Bethel University Library
Mon, May. 20, 2013
7:30am - 2:00am
The "Uncrating" of Codex Vaticanus: the Facsimile
4th Century codex manuscript of the Greek Bible
Wednesday March 31, 2004
were able to view this unusual manuscript, leaf through its pages, appreciate it as a work of graphic art, and see what an early Church Bible looked like.
More on the Codex Vaticanus
Codex Vaticanus is a magnificent 4th-century codex manuscript of the Greek Bible. Today it is arguably the most influential surviving Greek Biblical manuscript. Contemporary translations of the New Testament, such as the NIV, NASB, NRSV, and ESV, are translated from a Greek text that more closely represents Codex Vaticanus than any other manuscript. For those branches of Christianity (such as the Greek Orthodox Church) which still make use of the Old Testament in Greek, Vaticanus is one of the three major witnesses to the Septuagint (the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). Of the more than seven thousand Greek manuscripts (or fragments thereof) that are known today, fewer than ten (all now defective) originally contained the entire Greek Bible. Of these, only four date from before the 10th century, and of these four, Codex Vaticanus is one of the two earliest-the other (written about the same time) being the famous Codex Sinaiticus, now in the British Library. It unquestionably holds a uniquely important place in the history of the transmission of the Greek Bible from ancient times to today.
In 1999, the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca della Stato in Rome (the Italian State Printing House and Mint) published a limited edition, full-color, exact scale facsimile of Codex Vaticanus-the first time ever that anything like this has been done for an ancient manuscript. This is not a matter of merely printing color photographs of the codex: the facsimile reproduces the very form of the pages of the original manuscript, right down to the distinctive individual shape of each page, including every hole in the vellum. The result is a piece of graphic art of high quality and distinction, worthy of admiration apart from the contents of the manuscript reproduced. When this kind of artistic achievement is combined with a manuscript of the historical and contemporary significance of Codex Vaticanus, the result is a rare combination of theology, history, and art.
The Bethel College Library has been given an unusual opportunity to acquire a copy of this facsimile reproduction of Codex Vaticanus. Efforts are under way to raise the needed funds to obtain this copy for the Library, in hopes that it can become part of a permanent display- one that will remind us every time we enter the Library of the centrality of Scripture in Christian life and education.
In the meantime, as funds are being raised, the facsimile has already arrived from Rome, and the interim custodian of the Codex has agreed to a celebratory “uncrating” of the facsimile from its shipping container-no small matter, as the package, including its wooden crate, weighs in at 14.4 kilograms (ca. 32 pounds)!