Saturday, August 15, 2015

Codex Sinaiticus and Sloppy Sensationalism

Question for the Biblical Archaeological Society staff:  do you know what you’re doing?

Earlier this month, a small article at the website of the Biblical Archaeology Society about Codex Sinaiticus (an important early Greek manuscript of the Bible) was released.  The authors, it seems, were not very concerned about getting their facts straight.  

The errors in the BAS article’s “visual comparison” of the KJV and Codex Sinaiticus include the following:  

(1)  The article’s title for the ending of Mark is titled “The Markan Resurrection (Mark 16:1–14)” but the reference should be to Mark 16:1-20.  

(2)  The article states that Codex Sinaiticus begins Mark 16:1 by stating, “And when the sabbath was past,” but in the manuscript, the copyist made a mistake when he accidentally skipped from Mary Magdalene’s name in Mark 15:47 to her name in 16:1, skipping the words in between. 

(3)  The article stated that Codex Sinaiticus refers to “Jesus of Nazareth” in Mark 16:6, but in Codex Sinaiticus, the words “of Nazareth” are not in the text.

(4)  The article quotes Matthew 6:9 without its opening phrase (“In this manner, therefore, pray”).

(5)  The article stated that Codex Sinaiticus lacks the Greek words on which the phrase, “who art in heaven” is based in Matthew 6:9.  However, the words are in the manuscript’s text of Matthew 6:9, plain as day.

(6, 7)  By translating the text of Codex Sinaiticus differently than the KJV, the article-writers make it appear as if Codex Sinaiticus’ text is different from the Greek base-text of the KJV in Matthew 6:10 (KJV:  “Give us this day our daily bread” – Sinaiticus:  “Give us day by day our daily bread”) and 6:11a (KJV:  “And forgive us our debts” – Sinaiticus:  “And forgive us our sins”).  The two Greek texts are identical, except for a spelling-variation in the word for “our.” (The normal spelling is umeiV; Codex Sinaiticus’ copyist spelled it as umiV.)

(8)  The article stated that Codex Sinaiticus, in the part of Matthew 6:11 that parallels the KJV’s phrase, “as we forgive our debtors,” says, instead, “as we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”  In real life, the text of Codex Sinaiticus has the Greek equivalent of “as we have forgiven our debtors.”   

(9)  The BAS article describes the story of the woman caught in adultery as “John 8:3-11.”  This would be amusing in the work of a novice student; in the work of influential scholars, it is disturbing.  The passage in question – a rather well-known passage – begins at John 7:53, not John 8:3.

(10)  The BAS article states that Codex Sinaiticus is missing all of Luke 9:55-56, as if the entire passage is missing.  In the KJV, this passage runs as follows:  “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.  And they went to another village.”  In Codex Sinaiticus, the BAS article claims, this is “Not present.”

Codex Sinaiticus does not include the part of this passage that contains a direct quotation from Jesus, but the manuscript contains Greek text from Luke 9:55-56 that runs, in English, as follows:  “But he turned, and rebuked them, and they went to another village.”  (Without detouring to discuss the passage further, I note that the full reading is in several Old Latin manuscripts, including Codex Vercellensis, a copy that was probably made in the 370’s.)
(11)  The BAS article states that Codex Sinaiticus has Jesus’ name in Mark 1:41.  A simple consultation of the manuscript – page-views are online – shows that this is not true.

(12)  The BAS article states that instead of referring to Jesus being filled with compassion, Codex Sinaiticus says that Jesus was “angry” when he stretched out his hand to heal a leper.  However, the one Greek manuscript with that reading is not Codex Sinaiticus; it is Codex Bezae, a Greek-Latin manuscript known for its anomalies.  (In this case, Codex Bezae’s unusual Greek reading probably originated as a retro-translation of an early translator’s attempt to render the Greek word splangchnistheis, which means “filled with compassion” but, interpreted over-literally, can be rendered as moved-in-the-guts.)  Codex Sinaiticus, along with Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Washingtoniensis and 1,600 other Greek manuscripts, reads splangchnistheis – “filled with compassion.”

Caveat lector!  (Reader, beware!)


1 comment:

Will Kinney said...

Thanks, James. Good work on this.

God bless.