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Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus – What are they?

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Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are the two oldest complete or nearly complete copies of the New Testament in its original Greek language. The word codex refers to these manuscripts being handwritten in codex or book form rather than on a scroll. The name Codex Sinaiticus is based on the location of its discovery, the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. Codex Vaticanus is based on its location in the Vatican Library.

Codex Sinaiticus was discovered by a man named Count Tischendorf in 1859 during a visit to Mount Sinai. It consists of more than 400 pages that include much of the Old Testament in Greek along with the complete New Testament. Scholars estimate its date to sometime in the fourth century. It represents an early form of the text, though it includes many corrections added by later editors.

Codex Vaticanus is a much larger manuscript of 759 pages and includes nearly the entire Old and New Testaments. It has been known to have remained in the Vatican Library since at least 1475 and is also noted as being produced sometime in the fourth century.

Much research has been invested into understanding the history and significance of each of these manuscripts. The Codex Sinaiticus has recently been digitized for public usage online at The site includes an enormous wealth of information that helps researchers understand details regarding the manuscript's history and the significance of textual variants.

Codex Vaticanus has been known for much longer and has been utilized in research of the New Testament text since the earliest printed editions of the Greek New Testament. Vaticanus is also interesting in the fact that it has its own chapter divisions not found in other manuscripts. While Sinaiticus was produced by several scribes, Vaticanus appears to have been produced by one scribe copying the New Testament and two scribes copying the Old Testament.

Scholars have long debated how to handle variations found in these two texts and their comparison with other New Testament manuscripts. Because of the numerous manuscripts found by the nineteenth century, modern Greek New Testaments follow an eclectic system that uses a system of footnotes to point out any notable difference between manuscripts. The vast number of manuscripts can sometimes make research more complex, yet also helps better determine the earliest form of the text. In all cases, the earliest text can be found in either the Greek New Testament text or in one of the alternative readings found in the footnotes.

Serious students of the New Testament realize the tremendous value of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus and have invested much time into studying their contents. Of greatest importance is that these two early manuscripts faithfully pass down the teachings of Scripture God desires for His people to study and apply today.

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