Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus: Late Antiquitism?

As most are aware by now, Codex Sinaiticus is online now. Since it's been in the news frequently the last couple of weeks, enough to crash the servers once news was released, there have been many reports on it in the media. Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, and far more interesting and important to me, of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has collated various incorrect statements by the media about the manuscript on his blog. And he corrects them; it does make for interesting reading.

Wallace does make one, well mistake isn't the right word, but nor is oversight or exaggeration. Well, gentle readers, you decide what it is. But Wallace states toward the beginning of his post that "Sinaiticus contains the oldest complete New Testament in the world; the next oldest is half a millennium younger." Well, not quite.....

Even if we emphasize, as I have above, the word complete...meaning there are no missing pieces as in Codex Vaticanus or Alexandrinus etc... there is a manuscript containing the whole New Testament that is vitally important and that is younger than Sinaiticus, but is not 500 years younger. Sinaiticus is dated to the "fourth century", sometimes to the middle part of that century, c. 350. The manuscript of which I speak came into being no later than 716. Codex Amiatinus from Wearmouth-Jarrow is complete, important even for helping to establish the Greek text of the autograph of NT documents (even if not as important as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in that regard), and is 300-350 years younger than Sinaiticus, produced on the other side of the Roman Empire from Amiatinus.

The problem is that Amiatinus is a Latin manuscript. While yet important and consulted in NT criticism, other language versions by and large do take a back seat to Greek copies in NT textual criticism. Still, it would have been more accurate for Wallace to say that Sinaiticus is oldest complete copy of the NT in Greek and the next oldest in Greek is half a millenium younger. But such is predominance of Greek in the field that such specification among the experts is unnecessary. And that's fine, though interesting, and I thought I'd take opportunity to raise the Medievalist flag once more, and draw attention to Amiatinus and Bede and Monkwearmouth-Jarrow.

Speaking of which, we use the term Medievalist to describe, well, medievalists, and Medievalism to talk about the use and application of things medieval in modern media of all kinds. So what do we call Late Antiquity scholars and the use and application of thing Late Antique in modern media of all kinds? For the former, I originally thought of Late Antiquarians, but for the associations of "antiquarian." So how about Late Antiquitian? And for the -ism, Late Antiquitism(s)? Since the field now properly comes out and stands between Classical, Classicism, Classicizing etc, and (early)Medieval, Medievalism, Medievalizing (ok, I haven't actually seen that last one) I thought the field might need its own set of descriptor terms. Wonder if they'll catch on?

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