The provenance of a manuscript, when it can be ascertained, is an important thing to know. For instance, when Codex W came to light in Egypt, the discovery of its essentially Byzantine text of Matthew and most of Luke (alongside the mainly Alexandrian text of the opening chapters of Luke and most of John) shows that before the mid-400s (working on the premise that Codex W has been correctly dated to the early 400s), showed that a well-developed Byzantine Text of the Gospels existed in Egypt by the time Codex W was made.
Many textual critics consider no
manuscript more valuable than Codex Vaticanus.
But what is Codex Vaticanus’ (Codex B, 03) provenance? It has been at the Vatican Library ever since
the Vatican Library was founded in 1475 (using earlier library-collections)
under Sixtus IV. There is no record of
Codex Vaticanus’ presence in
In 1468, Bessarion donated his
personal library (which included more Greek manuscripts than any other library
at the time) to the
If Bessarion was
responsible for bringing Codex Vaticanus to
Robinson reasoned: “Where did this system of numbers, common to À and B, come from? The two codices have got hold of it quite independently of one another. It cannot have been copied from B into À, for À has one number (M) [i.e., 40] which is not found in B : nor can it have been copied from À into B, for nearly a third of the numbers (from MB onwards) are not found in À. We must go back to a common source – some MS which gave its numeration to them both : and this seems to imply that the À and B were at an early stage of their history lying side by side in the same library.”
What library? Probably the library at
In Matthew 13:54,
the scribe of À initially
instead of πατρίδα. Antipatris
(mentioned in Acts 23:31) was not far from the city of
One could augment Harris’ argument by pointing out two other readings in À:
In Luke 24:13, Codex À says that the distance between Emmaus and
In Acts 8:5, the scribe wrote Καισαριας where he should have written Σαμαριας.
But there is another possibility. Codex Vaticanus’ nearly unique format (having most of its text, other than the books of poetry in the Old Testament) written in three columns of text per page. And B. H. Streeter wrote (on p. 113 of The Four Gospels – A Study of Origins, 1924 ed.), “It is stated in the Menologies – short accounts of a Saint for reading on his day – that Lucian bequeathed his pupils a copy of the Old and New Testaments written in three columns in his own hand.” (The day assigned to Saint Lucian is either January 7 or October 15.) Bruce Metzger (in Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism, in the chapter The Lucianic Recension of the Greek Bible, p. 6) refers to the same report, and adds the detail that the Menaeon states this three-column manuscript written in three columns per page ended up at a church in Nicomedia. And prior to becoming cardinal of Nicea, Bessarion may have encountered it (and obtained it) there, and took it to Italy.
It is not impossible, considering that the three-column format is nearly unique to Vaticanus and the manuscript attributed to Lucian – that they are one and the same. This would imply that Lucian of Antioch, rather than being the initiator of a recension that begat the Byzantine Text of the New Testament, perpetuated the mainly Alexandrian text he found in exemplars at Caesarea which had been taken there from Egypt about a hundred years earlier by Origen. If these MSS were also the ancestors of Codex Sinaiticus, then the genealogical connection between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus does not go back to the second century (as Hort seems to have thought) but to the third century.
review the steps in Vaticanus’ history that have been suggested:
(1) Vaticanus was produced at Caesarea under the supervision of Lucian of Antioch, no later than 312 (when Lucian was martyred), using as exemplars manuscripts that had been brought to
(2) Before Vaticanus was taken from Caesarea to Nicomedia, its text in Acts was supplemented with chapter-numbers from the same non-extant source which supplied the chapter-numbers to Acts in Codex À.
(3) Vaticanus was taken to Nicomedia. (Meanwhile, Codex Sinaiticus was taken to St. Catherine's monastery.) Much later, in the 1400s, Bessarion acquired it and took it with him to Italy, where, via means unknown, it was placed in the collection in the Vatican Library.