Jonathan Clerke - "any document that had managed to survive for more than 1600 years would be so degraded"

Steven Avery

Jonathan Clerke

Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?

State of Preservation

I originally thought that any document that had managed to survive for more than 1600 years would be so degraded that individual letters and words would be faint and difficult to discern. It is easy to imagine that the form of writing material used, namely treated animal skins, would have deteriorated enormously. The treated goat and sheep skins used to make Codex Sinaiticus, variously called vellum or parchment, was quite thin. So it’s surprising to discover that Codex Sinaiticus, like several of these old New Testament copies, was quite readable. The following two paragraphs describe the condition of the Codex Sinaiticus:

After more than 1600 years, it is clear that the quality of the writing medium originally used by the scribes was truly exceptional, as is the quality of the parchment. The ingredients appear to be well balanced creating a smooth and thin fluid perfect for writing on parchment. The recipe and the manufacturing technique seem to be exquisite too, revealing high craftsmanship and skilled experience for producing good quality inks ... 22

Apart from a small percentage of folios [i.e. pages] with heavy ink corrosion, most of the folios appeared to have survived the rigours of 16 centuries with an unexpected lack of damage, suffering in the main only from small tears and losses along the head, tail, fore-edge and spine folds. Much of this damage is more likely attributable to mechanical damage than physical deterioration.23

Actually a folio is two pages. Jonathan also references 129 Leipzig pages elsewhere. These are commonly needed corrections. :)

The two quotes are from the Codex Sinaiticus Project and we have on this forum in a few spots.

S Mazzarino, ‘Report on the different inks used in Codex Sinaiticus and assessment of their condition’, Codex
Sinaiticus,, accessed 22/08/2010.
G Moorhead, ‘Parchment assessment of the Codex Sinaiticus’, Codex Sinaiticus, May 2009,, accessed 22/08/2010.

From Credentials in the Preface:

My qualifications have nurtured a strong research-based approach to examining information. These qualifications arc mainly in physiotherapy and parasitology, resulting in a BSc(Hons) and a BPhty, both from the University of Queensland. Because I am not qualified as a historian, a critic of the New Testament or a philosopher, I have provided the evidence that has formed the basis of my conclusions. In this way, readers can independently evaluate whether such conclusions arc reasonable. Similarly, when I have had to rely on the conclusions of others, I have sought out those scholars who have the relevant qualifications. Readers should have the opportunity to be discerning. Judges do not have to be experts in forensics, ballistics and criminal psychology in order to weigh up well-presented evidence from experts on a murder by shooting.

A South African blogger takes a direct route:
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