Friday, June 04, 2010

Codex Bezae Digitization

11 Comment(s) +
As we reported several years ago (here), a transcription and translation of Codex Bezae is already on-line at this site compiled by Sylvie Chabert d'Hyères (I don't know about the quality of this material), but now, due to a large donation, we can hope for a digitization of the codex following the paths of Codex Sinaiticus.

The Telegraph now reports that the former businessman Dr Leonard Polonsky has donated a neat sum of £1.5m that will be used by Cambridge University Library to first create an infrastructe and then start digitising the vast collection of 600-year-old institution.

The first stage of the digitization project is called "Foundations of Faith" which, as the name suggests, will focus on the religious collections, among which we find some of the world's most ancient Qur'ans, the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection (some 193,000 fragments of MSS), and Greek New Testament MSS, including Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis.

Perhaps the excellent scholars at Tyndale House could offer the library their expertise in this process. Speaking about the Cambridge scholars, I recall when I went with Peter Head on a racewalking tour to see Cambridge, and we passed the university library, he told me that the staff there were not to keen on letting people see Codex Bezae nowadays (although they had a good eye to Pete). Apparently, a former professor in Cambridge has left his physical marks on the manuscript, as he has intimately showed the manuscript to his classes during many years (Pete can fill in the details).

HT: Paleojudaica.


  1. I have a quick question that I hope someone can help me with...someone comfortable with reading minuscules. I am currently collating one of the CSNTM minuscules and am stuck on a particular word. The word appears on one of the few supplemental pages supplied by a much later hand. This means that I have a very small collection of the writer's handwriting style and use of ligatures with which to compare this word. Here is the link:

    The word in question is in the top line right after epesen and before the beginning of the word prosopon. The NA and MT texts show the word epi, but this word looks nothing like it. The final two letters appear to be a theta and iota, however the writer used that same stroke combination to indicate an alpha / rho ending for the word gar.

    I have checked all the ligature charts I could find for help on this word and have found nothing. Anyone here have any suggestions?

  2. That sounds like a promising project. Meanwhile, why can't somebody with a digital camera and a copy of the facsimile put the whole thing -- or at least the Greek pages, and sample pages of the Latin -- online now?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. "he told me that the staff there were not to keen on letting people see Codex Bezae nowadays"

    I was lucky enough to be granted an entire working day with Bezae in 2007. Even though I have a lot of background in handling rare book/paper materials, I was very surprised at the freedom of access they gave me to the codex and its related materials. I was able to conduct every inspection of the text block and spine that I had planned for the day, with time left over to simply sit and read select passages. This day served as the raw material for a paper on Bezae a test case for inspecting re-bound biblical manuscripts for original binding features. I think the visit was successful, but I have never found a good forum to share the results. I posted on it here:

    As far as a certain professor leaving his mark on the manuscript... that explains why the brown splotch on the bottom right corner of folio 137 smells like chip sauce.

  4. Cool: Question, does this include selections from all the college libraries at Cambridge, or just the University Library? (In particular does it include a 9th century greek/latin diglot of Paul at Trinity college;)?

    I did this two years ago. I've passed the images on to pasquale who built a biblewords module.

    The modules are .chm, so you can unpack them and get the raw images.

    If someone wants to host them I'd be happy to provide a link (my little web server lives at the end a normal DSL link at my house and would die if even those on this list tried to down load them off my server.


  5. Darrell, the word on the page you are collating looks strange indeed. It's a word which begins with a smooth breathing and ends with a THI... The beginning of the word looks like an alpha to me, but before "prosopon" you typically have one of the following 4 prepositions: epi, kata, eis or pros. In the context given, only "epi" seems to work. So perhaps the scribe just made a mistake. Note the 2 dashes at the end of the line, which probably signal that something went wrong.
    Anybody has a better idea?

  6. Thanks for your response. The ending looks like a theta-iota, however, I did find earlier that this scribe used the exact same strokes following a gamma in the position where the text should read gar. The ligature charts I checked do show examples where an alpha can be reduced to just a twisted circle above the rest of the line. But the single downstroke looks much more like a iota than a rho.

  7. But if there are no other ideas out there, I think I am ready to just call this a nonsense reading and move on with my collation.

    This particular minuscule looks pretty interesting to me. It is 10th century, and so far is not simply a distinctively byzantine manuscript. For instance, it excludes the pericope of the adulteress in John. As to the pattern of variation, so far, when it disagrees with the Majority Text, it usually does so along with either f1 or f13 or even 038. The scribe of the original hand has made very few unforced errors. Unfortunately, a later hand traced over many of the letters with sloppy black ink making this one very difficult to collate.

  8. It's not a nonsense reading, but merely a not untypical late minuscule handwritten ligature for EPI, as originally noted.

    Similar ligatures appear in other minuscule MSS, but usually look more like three u's with a horizontal s-shaped flourish over them. The scribe in question basically created his own particular flourish.

  9. Thank you for the clarification. I might have figured out that the scribe had intended epi had he not already used the same ending for the word gar. I will be glad to finish this supplemental page and get back to the 10th century original hand which is very neatly written and consistently uses the same ligatures.

  10. I think that the Codex Bezae images will soon be online again. They were available here:

    Tim Finney is trying to get everything on a new server.