The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism - Bob Waltz

Steven Avery

This is a WIP.

While the writing of Robert Waltz is often good, there are some glaring problems in the Sinaiticus section.

The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism
Robert Waltz


Manuscript ℵ (01)
Location/Catalog Number

The entire New Testament portion, plus part of the Old and the non-Biblical books,are in London, British Library Add. 43725. ... A handful of Old Testament leaves are at Leipzig.
43 is a bit more than a handful

Originally found at Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai, hence the name "Codex Sinaiticus." A few stray leaves of the codex apparently remain at Sinai. ℵ is the famous Codex Sinaiticus, the great discovery of Constantine von Tischendorf, the only surviving complete copy of the New Testament written prior to the ninth century, and the only complete New Testament in uncial script.
The problem here is the compelling evidence that it was written in the ninthteenth century.

Contents .... (snip)

Dated paleographically to the fourth century.
This is simply repeating the Tischendorf position, which has weaknesses everywhere.

It can hardly be earlier, as the manuscript contains the Eusebian Canons from the first hand. But the simplicity of the writing style makes a later dating effectively impossible.
This is obviously absurd.
The simplicity of the writing style means it would be extremely easy to write in that style centuries later.

(snip scribes)

An interesting aspect of Sinaiticus is its severe plain-ness. Even Codex Vaticanus has occasional graphics (though a lot of them are pretty ugly) and a few instances of red ink. Sinaiticus has almost none. ...

It is speculated (though it is no more than speculation) that the few leaves written by Dwere "cancels" -- placeswhere the original copies were so bad that it was easier to replace than correct them.(One of these cancels, interestingly, is the ending of Mark.) ...

It has been speculated that Sinaiticuswas copied from dictation. This is because a number of its errors seem to be errors ofhearing rather than of sight (including an amusing case in 1 Macc. 5:20, where thereader seems to have stumbled over the text and the copyist took it all down mechanically).

Sinaiticus is one of the most-corrected manuscripts of all time. Tischendorf counted14,800 corrections in what was then the Saint Petersburg portion alone!


"c.pamph."...c.pamph seems to have worked on only two books(2 Esdras and Esther) -- but his corrections were against a copy said to have beencorrected by Pamphilius working from the Hexapla. This, if true, is very interesting --but colophons can be faked, or transmitted from copy to copy. And in any case, the corrections apply only to two books, neither in the New Testament. ...

Correctors d and e were much later (e is dated to the twelfth century), and neither added particularly many changes. Indeed, no work of d's is known in the New Testament.

It is unfortunate that the Nestle-Aland edition has completely befuddled this systemof corrections. In Nestle-Aland 26 and beyond,ℵ[SUP]a[/SUP] andℵ[SUP]b[/SUP] arecombined as ℵ[SUP]1[/SUP];the correctorsℵ[SUP]c[/SUP] areconflated as ℵ[SUP]2[/SUP],and (most confusing of all)ℵ[SUP]e[/SUP]becomes ℵ[SUP]c[/SUP].

(For more information about the correctors ofℵ,see the article on Correctors.)

Description and Text-type

The history of Tischendorf's discovery of Codex Sinaiticus is told in nearly everyintroduction to New Testament criticism; I will not repeat it in any detail here (especially since there is a great deal of controversy about what he did). The essential elements are these: In 1844, Tischendorf visited Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. (Sadly,he did not do much to investigate the many fine minuscules at Mount Sinai, such as 1241 and1881). At one point, he noted 43 sheets of very old parchment in a waste bin, destined tobe burned. Tischendorf rescued these leaves (the Leipzig portion of Sinaiticus, all fromthe Old Testament), and learned that many more existed. He was not able to obtain theseleaves, and saw no sign of the manuscript on a second visit in 1853.

It was not until 1859, near the end of a third visit, that Tischendorf was allowedto see the rest of the old manuscript (learning then for the first time that it containedthe New Testament -- complete! -- as well as the Old). Under a complicated arrangement, Tischendorf was allowed to transcribe the manuscript, but did not have the time to examine it in full detail. Tischendorf wanted to take the manuscript to the west, whereit could be examined more carefully.

It is at this point that the record becomes unclear. The monks, understandably,had no great desire to give up the greatest treasure of their monastery. Tischendorf,understandably, wanted to make the manuscript more accessible (though not necessarily safer; unlike Saint Petersburg and London, Mount Sinai has not suffered a revolution or been bombed since the discovery of ℵ). In hindsight, it seems quite clear that the monks were promised better terms than they actually received (though this may be the fault of the Tsarist government rather than Tischendorf). Still, by whatever means, the manuscript wound up in Saint Petersburg, and later was sold to the British Museum.

There is at least one interesting sidelight on this, in that Tischendorf's storyof his discovery has a clear historical precedent in the discovery of the Percy Manuscript. In around 1753, Thomas Percy was visiting his friend Humphrey Pitt whenhe discovered the maids burning a paper folio. (A much more reasonable thing toburn than a pile of parchments, which do not burn well!) Percy was able to rescuethe century-old poetic miscellany, which eventually inspired him to publish his Reliques in 1765. [Source: Nick Groom, The Making of Percy's Reliques,Oxford, 1999, p. 6.] Happily, the parallels did not extend beyond that point: Percy edited, rewrote, and generally misrepresented his manuscript; Tischendorf published Sinaiticus with great precision.

However unfair these proceedings, they did make the Sinaiticus available to the world. Tischendorf published elaborate editions in the 1860s, Kirsopp Lake published a photographic edition before World War I, and once the manuscript arrived in the British Museum, it was subjected to detailed examination under ordinary andultraviolet light.

The fact that ℵ is both early and complete has made it the subject of intense textual scrutiny.Tischendorf, who did not pay much attention to text-types, did not really analyse its text,but gave it more weight than any other manuscript when preparing his eighth andfinal critical edition. Westcott and Hort regarded it as, after B, the best and most important manuscript in existence; the two made up the core of their"neutral" text. Since then, nearly everyone has listed it as a primary Alexandrian witness: Von Soden listed it as a member of the H type; the Alands list it as Category I (which, in practice, meanspurely Alexandrian); Wisse lists it as Group B in Luke; Richards classifies it asA[SUP]2[/SUP] (i.e. a member of the main Alexandrian group) in the Johannine Epistles,etc. The consensus was that there were only two places where the manuscript is not Alexandrian: the first part of John, where it is conceded that it belongs to some other text-type, probably "Western," (Gordon D. Fee,in a study whose methodologyI consider dubious -- one can hardly divide things as closely as a single verse! -- putsthe dividing point at 8:38), and in theA pocalypse, where Schmid classifies it in its own, non-Alexandrian, type with P[SUP]47[/SUP].
The truth appears somewhat more complicated. Zuntz, analysing 1 Corinthiansand Hebrews, came to the conclusion that ℵand B do not belong to the same text-type. (Zuntz's terminology is confusing,as he refers to the P[SUP]46[/SUP]/B type as "proto-Alexandrian,"even though his analysis makes it clear that this is not the same typeas the mainstream Alexandrian text.) The true Alexandrian text of Paul, therefore,is headed by ℵ, withallies including A C I 33 81 1175. It also appears that the Bohairic Coptic tends towardthis group, although Zuntz classified it with P[SUP]46[/SUP]/B (the Sahidic Copticclearly goes with P[SUP]46[/SUP]/B), while 1739, which Zuntz places with P[SUP]46[/SUP]/B,appears to me to be separate from either.

This leads to the logical question of whether ℵ and B actually belong together in the other parts of the Bible. They are everywherecloser to each other than to the Byzantine text -- but that does not mean that they belong to the same type, merely similar types. There are hints that, in the Gospels as in Paul, they should be separated. B belongs to a group with P[SUP]75[/SUP], and thisgroup seems to be ancestral to L. Other witnesses, notably Z, cluster around ℵ. While no one is yet prepared to say that B and ℵ belong to separate text-types in the gospels, the possibility must at least be admitted that they belong to separate sub-text-types.

In Acts, I know of no studies which would incline to separate ℵ and B, even within the same text-type. On the other hand, I know of no studies which have examined thequestion. It is likely that the two do both belong to the Alexandrian type, but whether they belong to the same sub-type must be left unsettled.

In Paul, Zuntz's work seems unassailable. There is no question that B and ℵ belong to different types. The only questions are, what are those types, and what is their extent?Zuntz's work is little help, but it would appear that the ℵ-type is the "true" Alexandrian text. P[SUP]46[/SUP] and B have only one certain ally (the Sahidic Coptic) and two doubtful ones (the Bohairic Coptic, whichI believe against Zuntz to belong with ℵ,and the 1739 group, which I believe to be a separate text-type).ℵ, however, has many allies -- A, C, 33 (ℵ's closest relative except in Romans), and the fragmentary I are all almost pure examplesof this type. Very many minuscules support it with some degree of mixture; 81, 1175, and1506 are perhaps the best, but most of the manuscripts that the Alands classify as Category II or Category IIIin Paul probably belong here (the possible exceptions are the members of Families 365/2127,330, and 2138). It is interesting to note that the Alexandrian is the only non-Byzantine type with a long history -- there are no P[SUP]46[/SUP]/B manuscripts after the fourth century, and the "Western" text has only three Greek witnesses, with the last dating from the ninth century,but we have Alexandrian witnesses from the fourth century to the end of the manuscriptera. Apart from certain fragmentary papyri, ℵis the earliest and best of these.

The situation in the Catholic Epistles is complicated. The work of Richards on the Johannine Epistles, and the studies of scholars such as Amphoux, have clearly revealedthat there are (at least) three distinct non-Byzantine groups here: Family 2138,Family 1739 (which here seems to include C), and the large group headed by P[SUP]72[/SUP], ℵ,A, B, 33, etc. Richards calls all three of these Alexandrian, but he has nodefinition of text-types; it seems evident that Amphoux is right: These are three text-types, not three groups within a single type.

Even within the Alexandrian group, we find distinctions. P[SUP]72[/SUP] and B stand together. Almost all other Alexandrian witnesses fall into a group headedby A and 33 (other members of this group includeΨ, 81, 436).ℵ stands alone;it does not seem to have any close allies. It remains to be determined whetherthis is textually significant or just a matter of defective copying (such thingsare harder to test in a short corpus like the Catholic Epistles).

As already mentioned, Schmid analysed the manuscripts of the Apocalypse and found that ℵ stood almost alone; its only ally is P[SUP]47[/SUP]. The other non-Byzantine witnesses tend to cluster around A and C rather than ℵ. Thegeneral sense is that the A/C type is the Alexandrian text (if nothing else,it is the largest of the non-Byzantine types, which is consistently true of theAlexandrian text). Certainly the A/C type is regarded as the best; the P[SUP]47[/SUP]/ℵtype is regarded as having many peculiar readings.
Other Symbols Used for this Manuscript

von Soden: δ2
Many critical apparatus (including those of Merk and Bover, as well as Rahlfs in the LXX)refer to ℵ using the siglum "S."

Note: As with all the major uncials, no attempt is made to compile a complete bibliography.


A full edition, with special type and intended to show the exact nature of thecorrections, etc. was published by Tischendorf in 1861. This is now superseded bythe photographic edition published by Kirsopp Lake (1911). And that in turn has been updated bythe detailed scans at The British Library has also released high-resolution scans, at

Sample Plates:
Images are found in nearly every book on NT criticism which contains pictures.

Editions which cite:
Cited in all editions since Tischendorf.

Other Works:
See especially H. J. M. Milne and T. C. Skeat, Scribes and Correctors of Codex Sinaiticus (1938)