Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus Highlights II

I too enjoyed the Codex Sinaiticus Conference. Just a few highlights (I am sure that Tommy has full notes on many papers!):
Rene Larson's argument about the quality of the parchment production and the infrastructure that must have stood behind it (ready supplies of large numbers of domestic animals, esp. cows; and the continuous production of a large quantity of top quality parchment).
Helen Shenton's comment that the pricking and ruling patterns bear no observable relationship to scribal changes (with more info in essays to be uploaded to the web site on 20th July).
Tim Brown's argument that Scribe B could have been B1 and B2 (more on this perhaps later).
Rachel Kevern's presentation (and the comment that photos of several unidentified fragments have been placed on-line at Quire 0, folio 1R).
Klaus Wachtel's count of 23,000 corrections throughout the manuscript (at an average of 30 corrections per page). He made some interesting comments as well about the importance of Ca (who corrected the whole codex systematically) and Cb2 (who undid some of Ca's corrections!).
Archbishop Damianos' plea/prayer that people around the world might find spiritual renewal in the Word of God.
Prof Nikolopoulos' comment that the New Finds in total weighed 1.5 tonnes.
The three papers - Boetrich, Fyssas and Frame - on the history of the discovery of the manuscript, its transfer to Russia and its purchase by/for the British Museum were all very interesting.
My paper, on Scribe D in the NT, was prepared in time and seemed to go down well (and I received some helpful comments for the published essay).


  1. "Klaus Wachtel's count of 23,000 corrections throughout the manuscript (at an average of 30 corrections per page)."

    There are 30 corrections per page, and there are about 400 words per page in GA01, we can therefore deduce that a correction was made every 13th or 14th word.

    That said -- Is there data available that indicates how many corrections other ancient Greek documents contain?

  2. P66 has 440 corrections according to Royse. The scribe averages probably 20 lines per page and 24 characters per line. There are 104 leaves which are complete or almost compete and 46 which are increasingly fragmentary.

  3. The online publication of Codex Sinaiticus in its entirety is a stellar achievement, a bright cyber-star joining the constellation of the Goodspeed Collection at the University of Chicago, the Biblical Manuscripts Project, etc.

    But it will always be a bright star on a cloudy night, until the BL offers to return Codex Sinaiticus to St. Catherine's Monastery.

    J. Rendel Harris (who had visited St. Catherine's) had no illusions: in his review of Gregory's "Text and Canon" in the February 1908 issue of The Expositor, Harris expressed extreme skepticism (bordering on outright ridicule) of Tischendorf's version of events pertaining to the "rescue" of Codex Sinaiticus.

    Did the contents of any of the papers support Tischendorf's claims, or the protests of the monks? Has some evidence appeared that makes it plain that the monks were about to burn pages of the codex? I think if that were the case, we would have heard more about it.

    I call on the curator of the BL and other responsible parties to make this festive occasion even more exciting, memorable, and celebratory, by returning Codex Sinaiticus to the monks of St. Catherine's.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  4. JS: Did the contents of any of the papers support Tischendorf's claims, or the protests of the monks?

    The following thoughts are not necessarily directed at you, but rather reflect in a general manner on the issue which you have raised.

    This topic was avoided at the conference, although the bishop who was supposed to speak on the Shepherd of Hermas did spend some time discussing the controversy. I should also note that the original agreement included a statement recognizing the monastery's continued claim to the manuscript in all its parts.

    The new find of manuscripts from the 1970's which totaled 1 1/2 tons in weight, had been left in a derelict building which collapsed. I spoke with Father Justin about this; it sounds to me as if the monks of Tischendorf's time were simply overwhelmed with manuscripts and were not interested in or capable of taking care of the whole of them. Sinaiticus had lost its binding and had fallen to pieces. At least four pieces was bound into book covers. Many pieces were left to their fate in the collapsed ruins of an old tower. Others (the majority) left the monastery through Tischendorf. Sinaiticus had not been well treated when Tischendorf got his sneaky little hands on it.

    I think that we should be very careful as scholars before landing on either side of this argument. On the one hand, you have a European with significant resources to employ to acquire (for Tsar Alex II, 9000 rubles), conserve and publish the manuscript. On the other, you have the relatively impoverished historic owners in the best scenario do not appreciate the uniqueness of the manuscript and have not properly conserved it. This is colonialism at its best and worst.

    One must also keep in mind the nature of the larger situation. Sinaiticus is part of a much larger collection of antiquities held by British institutions. British institutions (like those in other countries) are constantly returning manuscripts. These actions involve a large number of factors including questions of conservation, access, history, national value, etc. Sinaticus is part of a much bigger picture.

    In summary, I do not know what the right thing to do is. I do not regret that the British bought the manuscript in 1933/34. I think that Tischendorf may have saved the manuscript, if not from flames, perhaps from other neglect or from sale to more dubious entities. We should remember that monks sold other manuscripts from the monastery through Cairo dealing over the next century. However, ideally I can imagine a more sensitive Tischendorf who might have partnered with the monastery in the preservation and publication of the text or a monastery which was more careful in the conservation and care of its greatest treasure.