Monday, June 18, 2007

Codex Beratinus 1 and 2 — Memories of the World

The Abbey Library of St. Gallen with its high-quality collection of medieval codices highlighted in a previous post, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1983. In their programme "Memory of the World," UNESCO supports the preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide, including many valuable manuscripts.

In Albania, two Gospels codices have been nominated for inclusion in the programme:
Codex Beratinus 1 (φ 043) and Codex Beratinus 2 (Greg.-Aland 1143), see here.

The web-page says that the two codices represent two of the seven "purple codices" that survive today, and that two other are in Italy, one each in France, England and Greece. This erroneous information derives from the nomination form with a more detailed description of the codices found here. I think the nomination has become successful and that the two codices are now registered as "memories of the world." This is of course good, but the nomination form contains plenty of misleading information.

For example, the "seven purple codices” are said to be: "(1) Aleph or Sinaiticus (British Library), third century [!!!]; (2) Sinopensis (French National Library, Paris), fourth/fifth century; (3) Beratinus-1, sixth century; (4) Beratinus-2, ninth century; (5) Rossanensis (Diocese of Rossano, Italy), sixth century; (6) Vaticana B (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana), fourth century [!]; (7) Petropolitanus (Athens Museum), eighth/ninth century"

Some of these codices are not purple codices, and there are several other preserved purple codices missing in the list.

Or what to say about this: "The International Bible Society, which is based in London, is translating the New Testament using references from the world’s oldest manuscripts, in the hope that it can produce a text which, from a scientific point of view, can be accepted by all churches. It considers the Albanian codices to be among the most important foundations of this initiative."

But perhaps this statement about Beratinus 1 is the worst:

"This [Beratinus 1=Greg.-Aland 043] represents one of the three or four oldest codices in the history of world Christian literature and one of the three or four oldest New Testament archetypes."

I was also unaware that the codex in question dates from the "deep purple period" :-)

I don't know exactly who compiled this nomination form, but it seems to have been a professor Shaban Sinani, who was then chief of the National Archives in Tirana and a member of a national UNESCO committee in Albania. On this page (an Albanian discussion forum) one can read more on the topic (the Albanian Codices) by Sinani.

Rod Mullen is among the experts listed in the nomination form that support the nomination of the Beratini codices. It is a pity that he was not able to correct the nomination form. Nevertheless, Mullen may be one of the few Western scholars who have gained access to the Greek New Testament MSS in Albania (I think the INTF only have microfilms of Beratinus 1 and 2). I have not yet been able to find his bibliography referred to in the nomination form: “Bibliography of the New Testament and Related Manuscripts”, Albanian National Archives, Collection 488, Tirana – 2002.

Update: On the UNESCO website there are some images of the codices, here.


  1. Hello, my bibliography of NT manuscripts in Albania was translated into Albanian and published by the Albanian National Archives. --Rod Mullen

  2. Rod,

    Were you in Albania and examined the manuscripts yourself? Was the untranslated, English version of your bibliography published too?

    According to the Liste, thirteen MSS are registered, but there is a question mark concerning a fourteenth MS, Greg.-Aland 2244, which may be identical to L1207 (Koder-Trapp 13). Have you been able to work that out?

  3. I join you, Tommy, in berating such nonsense

  4. For other info, see also: