Manuscripts of the Bible

Catholic Information, as of 1910

Manuscripts are written, as opposed to printed, copies of the original text or of a version either of the whole Bible or of a part thereof. After introductory remarks on manuscripts in general, we shall take up in detail the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic manuscripts of the Bible; manuscripts of other versions are not important enough to come within the scope of this article.


Manuscripts may be conveniently divided into papyrus and vellum manuscripts.

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(1) Papyrus manuscripts

In the Roman Empire of the first three centuries of our era, papyrus was the ordinary writing material. Made out of strips of pith taken from the stem of the Egyptian water-plant of the same name, papyrus was very fragile, became brittle in air, crumbled with use, could not resist the disintegrating force of moisture and was quite impracticable for book-form. All papyrus manuscripts of every sort are lost to us save such as were buried in exceedingly dry soil, like that of Upper and Middle Egypt. Here the ignorant fellaheen at one time wantonly destroyed vast quantities of papyrus manuscripts. Egyptian excavators now prevent such destruction and keep on adding to our very considerable collections of papyri. It is more than likely that the New Testament sacred writers or their scribes used ink and rolls of fragile papyrus for their autographa (2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 John 12). These original manuscripts probably perished towards the end of the first or the opening of the second century. We find no trace of them in either the Apostolic or the apologetic Fathers, -- unless we except Tertullian's words, "the authentic letters of the Apostles themselves", which are now generally set aside as rhetorical. A significant proof of the early loss of the autograph copies of the New Testament is the fact that Irenæus never appeals to the original writings but only to all the painstaking and ancient copies (en pasi tois spoudaiois kai archaiois antigraphois), to the witness of those that saw John face to face (kai martyrounton auton ekeinon ton katopsin ton Ioannen heorakoton), and to the internal evidence of the written word (kai tou logou didaskontos hemas).

(2) Vellum manuscripts

Egypt clung to her papyrus rolls until the eighth century and even later. Vellum had been used before the time of Christ (cf. Pliny, "Historia Naturalis", xiii, 11), and during the time of the Apostles (2 Timothy 4:13). In the third century, it began, outside of Egypt, to supersede papyrus; in the early part of the fourth century vellum and the codex, or book-form, gained complete victory over papyrus and the roll-form. When Constantine founded his capital of the Byzantine Empire, he ordered Eusebius to have fifty manuscripts of the Bible made on vellum (somatia en diphtherais) for use in the churches of Byzantium (Vita Constant., IV, 36). To the fourth century belong the earliest extant Biblical manuscripts of anything but fragmentary size.

(3) Palimpsests

Some vellum manuscripts of the greatest importance are palimpsests (from Lat. palimpsestum, Gr. palimpsestos, "scraped again"), -- that is, they were long ago scraped a second time with pumice-stone and written upon anew. The discovery of palimpsests led to the reckless of bigoted charge of wholesale destruction of Biblical manuscripts by the monks of old. That there was some such destruction is clear enough from the decree of a Greek synod of A.D. 691, which forbade the use of palimpsest manuscripts either of the Bible or of the Fathers, unless they were utterly unserviceable (see Wattenbach, "Das Schriftwessen im Mittelalter", 1896, p. 299). That such destruction was not wholesale, but had to do with only worn or damaged manuscripts, is in like manner clear enough from the significant fact that as yet no complete work of any kind has been found on a palimpsest. The deciphering of a palimpsest may at times be accomplished merely by soaking it in clear water; generally speaking, some chemical reagent is required, in order to bring back the original writing. Such chemical reagents are an infusion of nutgalls, Gioberti's tincture and hydrosulphuret of ammonia; all do harm to the manuscript. Wattenbach, a leading authority on the subject, says: "More precious manuscripts, in proportion to the existing supply, have been destroyed by the learned experimenters of our time than by the much abused monks of old."


(1) Age

(a) Pre-Massoretic text

The earliest Hebrew manuscript is the Nash papyrus. There are four fragments, which, when pieced together, give twenty-four lines of a pre-Massoretic text of the Ten Commandments and the shema (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-19; 6:4-5). The writing is without vowels and seems palæographically to be not later than the second century. This is the oldest extant Bible manuscript (see Cook, "A Pre-Massoretic Biblical Papyrus" in "Proceed. of the Soc. of Bib. Arch.", Jan., 1903). It agrees at times with the Septuagint against the Massorah. Another pre- Massoretic text is the Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samaritan recension is probably pre-exilic; it has come down to us free from Massoretic influences, is written without vowels and in Samaritan characters. The earliest Samaritan manuscript extant is that of Nablûs, which was formerly rated very much earlier than all Massoretic manuscripts, but is now assigned to the twelfth or thirteenth century A.D. Here mention should be made of the non-Massoretic Hebrew manuscripts of the Book of Ecclesiasticus. These fragments, obtained from a Cairo genizah (a box for wornout or cast-off manuscripts), belong to the tenth or eleventh century of our era. They provide us with more than a half of Ecclesiasticus and duplicate certain portions of the book. Many scholars deem that the Cairo fragments prove Hebrew to have been the original language of Ecclesiasticus (see "Facsimiles of the Fragments hitherto recovered of the Book of Ecclesiasticus in Hebrew", Oxford and Cambridge, 1901).

(b) Massoretic text

All other Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible are Massoretic (see MASSORAH), and belong to the tenth century or later. Some of these manuscripts are dated earlier. Text-critics consider these dates to be due either to intentional fraud or to uncritical transcription of dates of older manuscripts. For instance, a codex of the Former and Latter Prophets, now in the Karaite synagogue of Cairo, is dated A.D. 895; Neubauer assigns it to the eleventh or thirteenth century. The Cambridge manuscript no. 12, dated A.D. 856, he marks as a thirteenth-century work; the date A.D. 489, attached to the St. Petersburg Pentateuch, he rejects as utterly impossible (see Studia Biblica, III, 22). Probably the earliest Massoretic manuscripts are: "Prophetarium Posteriorum Codex Bablyonicus Petropolitanus", dated A.D. 916; the St. Petersburg Bible, written by Samuel ben Jacob and dated A.D. 1009; and "Codex Oriental. 4445" in the British Museum, which Ginsburg (Introduction, p. 469) assigns to A.D. 820-50. The text critics differ very widely in the dates they assign to certain Hebrew manuscripts. De Rossi is inclined to think that at most nine or ten Massoretic manuscripts are earlier than the twelfth century (Variæ Lectiones, I, p. xv).

(2) Number

Kennicott, the first critical student of the Massoretic text, either examined or had others examine 16 Samaritan manuscripts, some 40 printed texts and 638 Massoretic manuscripts (see "Dissertatio Generalis in Vetus Testam. Hebraicum", Oxford, 1780). He numbered these manuscripts in six groups: nos. 1-88, Oxford manuscripts; nos. 89-144, other manuscripts of English-speaking countries; nos. 145-254, manuscripts of continental Europe; nos. 255-300, printed texts and various manuscripts; nos. 301-694, manuscripts collated by Brunsius. De Rossi (Variæ Lectiones Vet. Test.) retained the numeration of Kennicott and added a list of 479 manuscripts, all his own personal property, of which unfortunately 17 had already received numbers from Kennicott. De Rossi later added four supplementary lists of 110, 52, 37, and 76 manuscripts. He brought the number of Massoretic manuscripts up to 1375. No one has since undertaken so colossal a critical study of the Hebrew manuscripts. A few of the chief manuscripts are more exactly collated and compared in the critical editions of the Massoretic text which were done by S. Baer and Fr. Delitzsch and by Ginsburg. To the vast number of Hebrew manuscripts examined by Kennicott and De Rossi must be added some 2000 manuscripts of the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg, which Firkowitsch collated at Tschufut-Kale ("Jews' Rock") in the Crimea (see Strack, "Die biblischen und massoretischen Handschriften zü Tschufut-Kale" in "Zeits. für luth. Theol. und Kirche", 1875).

(3) Worth

The critical study of this rich assortment of about 3400 Massoretic rolls and codices is not so promising of important results as it would at first thought seem to be. The manuscripts are all of quite recent date, if compared with Greek, Latin, and Syriac codices. They are all singularly alike. Some few variants are found in copies made for private use; copies made for public service in the synagogues are so uniform as to deter the critic from comparing them. All Massoretic manuscripts bring us back to one editor -- that of a textual tradition which probably began in the second century and became more and more minute until every jot and tittle of the text was almost absolutely fixed and sacred. R. Aqiba seems to have been the head of this Jewish school of the second century. Unprecedented means were taken to keep the text fixed. The scholars counted the words and consonants of each book, the middle word and middle consonants, the peculiarities of script, etc. Even when such peculiarities were clearly due to error or to accident, they were perpetuated and interpreted by a mystical meaning. Broken and inverted letters, consonants that were too small or too large, dots which were out of place -- all these oddities were handed down as God-intended. In Gen., ii, 4, bebram ("when they were created"), all manuscripts have a small Hê. Jewish scholars looked upon this peculiarity as inspired; they interpreted it: "In the letter Hê he created them"; and then set themselves to find out what that meant.This lack of variants in Massoretic manuscripts leaves us hopeless of reaching back to the original Hebrew text save through the versions. Kittel in his splendid Hebrew text gives such variants as the versions suggest.


(1) In General

Greek manuscripts are divided into two classes according to their style of writing -- uncials and minuscules.

(a) Uncials were written between the fourth and tenth centuries, with large and disconnected letters. These letters were not capitals but had a distinctive form: epsilon, sigma, and omega were not written EPSILON, SIGMA, OMEGA, as are those capitals in inscriptions; rho, phi, psi, and at times upsilon were prolonged above or below the line. Words were not separated; neither accents nor punctuation marks were used; paragraphs were marked off only by a very small lacuna; the letters were uniform and artistic; ligatures were used only for the most ordinary words -- IC (Iesous), KC (Kyrios), XC (Christos), ICL (Israel), PNA (pneuma), DLD (David), ANOC (anthropos), PER (pater), MER (mater), OUC (pater), CER (soter), OUNOC (ouranos). In the sixth century, began a decadence of the elegant uncial writing. Twists and turns were given to certain letters. In the seventh century, more letters received flourishes; accents and breathings were introduced; the writing leaned to the right.

(b) Minuscules

While uncials held sway in Biblical manuscripts, minuscules were employed in other works. During the ninth century, both uncial and minuscule manuscripts of the Bible were written. The latter show a form of writing so fully developed as to leave no doubt about its long standing use. The letters are small, connected, and written with a running hand. After the tenth century, minuscules were used until, in the fifteenth century, manuscripts were superceded by print.

(2) Old Testament manuscripts

(a) Septuagint (LXX)

There are three families of Septuagint manuscripts -- the Hexaplaric, Hesychian, and Lucianic. Manuscripts of Origen's Hexapla and Tetrapla were preserved at Cæsarea by his disciple Pamphilus. Some extant manuscripts (v.g. aleph and Q) refer in scholia to these gigantic works of Origen. In the fourth century, Pamphilus and his disciple Eusebius of Cæsarea reproduced the fifth column of the Hexapla, i.e. Origen's Hexaplaric Septuagint text, with all his critical signs. This copy is the source of the Hexaplaric family of Septuagint manuscripts. In course of time, scribes omitted the critical signs in part or entirely. Passages wanting in the Septuagint, but present in the Hebrew, and consequently supplied by Origen from either Aquila or Tehodotion, were hopelessly commingled with passages of the then extant Septuagint. Almost at the same time two other editions of the Septuagint were published -- those of Hesychius at Alexandria and of Lucian at Antioch. From these three editions the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint have descended, but by ways that have not yet been accurately traced. Very few manuscripts can be assigned with more than probability to one of the three families. The Hexaplaric, Hesychian, and Lucianic manuscripts acted one upon the other. Most extant manuscripts of the Septuagint contain, as a result, readings of each and of none of the great families. The tracing of the influence of these three great manuscripts is a work yet to be done by the text-critics.

Papyrus. -- About sixteen fragments on papyrus are extant. Of these, the most important are:

Oxyrhyncus Pap. 656 (early third cent.), containing parts of Gen., xiv-xxvii, wherein most of the great vellum manuscripts are wanting.

British Museum Pap. 37, at times called U (seventh cent.), containing part of Psalms (Hebrew) x-xxxiii.

A Leipzig Pap. (fourth cent.) containing Psalms xxix-liv. These two Psalters give us the text of Upper Egypt.

A Heidelberg Pap. (seventh cent.) containing Azch., iv, 6-Mal., iv, 5.

A Berlin Pap. (fourth or fifth cent.) containing about thirty chapters of Genesis.

Vellum Uncial. -- Parsons collated 13 uncial and 298 minuscule manuscripts of the Septuagint; the former he designated with Roman numerals, I-XIII, the latter with Arabic numbers, 14-311 (cf., "V.T. Græcum cum Variis Lectionibus", Oxford, 1798). Legarde designated the uncials by Roman and Greek capitals. This designation is now generally accepted (cf. Swete, "Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek", Cambridge, 1902, 148).

aleph -- S, Cod. Sinaiticus (fourth century; 43 leaves at Leipzig, 156 together with N.T. at St. Petersburg) contains fragments of Gen. and Num.; I Par., ix, 27-xix, 17; Esd. ix, 9-end; Esth.; Tob.; Judith; I and IV Mach.; Isa.; Jer.; Lam., i, 1-ii, 20; Joel; Ab.-Mal.; the Poetical Books; the entire New Testament; the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the "Shepherd" of Hermas. The text is mixed. In Tobias it differs much from A and B. Its origin is doubtful. Two correctors (Ca and Cb) are of the seventh century. Ca tells us at the end of Esth. that he compared this manuscript with a very early copy, which Pamphilus testified had been taken from and corrected according to the Hexapla or Origen.

A, or Cod. Alexandrinus (fifth century; in British Museum) contains complete Bible (excepting Ps. 1-20-lxxx, 11, and smaller lacunæ) and includes deuterocanonical books and fragments, the apocryphal III and IV Mach., also I and II Clem. Its origin is Egyptian and may be Hesychian. It differs much from B, especially in Judges. Two scribes wrote the manuscript. The corrector belonged to about the same time.

B, or Cod. Vaticanus (fourth century; in the Vatican) contains complete Bible. The Old Testament lacks Gen., i, 1-xivi, 28; I and II Mach.; portions of 2 Samuel 2; and Psalms, cv-cxxxvii. The New Testament wants Heb., ix, 14; I and II Tim.; Titus.; Apoc. Its origin is Lower Egyptian. Hort thinks it akin to the text used by Origen in his Hexapla.

C, or Codex Ephræmi Rescriptus (fifth century palimpsest, in National Library, Paris) contains 64 leaves of Old Testament; most of Eccl.; parts of Ecclus.; Wisd.; Prov. and Cant.; 145 out of 238 leaves of New Testament.

D, or The Cotton Genesis (fifth century; in British Museum) contains fragments of Gen.; was almost destroyed by fire in 1731, but had been previously studied.

E, or Cod. Bodleianus (ninth or tenth century; in Bodl. Libr., Oxford) contains Heptateuch fragments.

F, or Cod. Ambrosianus (fifth century; at Milan) contains Heptateuch fragments.

G, or Cod. Sarravianus (fifth century; 130 leaves at Leyden; 22 in Paris, one in St. Petersburg) contains the Hexaplaric Octateuch (fragments) with some of the asterisks and obeli of Origen.

H, or Cod. Petropolitanus (sixth century; in Imperial Libr., St. Petersburg) contains portions of Numbers.

I, or Cod. Bodleianus (ninth century; in Bodl. Libr., Oxford) contains the Psalms.

K, or Cod. Lipsiensis (seventh century; in Univ. of Leipzig) contains fragments of Heptateuch.

L, or The Vienna Genesis (sixth century; in Imperial Libr., Vienna) contains incomplete Genesis, written with silver letters on purple vellum.

M, or Cod. Coislinianus (seventh century; in National Library, Paris) contains Heptateuch and Kings.

N-V, or Cod. Basiliano-Venetus (eighth or ninth century; partly in Venice and partly in Vatican) contains complete Gen., Ex., and part of Lev., and was used with B in the critical edition of the Septuagint (Rome, 1587).

O, or Cod. Dublinensis (sixth century; in Trinity College, Dublin) contains fragments of Isaias.

Q, or Cod. Marchalianus (sixth century, in Vatican) contains Prophets, complete; is very important, and originated in Egypt. The text is probably Hesychian. In the margins are many readings from the Hexapla; it also gives many Hexaplaric signs.

R, or Cod. Veronensis (sixth century; at Verona) contains Gr. and Lat. Psalter and Canticles.

T, or Cod. Zuricensis, the Zürich Psalter (seventh century) shows, with R, the Western text; silver letters, gold initials, on purple vellum.

W, or Cod. Parisiensis (ninth century; in National Library, Paris) contains fragments of Psalms.

X, or Cod. Vaticanus (ninth century; in Vatican) contains the Book of Job.

Y, or Cod. Tauriensis (ninth century; in National Library, Turin) contains Lesser Prophets.

Z, or Cod. Tischendorf (ninth century) contains fragments of Kings; published by Tischendorf.

Gamma, or Cod. Cryptoferrantensis (eighth or ninth century; at Grottaferrata) contains fragments of Prophets.

Delta, or Cod. Bodleianus (fourth or fifth century; Oxford, in Bodl. Libr.) contains a fragment of Daniel.

Theta, or Cod. Washington (fifth or sixth century, to be in Smithsonian Institution), contains Deut.-Jos., found in Egypt, one of the Freer manuscripts. There are likewise seven uncial Psalters (two complete) of the ninth or tenth century and eighteen rather unimportant fragments listed by Swete (op. cit., p. 140).

Vellum Minuscule. More than 300 are known but unclassified. The Cambridge Septuagint purposes to collate the chief of these minuscules and to group them with a view to discriminating the various recensions of the Septuagint. More than half of these manuscripts are Psalters and few of them give the entire Old Testament. In editing his Alcalá Polyglot, Cardinal Ximenes used minuscules 108 and 248 of the Vatican.

(b) Aquila

(See VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE). Manuscript traces of the text of Aquila are found in

fragments of Origen's third columns, written as marginal notes to some manuscripts, such as Q;

the Milan palimpsest of the Hexapla, a most important tenth century copy found by Mercati in 1896. It contains about eleven Psalms, has no Hebrew column, and uses the space thereof for variant readings;

the Cambridge fragment, seventh century, discovered in a Cairo genizah. It contains parts of Ps. xxi (see Taylor, "Cairo Genizah Palimpsests", 1900). The name Jahweh is written in old Hebrew letters.

The Cairo fragments of the fourth and fifth centuries; three palimpsests (containing 1 Kings 20:7-17; 2 Kings 23:11-27) published by Burkitt in 1897; and four portions of the Psalms (lxxxix, 17-xci, 10; xcv, 7- xcvi, 12; xcviii, 3; ci, 16-cii, 13) published by Taylor (op. cit.).

The fourth-century papyrus fragments of Gen., i, 1-5, published, 1900, by Grenfell and Hunt.

(c) Theodotion

(See VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE). The Book of Daniel of Theodotion is found in the Septuagint manuscripts previously mentioned. The Milan palimpsest contains his text in part.

(d) Symmachus

(See VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE). Manuscript sources are the Milan palimpsest, Cambridge fragment, and Hexaplaric marginal notes, all of which are manuscript sources of Aquila.

(3) New Testament manuscripts

(a) In General

There are, according to the latest authority on this subject, von Soden ("Die Schriften des N.T. in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt", Berlin, 1902), 2328 New Testament manuscripts extant. Only about 40 contain, either entire or in part, all the books of the New Testament. There are 1716 manuscript copies of the Gospels, 531 of the Act, 628 of the Pauline Epistles, 219 of the Apocalypse. The commonly received numeration of the New Testament manuscripts is that of Wettstein; uncials are designated by Roman and Greek capital, minuscules by Arabic numbers. These manuscripts are divided into the above-mentioned four groups -- Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse. In the case of uncials, an exponent is used to designate the group referred to. D or Dev is Cod. Bezæ, a manuscript of the Gospels; D3 or Dpaul is Cod. Claromontanus, a manuscript of the Pauline Epistles; E2 or Eact is Cod. Laudianus, a manuscript of the Acts. The nomenclature is less clear for minuscules. Each group has a different set of numbers. If a minuscule be a complete manuscript of the New Testament, it is designated by four different numbers. One and the same manuscript at Leicester is Evan. 69, Act. 31, Paul. 37, Apoc. 14. Wettestein's lists of New-Testament manuscripts were supplemented by Birch and Schols; later on Scrivener and Gregory continued the lists, each with his own nomenclature. Von Soden has introduced a new numeration, so as to indicate the contents and date of the manuscripts. If the content be more than the Gospels, it is marked delta (that is, diatheke, "testament"); if only the Gospels, eta (i.e., euaggelion, "gospel"); if aught else save the Gospels, alpha (that is, apostolos). B is delta-1; aleph is delta-2; Q is epsilon-4, etc. No distinction is made between uncials and minuscules. Scholars admit the logic and scientific worth of this new numeration, but find it too unwieldy and impracticable.

(b) Payrus

In the Archduke Rainer collection, Vienna, are several very fragmentary bits of New Testament Greek phrases, which Wessely, the curator of that collection, assigns to the second century. The Grenfell and Hunt excavations in Oxyrhyncus brought to light various fragments of the New Testament which Kenyon, the assistant keeper of the manuscripts of the British Museum, assigns to the latter part of the third century. Only one papyrus manuscript of the New Testament is important to the text-critic -- Oxyrhyncus Pap. 657, third-fourth century; it preserves to us about a third of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and epistle in which Codex B is defective.

(c) Vellum Uncials

There are about 160 vellum uncials of the New Testament; some 110 contain the Gospels or a part thereof. The chiefest of these uncials are the four great codices of the entire Greek Bible, aleph, A, B, C, for which, see above. The Vatican (B) is the oldest and probably the best New Testament manuscript.

D. or Cod. Bezæ (q.v.) (fifth or sixth century; in University Library, Cambridge) contains Gospels and Acts in Gr. and Lat., excepting Acts, xxii, 29 to the end; it is a unique specimen of a Greek manuscript whose text is Western, i.e. that the Old Latin and Old Syriac.

D3 or Cod. Claromonianus (probably sixth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris) contains Pauline Epistles in Gr. and Lat., each text independent of the other. Before Hebrews is a list of the books of the New Testament and the number of lines (stichoi) in each; this list omits Thess., Heb., and Phil., includes four apocryphal books, and follows an unusual order: Matt., John, Mark, Luke, Rom., I and II Cor., Gal., Eph., I and II Tim., Titus, Col., Philem., I and II Pet., James, I, II and III John, Jude, Barnabas, Apoc., Acts, Hermas, Acts of Paul, Apoc. of Peter.

E, or Cod. Basileensis (eighth century; in Univ. Libr., Basle) contains the Gospels.

E2, or Cod. Laudianus (sixth century; Oxford, in Bodl. Library) contains Acts in Gr. and Lat. The former is somewhat like D.

E3, or Cod. Sangermanensis (ninth century; in Imper. Libr., St. Petersburg) contains Pauline Epistles in Gr. and Lat.; of same family as D3.

F, or Cod. Boreeli (ninth century; at Utrecht), contains Gospels.

F3, or Cod. Augiensis (ninth century; in Trinity College, Cambridge), contains Pauline Epp. in Gr. and Lat.; of the same family as D3, E3, and G3.

G, or Cod. Wolfii A (ninth or tenth century; at Cambridge, and London), contains the Gospels.

G3, or Cod. Boernerianus (ninth century; at Dresden), contains Paul Epp. in Gr. and Lat.; text of D3 type.

H, or Cod. Wolfii B (ninth or tenth century; at Dresden), contains Paul Epp. in Gr. and Lat.; text of D3 type.

H2, or Cod. Mutinensis (ninth century; at Modena), contains Acts.

H3, or Cod. Coislinianus (sixth century; originally at Mt. Athos where 8 leaves remain. Other parts were used for binding manuscripts; 22 leaves thus reached Paris; 3 which were discovered at St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kieff; 1 in Turin). This manuscript gives us, in great part, a fourth-century text of Euthalius of Sulca.

K, or Cod. Cyprius (ninth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris), contains the Gospels.

K2, or Cod. Mosquensis (ninth century; in Holy Synod Library, Moscow), contains Acts, Cath., and Paul. Epp.

L, or Cod. Regius (eighth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris), contains Gospels.

L2, or Cod. Angelicus (ninth century; in Rome), contains Acts, Cath., and Paul. Epp.

M, or Cod. Campianus (ninth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris), contains Gospels.

M3, or Cod. Campianus (ninth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris), contains Gospels.

N, or Cod. Purpureus, called also Petropolitanus (sixth century), contains Gospels in silver on purple vellum. About half the manuscript is extant: 182 leaves (found in Asia Minor, 1896) are in St. Petersburg, 33 at Patmos, 6 in the Vatican, 4 in British Museum, and 2 in Vienna.

P, or Cod. Guelferbytanus A (sixth century; Wolfenbüttel), contains Gosp. fragments.

P2, or Cod. Porphyrianus (ninth century; in St. Petersburg), contains Acts, Cath. and Paul. Epp.

Q, or Cod. Guelferbytanus B (fifth century; Wolfenbüttel), contains Gosp. fragments.

R, or Cod. Nitriensis (sixth century; in British Museum, London), a palimpsest copy of Luke.

T, or Cod. Borgianus (fifth century; in Vatican), Gr. and Sahidic fragments. One has the double-ending of Mark; another has 17 leaves of Luke and John, and a text akin to B and alpha

Z, or Cod. Dublinensis (sixth century; in Trinity Col., Dublin), a palimpsest containing 295 verses of Matt.; text probably Egyptian, akin to aleph

Delta, or Cod. Sangallensis (ninth or tenth century; at Saint-Gall), contains Gospels in Gr. and Lat.

Lambda, or Cod. Rossanensis (sixth century; at Rossano, in Calabria), contains Matt. and Mark, in silver letters on purple vellum with illustrations. N,

Sigma, Sigma-b, and Phi are all akin and were probably produced at Constantinople from a single ancestor.

Sigma-b, or Cod. Sinopensis (sixth century; in Nat. Libr., Paris), consists of 43 leaves (Matthew 7-24), in gold letters on purple vellum with 5 illustrations; it was bought by a French naval officer for a few francs, at Sinope, in 1899, and is called also Omicron and Hê.

Phi, or Cod. Beratinus (sixth century; at Berat in Albania), contains Matt. and Mark.

Beth, or Cod. Patirensis (fifth century; in the Vatican), contains Act., Cath. and Paul. Epp.

The American manuscript of the Gospels (fifth century), found in Egypt, 1907, has not yet been published; nor have the fragments of the Pauline Epistles (sixth century) which were found at the same time.

(d) Vellum minuscules

The vast numbers of minuscule witnesses to the text of the New Testament would seem to indicate a rich field of investigation for the text-critic. The field is not so rich at all. Many of these minuscules have never been fully studies. Ninety-five per cent. of them are witnesses to the same type of text; that of the textus receptus. Only those minuscules interest the text-critic which are distinctive of or akin to one of the great uncials. Among the Gospel minuscules, according to Gregory's numeration, the type of B-aleph is seen more or less in 33; 1, 118, 131, 209; 59, 157, 431, 496, 892. The type of D is that of 235, 431, 473, 700, 1071; and of the "Ferrar group", 13, 69, 124, 346, 348, 543, 713, 788, 826, 828. Among the Acts minuscules, 31 and 61 show some kinship to B; 137, 180, 216, 224 to D. 15, 40, 83, 205, 317, 328, 329, 393 are grouped and traced to the fourth century text of Euthalius of Sulica. Among the Pauline minuscules, this same text (i.e. that of H3) is found in 81, 83, 93, 379, 381.

(e) Lectionaries

There are some 1100 manuscripts of readings from the Gospels (Evangelia or Evangeliaria) and 300 manuscripts of readings from Acts and Epistles (Praxapostoli). Although more than 100 of these lectionaries are uncials, they are of the ninth century or later. Very few of these books of the Epistles and Gospels have been critically examined. Such examination may later on serve to group the New Testament minuscules better and help to localize them.


Biblical manuscripts are far more uniform in Greek than in Latin script. Palæography divides the Greek into uncials and minuscules; the Latin into uncials, semi-uncials, capitals, minuscules and cursives. Even these divisions have subdivisions. The time, place and even monastery of a Latin manuscript may be traced by the very distinct script of its text.

(1) Old Latin

Some 40 manuscripts have preserved to us a text which antedates the translation of St. Jerome; they are designated by small letters. Unfortunately no two of these manuscripts represent to us quite the same text. Corrections introduced by scribes and the inevitable influence of the Vulgate have left it a very difficult matter to group the Old Latin manuscripts. Text-critics now agree upon an African, a European and an Italian type of text. The African text is that mentioned by Tertullian (c. 150-220) and used by St. Cyprian (c. 200-258); it is the earliest and crudest in style. The European text is less crude in style and vocabulary, and may be an entirely new translation. The Italian text is a version of the European and was revised by St. Jerome in parts of the Vulgate.

The most important Old Latin manuscripts are the bilingual New Testament manuscripts D, D3, E2, E3, F3, G3, Delta.

a, or Cod. Vercellensis (fourth century; at Vercelli), containing the Gospels.

b, or Cod. Veronensis (fifth century; at Verona), containing Gospels on purple vellum. a and b are our chief witnesses to the European text of the Gospels.

e, or Cod. Palatinus (fifth century; at Vienna, -- one leaf is in Dublin), contains the Gosp. For Acts, e is Lat. of E2; for Paul. Epp., e is Lat. of E3.

f, or Cod. Brixianus (sixth century; at Brescia), contains Gosp. on purple vellum; Italian type, thought by Wordsworth and White to be the best extant representative of the Old Latin text which St. Jerome used when revising the New Testament.

ff2, or Cod. Corbeiensis (fifth century; at Paris), contains the Gospels.

g, or Cod. Gigas (thirteenth century; at Stockholm), a complete Bible; Acts and Apoc. are in Old Latin text and are the chief representative of the European type.

h, or Palimpsest de Fleury (fourth or fifth century; at Turin), contains Mark, vii-xvi, 8 and Matt., i-xv; earliest form of Old Latin, African type, closely akin to text used by Saint Cyprian.

q, or Cod. Monacensis (sixth or seventh century; at Munich, contains Gospels; Italian type of text.

(2) Vulgate

It is estimated that there are more than 8000 manuscripts of the Vulgate extant. Most of these are later than the twelfth century and have very little worth for the reconstruction of the text. Tischendorf and Berger designate the chief manuscripts by abbreviations of the names: am. = Amiatinus; fu. or fuld. = Fuldensis. Wordsworth and White, in their critical edition of the Gospel and Acts (1899-1905); use Latin capitals to note the 40 manuscripts on which their text depends. Gregory (Textkritik, II, 634) numbers 2369 manuscripts. The most logical and useful grouping of these manuscripts is genealogical and geographical. The work of future critics will be to reconstruct the text by reconstructing the various types, Spanish, Italian, Irish, French, etc. The chief Vulgate manuscripts are:

A, or Cod. Amiatinus (q.v.) (eighth century; at Florence), contains complete Bible; text probably Italian, best extant manuscript of Vulgate.

C, or Cod. Cavensis (ninth century; at La Cava, near Naples), a complete Bible; best representative of Spanish type.

Delta, or Cod. Dunelmensis (seventh or eighth century; in Durham Cathedral, England), Gospels; text akin to A.

F, or Cod. Fuldensis (A.D. 541-546; at Fulda, in Germany), a complete New Testament; Gospels are in form of Tatian's "Diatessaron". Bishop Victor of Capua found an Old Latin version of Tatian's arrangement and substituted the Vulgate for the Old Latin.

G, or Cod. Sangermanensis (ninth century; at Paris), contains the Bible. In Acts, Wordsworth uses it more than any other manuscript.

H, or Cod. Hubertianus (ninth century; in British Museum, London), a Bible; Theodulfian type.

theta, or Cod. Theodulfianus (ninth century; at Paris), a Bible; Theodulfian type.

K, or Cod. Karolinus (ninth century; in British Museum, London), a Bible; Alcuin's type. See V.

O, or Cod. Oxoniensis (seventh century; at Oxford, in Bodl.), contains Gosp.; text English, affected by Irish influences.

O2, or Cod. Oxoniensis, or Selden Acts (eighth century; at Oxford, in Bodleian), contains Acts; Irish type.

Q, or Cod. Kenanensis, Book of Kells (q.v.) (eighth century; in Trinity College, Dublin), contains Gosp.; Irish type.

S, or Cod. Stonyhurstensis (seventh century; at Stonyhurst College, England), contains John; text akin to A and probably written near Durham.

V, or Cod. Vallicellianus (ninth century; at Rome, in Vallicelliana), a Bible; Alcuin's type. See K.

Y, or Cod. Lindisfarnensis (seventh century; in British Museum, London), Gospels. Liturgical directions in text show it is a copy of a manuscript written in Naples; text akin to A.

Z, or Cod. Hareianus (sixth or seventh century; in Brit. Mus., London), contains Epist. and Apoc.


(1) Old Syriac (OS)

The Curetonian and Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts represent a version older than the Peshitto and bear witness to an earlier text, one closely akin to that of which D and the Old Latin are witnesses.

The Curetonian Syriac (Syr-Cur) manuscript was discovered in 1842, among manuscripts brought to the British Museum from the monastery of S. Maria Deipara in the Nitrian desert in Egypt, and was published by Cureton in 1858. It contains five chapters of John, large portions of Matt. and Luke, and Mark, xvi, 17-20, enough to show that the last twelve verses were originally in the document.

The Sinaitic Syriac (Syr-Sin) was found by Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson, during 1892, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. This palimpsest contains the Four Gospels in great part, though not entire; it is an earlier recension of the same version as Syr-Cur. Both are assigned to the fifth century and represent a Syriac version which cannot be later than A.D. 200.

(2) The Diatessaron

This harmony of the Gospels was written by Tatian, an Assyrian and the disciple of Justin Martyr, about A.D. 170, and was widely used in Syria. Our manuscript records are two Arabic versions, discovered one in Rome the other in Egypt, and published 1888. A Latin translation of an Armenian edition of St. Ephraem's commentary on the Diatessaron is in like manner witness to this early version of the Gospels. Scholars are inclined to make Tatian's to be the earliest Syriac translation of the Gospel.

(3) The Peshitto

The earliest manuscript of this Syriac Vulgate is a Pentateuch dated A.D. 464; this is the earliest dated Biblical manuscripts; it is in the British Museum. There are two New Testament manuscripts of the fifth century. In all, the Peshitto manuscripts number 125 of Gospels, 58 of Acts and the Catholic Epistles, and 67 of the Pauline Epistles.

(4) The Philoxenian Syriac version

The Philoxenian Syriac version of the New Testament has come down to us only in the four minor Catholic Epistles, not included in the original Peshitto, and a single manuscript of the Apoc., now at Trinity College, Dublin.

(5) The Harklean Syriac version

This version of the New Testament is represented by some 35 manuscripts dating from the seventh century and later; they show kinship with a text like to D.

(6) The Palestinian Syriac version

This version of the New Testament has reached us by lectionaries and other fragmentary manuscripts discovered within the past sixteen years. The three principal manuscripts are dated A.D. 1030, 1104, and 1118.


Armenian manuscripts date from A.D. 887, and are numerous.


(1) Sahidic

The Apocalypse is the only book of the New Testament which has come down to us complete in a single manuscript of this dialect of Upper Egypt. Many isolated fragments have of recent years been recovered by excavation in Egypt; from these it may soon be possible to reconstruct the Sahidic New Testament. The earliest fragments seem to belong to the fifth century. Some of these manuscripts are bilingual (see T of New Testament manuscripts).

(2) Boharic

This version in the dialect of Lower Egypt is well represented by manuscripts of the same character as B-aleph. The Curzon Catena is the earliest extant Boh. manuscript of the Gospels; it is dated A.D. 889 and is in the Parham Library. Others are of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. None is at all so old as the Sah. fragments.

(3) Middle Egyptian

Middle Egyptian fragments on vellum and papyrus, have been found in Fayum and near to Akhmim and to Memphis. The largest of these fragments is a British Museum sixth-century palimpsest of John, iii and iv.

Publication information Written by Walter Drum. Transcribed by Bryan R. Johnson. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS: STRACK AND HARKAVY, Catalog der hebr. Bibelhandschriften der kaiserlichen Bibliothek (Leipzig 1875); NEUBAUER, Facsimilies of Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (Oxford, 1886); NEUBAUER, Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and in the College Libraries of Oxford (Oxford, 1886); KRAFT AND DEUTSCH, Die handschriftl. hebräischen Werke der K.K. Hofbibliothek (Vienna, 1857); STEINSCHNEIDER, Die hebräisch. Handschriften der K. Hof. und Staatsbibliothek (Munich, 1895); SCHILLER-SZINESSY, Catalogue of the Hebrew manuscripts preserved in the University Library (Cambridge, 1876); ASSEMANI, Bibliothecæ Apostolicæ Vaticanæ codices Orientales (Rome, 1756); MAI, Appendix to Assemani (Rome, 1831).

GREEK MANUSCRIPTS (OLD TESTAMENT): SWETE, Introduction to the O.T. in Greek; KENYON, Our Bible and the Ancient manuscripts (1898); NESTLE, Septuagintastudien (1886-1907); FIELD, Origenis Hexaplorum quæ supersunt (Oxford, 1875).

GREEK MANUSCRIPTS (NEW TESTAMENT): SCRIVENER, Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (1894); GREGORY, Textkritik des N.T. (1900); Die Griechischen Handschriften des N.T. (1908); HARRIS, Further researches into the history of the Ferrar-group (1900).

LATIN MANUSCRIPTS: BURKITT, The Old Latin and the Itala (Cambridge, 1896); WORDSWORTH, SANDAY, AND WHITE, Old Latin Biblical Texts (Oxford, 1883-97); GREGORY, Textkritik des N.T. (1900). WORDSWORTH AND WHITE, Edition of the Vulgate (1889-1905)

SYRIAC MANUSCRIPTS: LEWIS, The Four Gospels translated from the Sinaitic Palimpsest (1894); WOODS AND GWILLIAM in Studia Biblica, vols. I and III.

COPTIC MANUSCRIPTS: CRUM, Catalogue of Coptic manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1905); HYVERNAT, Etude sur les versions coptes de la Bible in Rev. Bibl. (1896).

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