularly strange. Perhaps the worst thing about the article is that it seems to have been written to give the reader the impression that until now the information about the contents of Sinaiticus was classified, and is incriminating, faith-damaging news.

While we're noticing mistakes . . .

There's no need to wonder what Roger Bolton was writing about when he claimed that crucial verses about the resurrection are missing in Sinaiticus. Of course he refers (whether he knows it or not) to Mark 16:9-20.

Dr. Jongkind wrote:
"Perhaps he is thinking about the last verses of Mark, where the AV has an account of the resurrection in Mark 16:9-20, but which is not present in many modern Bible translations (as it is suspected by many to be a later addition to this particular gospel)."

"Not present in many modern Bible translations"???

Let's see here: the RSV originally only had Mk. 16:9-20 in a footnote. Goodspeed's "Short Bible" ended Mark at 16:8. That's *two* modern Bible translations in which Mark 16:9-20 is not present. What are the many others?

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Tommy Wasserman said...

There is also a BBC radio broadcast here (featuring Parker, Ehrman, et al.), probably similar to what was published (I have not checked):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dp74r/

Anonymous said...

Dirk:

You wrote:

The oldest of this type of book (including the OT) is Codex Vaticanus.

But, the Vaticanus is not a complete Bible (parts of the Christian Bible are missing). Is there an older complete Christian Bible than the Sinaiticus?

Anonymous said...

actually, Mark's acount of resurrection can be noted in Aleph & B! we can observe Mark Saying (16:6):"But he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him" (NET)