re: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus

From: James D. Ernest (
Date: Mon Apr 01 1996 - 19:05:36 EST

> From: brent justin anduaga-arias <>
> Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 10:52:18 -0700 (MST)
> Subject: Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus

> 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?

Athanasius of Alexandria, Defense before Constantius 4.2, says that he
sent copies of the scriptures to the western emperor Constans: KAI\
KATASKEUA/SAI, TAU=TA POIH/SAS A)PE/STEILA. At least this appears to
be the most likely meaning; the word is not common. Lampe's Patristic
Greek Lexicon appears to take PUKTION here as a synonym of codex. If
this is correct, whatever Athanasius sent to Italy would perhaps be
closer to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus than whatever Eusebius had sent to
Constantine. I don't see how we can advance beyond speculation on
this point, so perhaps the most we can say is that these mentions in
Eusebius and Athanasius show one way in which codices of an Egyptian
text-type might have reached Italy. (Not that there's any way of
knowing whether Sinaiticus itself was ever in Italy.) Presumably
after the Constantinian revolution many Italians of means would
have ordered fancy copies of the Greek Bible from eastern sources.
The emperors themselves may have done so on occasions unknown to
us. We would have no idea that Athanasius had sent Scriptures
to Constans except for the circumstance that we have a writing
of his in which he happens to be defending himself against a
charge of conspiring with Constans against Constantius; I never
wrote to him, he says, except... and we get our text.

Ah, now I have found what I was vaguely remembering:
Timothy Barnes, Athanasius and Constantine, page 40: "... Constans'
request may ... have had an effect on the textual transmission of the
Greek Bible: the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus of the Old and New
Testaments and Apocrypha could be one of the codices which Athanasius
sent to the West, since its Alexandrian origin seems certain and its
precise contents and their order correspond exactly to the canon of
scripture which Athanasius later laid down in his Easter letter of 367
(Festal Letter 39)." A footnote provides references to articles on
the history of Vaticanus, including the VC article already mentioned
by Mike Holmes with regard to Eusebius.

Barnes suggests that Constans's request of Athanasius would have been
a deliberate imitation of Constantine's earlier request to Eusebius,
with a similar intent: to express an imperial endorsement of the
bishop in question.

James D. Ernest Joint Doctoral Program
Manchester, New Hampshire, USA Andover-Newton/Boston College
Internet: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

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