Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why Codex Sinaiticus Doesn't Say What Its Website Says It Says

The website of Codex Sinaiticus
has been online since 2009
How important is Codex Sinaiticus as a witness to the text of the New Testament?  So important that it has its own website, which features an English translation of portions of the manuscript’s contents, including the entire New Testament.

Or does it?  The home page of the website gives visitors no reason to reach any other conclusion about the English translation – but if one pokes around a bit, searching for information about the translation, this note can be found:
English translation
The Codex Sinaiticus Project was primarily a conservation, digitisation, transcription and publication project.  It did not aim to undertake a new English translation of the writings preserved in the manuscript.”

Henry Tompkins Anderson
The note continues:  “The English translation of the New Testament part of Codex Sinaiticus used on the website was taken from the translation by Henry Tompkins Anderson in The New Testament: translated from the Sinaitic manuscript discovered by Constantine Tischendorf at Mt Sinai (Cincinnati, 1918). This out-of-copyright translation does not provide a literal translation of the text in Codex Sinaiticus, but was included in the website to serve as a navigational aid.”

In other words:  when you read the English translation of the New Testament books at the Codex Sinaiticus website, you are not really reading an English translation of the contents of Codex Sinaiticus!  You are reading a translation made by Henry Tompkins Anderson, who was a Christian preacher in Harrodsburg, Kentucky in the 1860’s – a translation which at many points does not represent the text of Codex Sinaiticus.  The only way to know whether or not the English translation really conveys what Codex Sinaiticus says is to compare the translation to the Greek text itself.   

          Here are fifteen of the many disagreements between the translation at the Codex Sinaiticus website and the text of the manuscript.  

Matthew 5:19:  Whoever therefore shall make void one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.

          In Codex Sinaiticus, the copyist skipped the Greek words represented by “but whoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.”  This blunder was caused when a copyist’s line of sight drifted ahead to similar letters; the technical term for the recurrence of similar letters or words, eliciting such mistakes, is homoeoteleuton (“same ending”).  

Matthew 7:27:  “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was its fall.”

          The copyist of Codex Sinaiticus skipped the Greek words represented by “and the winds blew,” another mistake elicited by homoeoteleuton.

 Matthew 8:13:  “And Jesus said to the centurion:  Go; as thou hast believed, be it done for thee. And the servant was restored to health in that hour.”

          The text written by the copyist of Codex Sinaiticus has a bit more text which says, “And the centurion, returning to his house in that hour, found his servant in good health.”   This is a very bad attempt at harmonization, loosely based on the parallel in Luke 7:10.  (Also, considering that this verse ends the standard Gospels-lection to be read annually on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, the expansion may be an early attempt to round off the anecdote with a flourish.)

Matthew 12:13:  “Then he says to the man: Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored to soundness as the other.”

          Codex Sinaiticus’ copyist did not write the Greek words that mean “as the other.”

Matthew 12:47:  And some one said to him: Behold, thy mother and thy brothers stand with out, seeking to speak to thee.

          In Codex Sinaiticus, this verse is missing.  This appears to have been elicited by another case of homoeoteleuton; verses 46 and 47 end with the same word.  

Matthew 23:35:  “that there may come on you all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

          The text of Codex Sinaiticus does not have the Greek equivalent of the words “son of Barachiah.”  This could be another example of parablepsis (the technical term for the “sight detours” that sometimes occurred when a copyist lost his line of sight, especially due to homoeoteleuton or to homoeoarcton (same beginning, or similar beginnings, of words).  But it may also be a copyist’s attempt to remove a perceived difficulty from the text, if the copyist understood this passage to refer to the events in Second Chronicles 24:20-22, and believed that that this passage in Matthew referred to Zechariah the priest – who was the son of Jehoida, rather than the son of Barachiah – instead of the prophet Zechariah.

Matthew 27:48-50:  “And immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, and having filled it with vinegar and put it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.  But the rest said: Wait, let us see if Elijah is coming to save him.  But Jesus again cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit.”

          In Codex Sinaiticus (and in Codex Vaticanus) there is additional material after verse 49.  Codex Sinaiticus says, “But another took a spear and pierced his side, and water and blood flowed forth.”  Now I invite those apologists who commonly claim that textual variants do not have an impact on significant Christian doctrine to explain how, if this variant were to be adopted into the text, the doctrine of inerrancy would survive.  It is obvious that this reading in Codex Sinaiticus says that Jesus was pierced before He died, and it is equally obvious that John 19:30-37 says that Jesus was pierced after He died.  Let it be noted that there is more Greek manuscript support for the inclusion of this sentence than there is for the non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.  (Codex Sinaiticus also lacks the Greek equivalent of the words “of them” in verse 48.)   

Mark 7:4a:  “And when they come from market, unless they immerse themselves, they eat not.”

          In Codex Sinaiticus (and in Codex Vaticanus), the Greek word βαπτισωνται, which refers to washing by immersion in water, has been replaced by ραντισωνται, which refers to washing by the pouring of water.    

 Luke 8:47:  And the woman, seeing that she had not escaped notice, came trembling, and having fallen before him told before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she had been immediately restored to health.”

          The Greek text in Codex Sinaiticus is much shorter, omitting all the words in bold print, so that the text simply says, “And falling before Him, she told before all the people how she had been immediately restored to health.”

John 4:19-20:  “The woman says to him:  Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.  Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.”

          The copyist of Codex Sinaiticus did not write Κύριε (the Greek word for “Lord,” rendered as “Sir” in this context) in verse 19, and also did not write ὁ τόπος (“the place”) in verse 20.  

John 9:37-39:  “Jesus said to him:  Thou hast both seen him, and he it is that talks with thee.  He said, Lord, I believe; and he worshiped him.  And Jesus said:  For judgment have I come into this world, that those that see not may see, and that those that see may become blind.”

          The copyist of Codex Sinaiticus did not write the bold-print words in verses 38 and 39.  These words are also missing in Papyrus 75 and Codex W – apparently the result of an early Alexandrian copyist’s misunderstanding of an exemplar in which the passage was marked for liturgical use.

John 10:40:  “And he went away again beyond the Jordan into the place where John was first baptizing, and abode there.”

          Codex Sinaiticus’ copyist did not write the Greek words εις τον τόπον.  There is nothing to elicit an accidental mistake here.  This reading is probably a deliberate omission by someone who considered these words superfluous.

First Corinthians 13:3:  “And though I give all my goods away in food, and though I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but have not love, I am profited nothing.”

          Instead of the usual reading καυθήσωμαι, Codex Sinaiticus (and Papyrus 46 and Codex Vaticanus) reads καυχήσωμαι, which means, “that I may boast.” 

Second Peter 1:1:  “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those that have obtained equally precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

          This verse is sometimes used as proof that the author affirmed the deity of Christ, particularly when the Granville Sharp rule is applied to it.  However, with or without the Granville Sharp rule, Codex Sinaiticus does not support the deity of Christ in this verse:  instead of the name-abbreviation for the word “God” (Θυ, that is, Θεου), Codex Sinaiticus’ copyist wrote the name-abbreviation for the word “Lord” (Κυ, that is, Κυριου).  I doubt that a modern translation with this reading could easily escape the charge that it was produced by Arians.

Jude verse 3a:  Beloved, giving all diligence to write to you concerning this common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you.”   

          The actual reading of Codex Sinaiticus is different:  instead of referring only to salvation, the text of Codex Sinaiticus refers to “our common salvation and life.”  This is a remarkable reading, because it is a conflation, or combination, of two other readings:  σωτηρίας (salvation, the reading found in most manuscripts) and ζωης (life, the reading found in a group of medieval manuscripts known as family 2138, also called the Harklean Group because the text in these manuscripts frequently agrees with the Harklean Syriac version).  Although the Greek manuscripts in this group are not particularly ancient, the reading of Codex Sinaiticus in this verse suggests that ancestor-manuscripts with a text of the General Epistles similar to what is attested by the members of family 2138 – minuscule manuscripts such as 1505, 1611, 2138, and 2412 – existed prior to the production of Codex Sinaiticus.

          As you can see, as a representation of the contents of Codex Sinaiticus, the translation made by H. T. Anderson is highly inaccurate.  If the Codex Sinaiticus website is going to continue using Anderson’s translation, its creators should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that visitors cannot use Anderson’s translation without being informed that it is provided for navigation-purposes only and that it deviates frequently from the actual text of the manuscript.  There is no good reason to hide this important explanation on a secondary webpage.  (Another option, of course, is to adjust the translation so as to accurately conform to the contents of the manuscript.)


Wayne Steury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter M. Head said...

So, just to summarise:
Sinaiticus website: this translation is not accurate, it is only here to help navigation. (since after all anyone consults photos of a manuscript does not need a particular translation)

Marius M said...

what did Wayne Steury have to say that it was deleted?

James Snapp said...

Peter M. Head,
Rather, a summary: visitors who read the English translation at the Codex Sinaiticus website without visiting the tertiary page that informs them that the translation is not accurate are likely to believe that the translation *is* accurate, and thus they will be misled about what the manuscript says.

Are you saying that there *is* a good reason to put the notification on the back porch instead of at the front door?

James Snapp said...

Marius M,
I don't know; the comment was removed by its author.

Peter M. Head said...

This was an excellent website in 2009 but the funding to create the website was not matched by any funding to upgrade, improve, correct and update content, etc. So the Sinaiticus Website is frozen in time at 2009.

Charles May said...

Yes I discovered this as well and inquired as shown below; I am beginning to think there is a conspiracy on Rev 5:9;

Breay, Claire Jun 24 at 8:39 PM
Charles May
Message body

Many thanks for your email. I am glad you like the website.

Please see this webpage http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/codexsinai.html for more information about the translation used on the Codex Sinaiticus website.

We currently have no plans or funding to display Codex Alexandrinus in the same way. I'm not sure if you are aware that the New Testament volume of Codex Alexandrinus has been digitised and is available in full on our Digitised Manuscripts site www.bl.uk/manuscripts.

Yours sincerely,

From: Charles May
Sent: Friday, 24 June 2016 17:17
To: "Breay, Claire"
Subject: Codex Sinaiticus question

Claire, let me say first off I really like the format of online presentation of this Codex.

I am not sure who to address this to but I have a specific verse question on Revelation 5:9. The Greek word hemas is seen on the manuscript right after theos and also in the transcription panel. However the word "us" does not appear in the translation panel. Is there a reason for this?

Is there any chance that Codex Alexandrinus could be displayed this way?

Thank you for you time