Biblical Archaeology Review 33:6, November/December 2007

Who Owns the Codex Sinaiticus?

How the monks at Mt. Sinai got conned

The Codex Sinaiticus contains the oldest complete copy of the New Testament—from the mid-fourth century. Originally, it contained the Old Testament too, but most of that is now missing.

The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the big three—not Ford, GM and Chrysler, but Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus—fourth- or fifth-century codices of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) that include the New Testament as well. Vaticanus is at the Vatican. Alexandrinus is at the British Library. And Sinaiticus is, well, in four different places. And thereby hangs my tale.

Each venue of Sinaiticus maintains that it owns the part that resides there. The major part is at the British Library (formerly part of the British Museum) in London. A lesser part is at the University Library of Leipzig. A few fragments are in St. Petersburg at the Russian National Library. Finally, the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai, where it all originated, have discovered a few more leaves. The monks would like it all back.

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