2021 - British Library, Peter Toth responds to inquiry on carbon dating Sinaiticus

Steven Avery


Re: Codex Sinaiticus - the white parchment Friderico-Augustanus
Leucius Charinus » Fri Oct 07, 2022 10:04 pm

John T wrote: Fri Oct 07, 2022 4:36 pmSo, what is the 2022 status of C14 testing of Codex Sinaiticus?
Here is a 2021 status from the British Library


Subject: Future C14 dating of Codex Sinaiticus?
From: me
To: Peter Toth @ The British Library
Sent: 1/11/21 11:28 PM

Dear Peter,

I am wondering whether the British Library perhaps will, at some time in the future, consider C14 dating Codex Sinaiticus in order - to obtain through an independent scientific method, information concerning the correct century of this ancient manuscript, and whether the date from radiocarbon will agree with or call for modification of existing date estimates based on other methods such as paleographic dating.

I obtained your email address from Codex Sinaiticus - Contact

Kind regards



RE: Subject: Future C14 dating of Codex Sinaiticus?
From: Peter Toth @ The British Library
To: me
Sent: 2/9/21 11:25 PM

Dear Mr Brown,

Thank you very much for your message and interest in this manuscript and please accept my apologies for replying with such a delay.

We are all aware of the ongoing doubts and concerns about the dating of this extraordinary manuscript. However, the British Library does currently have no plans to undertake C14 dating of the Codex Sinaiticus, nor has it to my knowledge or as recorded undertaken this in the past. The main reason behind this decision is that C14 is a destructive form of technical analysis: it requires a sample to be physically separated and destroyed from an artefact which is why it is not undertaken on BL collection items. (The BL – as you probably know – has no detached/unwritten fragments of the MS similar to the ones currently kept at the Monastery of St Catherine on Sinai – so it would indeed require an actual intervention and damage to be made on the brilliantly preserved parchment folios of this MS).

Moreover, these methods sometimes lead to inconclusive and unhelpful results in dating manuscripts, so in our present view (and, also in the view of several of our predecessors) the scholarly benefits of undertaking this do not outweigh or justify the losses that would occur to this critically significant artefact if C14 was undertaken. Contextual and imaging analysis can, in our opinion, prove as reliable and much less harmful way to interpret artefacts like this and were widely and successfully applied in various other manuscripts.

There is broad scholarly consensus on the dating of this manuscript based on these well-established criteria for judging the date of a manuscript. More productive than C14 was the non-destructive analysis and identification of the type of skins and the animal type origins of the pages of Codex Sinaiticus, undertaken within and disseminated through the Codex Project. See, for example,

as well as the thorough examination of the various inks used throughout the manuscript

I hope this helps to clarify the background of the BL’s policies and decisions as to the date of this remarkable manuscript.

Best wishes

Peter Toth (BL)