Re: Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus

From: Michael Holmes (
Date: Fri Mar 29 1996 - 14:00:26 EST

At 10:52 AM 3/29/96 -0700, you wrote:
> I have heard, from time to time, about a supposed "order" by
>Constantine to have fifty copies of the scriptures made. These copies
>supposedly were made in Alexandria and were shipped (to Rome?). The
>story goes that two of these fifty are known today as our good old
>friends Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
> Does anyone know if this is a myth or does it have substance. If it is
>a myth, does anyone know what the true origins of these manuscripts may be?
>Brent Arias
>University of New Mexico

Eusebius reports, in his "Life of Constantine" 4.36, that ca. 331 the
emperor placed a request with him for fifty copies of the sacred writings of
the Christians, which Eusebius says were sent to him in "bound volumes of
threefold and fourfold forms." Nearly everything about this report is
disputed, including what the contents of such volumes would have been (they
are unlikely to have been entire bibles; were they four-gospel MSS?
collections of lections?), and the meaning of TRISSA KAI TETROSSA. Because
Sinaiticus is written in four columns per page, and Vaticanus three, some
have supposed that these are two of the fifty, but it seems virtually
certain that these two MSS were not among the fifty Eusebius claims to have
sent off.
See briefly Metzger, Text of the New Testament, 7-8, and esp. Gregory Allen
Robbins, "`Fifty Copies of the Sacred Writings' (VC 4.36): Entire Bibles or
Gospel Books?" Studia Patristica 19 (1989) 91-98; he thinks that W (Codex
Washingtonianus) may be the closest *parallel* to (but not one of) what
Constantine ordered.

Mike Holmes
Bethel College

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