Codex B

11/26/2008

Codex Vaticanus (otherwise known as B or 03), is one of the more appropriately named manuscripts because its residence is currently at the Vatican in Rome. It was produced in the fourth century and is a very close relation to an even earlier manuscript, P75, which is of utmost significance in determining the original wording of the New Testament. Thus, this manuscript is regarded by many as one of the most important existing New Testament Greek manuscripts, if not the most important.

The story of this codex remains quite a mystery. Though believed to be composed in Egypt, the first reference we have of this manuscript is not until the 1400’s, when it was catalogued as part of the Vatican library. Unlike most of the New Testament manuscripts, Vaticanus is one of the few majuscules in existence today. A majuscule, for those who are not familiar with this name, refers to a manuscript that is written in all capital or uncial letters. To date, there are only approx. 320 majuscules out of the approx. 5700 manuscripts known to exist. The manuscript contains almost all of the entire Bible and the Apocrypha. It is missing a big portion of Genesis, thirty or so Psalms, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Pastorals, Philemon, and Revelation. After Hebrews 9.13, the document is written in much later minuscule hand (lower case Greek letters). Interestingly, it is one of the earliest manuscripts to include chapter divisions throughout, although the chapter divisions do not correspond to the modern day Bible.

While the original manuscript of Vaticanus is yet to be digitally photographed, CSNTM has digitally photographed an 1868 pseudo-facsimile of the manuscript at CSNTM’s website. You can see it by clicking here.

For further reading, see: Bruce Manning Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 67-69; Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning, editors, Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2006), 39-40. For an extensive bibliography on Vaticanus, see J. K. Elliott, A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts, second edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 47-49.

Robert C. Kashow
Church Liaison; Manuscript Collator
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts