Corrupted Codices?

Taking the development of the Westcott and Hort New Testament a bit further, there are few things to consider…

First there is issue concerning the codices from which it was derived, the Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. To begin with, these manuscripts are missing a great deal of valuable Scripture. Vaticanus in particular is lacking:

  • Matthew 3
  • Matthew 16:2-3
  • Romans 16:24
  • 1 & 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews verses 9:14 – 13:25
  • Revelation

Additionally, it leaves out 237 words, 452 clauses, and 748 whole sentences! Do understand that these are not simple sections that have been lost to this manuscript through the passage of time. No. These appear to be targeted, purposeful omissions of the text.

St. Catherines
St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt

The Codex Sinaiticus fares no better under closer scrutiny. Discovered as a fragment in the wastebasket of a Greek Orthodox monastery in 1844, the whole of the codex was not reassembled until five years later, making its authenticity somewhat questionable from the start. Beyond that, a number of handwriting styles and notations suggest that many had tampered with it over the years, adding new alterations to existing alterations, many of which taken from sources now known to have been corrupt. The very man who discovered the codex in 1844, Konstantin Von Tischendorf, noted that as many 14,800 alterations were present in Sinaiticus, with every page possessing corrections and revisions done by perhaps as many as ten different people! He went on to say that the text was “extremely unreliable,” with letters, words, and even whole sentences being omitted, duplicated, or otherwise incomplete.

Another aspect of the codices that should be considered is their alleged antiquity; a favored quality by Westcott, Hort, and other scholars. They assert that the texts of these manuscripts are in fact closer to the original Scriptures than those utilized by Erasmus and others. Is this actually the case though? As we just noted, Codex Sinaiticus was discovered as a partial fragment in – of all places – a wastebasket! Considering that with the numerous scribal interjections, of which most were surely added in the sixth and seventh centuries, and one would do well to question not only its antiquity, but also its authenticity as a whole.

The Vaticanus manuscript likewise is replete with mistakes of its own, including a voluminous amount of transcription errors with essentially all characters being poorly rendered, and in many cases, unidentifiable. In addition to that, much of the work is heavily faded, with a great deal of the text being overwritten letter-by-letter in the eighth, tenth, eleventh, and fifteenth centuries, in effect making a precise paleographic analysis impossible. Put another way, like a vain woman who has undergone multiple facelifts, the text had been traced-over and edited so many times that we cannot be certain of its actual age.

Despite all these concerns, whether these two documents actually represent some of the earliest manuscripts in existence is nearly a moot point as age is not intrinsically reflective of accuracy. After all, we know from the Scriptures themselves that, even as the New Testament was being written for the first time, there were those amongst the followers of Christ spreading false teachings and corrupt doctrines. Perhaps these codices are reflective of just such deviations…

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