Monday, February 9, 2015

Codex Sinaiticus Reflection

Ever see an ad that said: “Get the all the books of the Bible for $19.99” but then at the bottom it says: “Each book sold separately”? Or better yet, ever go to the store (i.e. if you are buying something like this) and buy the Bible? You pick it up whole book, not individual chapters/books of the Bible. Before the fourth (c.350) century (if they had had this ad), then that would have been the case. The books of the Bible were not sold together, but in individual manuscripts. The Bible wasn’t officially set up in the beginning; it was just the small books that were floating around that weren’t in a certain order. For instance, your book of Genesis could be completely different from your neighbor’s book of Genesis. Suddenly a group of four scribes decide to write the Codex Sinaiticus, a 41 cm long and 36 cm wide Bible. . These scribes ranged from the fourth to the twelfth century because of the corrections the manuscript had to go through. The Codex Sinaiticus is one of two surviving canons of the Bible even then it is still missing a few pieces. The manuscript is the first full book of the Bible and contains all of the books, along with two extra books that are not in the current Bible. So it’s like the first draft of the modern day Bible. The Bible wasn’t a magical book that just appeared in time and space; the Bible took time and lots of corrections. I can’t stress this enough: Codex Sinaiticus was the first rendition of the Bible that we have to be so heavily corrected. The manuscript was made up of seven hundred and thirty leaves and over an estimated a thousand five hundred pages. Half of the Old Testament is lost to historians of today, but the rest remains in good condition.  But we are assuming back then, the manuscript was a complete piece of work. The assumed goal of the manuscript was to put all the books of the Bible together and to give them order. The Codex Sinaiticus wanted to set in stone the order of the Bible and to create one universal book. The language of the Old Testament was a very old Greek while the New Testament was in the vernacular Greek of the fourth century. The manuscript’s (Bible) name translated from Greek is “The Sinai Book”. Mount Sinai is a mountain in Egypt is where the Ten Commandments were created (as written by the Bible), so naming the book based on something set in stone was very clever and meaningful. The cleverness comes from the fact that it is one of the two Bibles our modern world has. It is helping to set the Bible in the past and gives the modern work of the actual forming of the Bible up to this point. It gives historians the means to see the development of Early Christianity, but also the advancements of making very large manuscripts. It is also very ironic because the book had a lot of corrections in the script over the centuries by other scribes.
I found it very interesting that it was in Greek because this is a luxury text. The manuscript was not designed with lavish pictures, but just the text.  So the luxury would come from its four columns and size, but it didn’t have all the illuminations, which became extremely popular in the later luxury manuscripts. The manuscript is for the common people to read and not to be adorned to stay in a church for the rest of its life (though now it sits in many different places). The manuscript showed the Early Christianity because of its text (and this time not the language). The text showed the similarities between the early Jewish Scriptures and the new Christians trying to find their own. It is a great place for historians to get a look at the religion from its earliest to the oldest (from then to now).
Another great piece of the manuscript is the manuscript itself. A huge advancement in the binding of manuscripts must have happened in order to get the seven hundred and thirty leaves to fit and stay closed. The manuscript was over a thousand pages, and took four people to write. It was the equivalent of a factory line, however a much slower and delicate process. The four scribes would have to sit and write their own piece to put in the book. Once everyone was done, they layered this huge book together. They had to make sure that everything was in the right order before they bound it together. A single mistake in the order would have changed the Bible, as we know it today. The manuscript must have been a durable parchment because it has survived to this (although damaged). The binding must have also taken a long time to fit every piece, so the binding must have advanced from the little books to the big books (the little books being easier to bind and the bigger ones a difficult and tedious process).
The Codex Sinaiticus is an important step in our history and the Christian religion. It changed the way books are bound, so that way larger books could be produced. It put the Bible text into one complete book so that way the argument over the order of the books in the Bible could be solved. Although corrected, it gave an outline of the Bible we use today (with two books extra). All in all, it is a great marker for the relation of early Christianity and the use of manuscripts.


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