1902 Encyclopedia > Alexandrian MS

Alexandrian MS

ALEXANDRIAN MS. (Codex Alexandrinus), the name given to a Greek manuscript of the Old and New Testaments, now in the British Museum. This celebrated MS. is known to biblical scholars as Codex A. This abbreviation of Alexandrinus was first employed by Bishop Walton to indicate the various readings of this MS., ap-pended to the text of the Septuagint and of the New Testament in his great Polyglott Bible, and was adopted by Wetstein in conformity with an arrangement, since fol-lowed by all editions of the Sejrtuagint and Greek Testa-ment, by which the capital letters of the alphabet are applied to designate the uncial MSS. of the Greek Bible. The MS. was presented in the year 1628 to King Charles I. through his ambassador at the Porte, Sir Thomas Rowe, by Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople. There seems no good reason to doubt that Cyrillus had brought the document from Alexandria, where he had held the office of patriarch, although Wetstein is of opinion, upon what seems inadequate evidence, that he procured it from the monastery of Mount Athos, where he had resided prior to his coming to Alexandria. It was transferred in 1753 from the king's private library to that of our national museum, where the volume containing the text of the New Testament is now, or was lately, open to public inspection under a glass case. The entire MS. consists of four small folio volumes, three of which contain the text of the Old, and one that of the New Testament. The portion, how-ever, containing the Old Testament is more complete than that which contains the New, the lacunae in the former occurring chiefly in the book of Psalms; while in the New Testament the following portions are wanting—viz., the whole of Matthew's Gospel up to chap. xxv. 6, from John vi. 50 to viii. 52, and from 2 Cor. iv. 13 to xii. 6. Occa-sionally, also, single letters, as well as the titles of certain divisions, have been destroyed by the operations of the bookbinder. The material of which the MS. is composed is very thin vellum, the page being about 13 inches high by 10 broad, containing from 50 to 52 lines in each page, each line consisting of about 20 letters. The number of pages is 773, of which 640 are occupied with the text of the Old Testament, and 133 with that of the New. The characters are uncial, but larger than in the Vatican MS. B. There are no accents or breathings, no spaces between the letters or words save at the end of a paragraph ; and the contractions, which are not numerous, are only such as are found in the oldest MSS., and are indicated by a line drawn over the word which is abbreviated, as 62 for Geos. The punctuation consists of a point placed at the end of a sentence, usually on a level with the top of the preceding letter. As regards the date of the MS. very opposite opinions have been held. One critic placed it as low down as the 10th century, but this supposition has been justly characterised by Tregelles as so opposed to all that is known of palaeography as not to deserve a serious refutation. From the circumstance that the MS. does not exhibit any traces of stichometry—a mode of arranging the text in lines consisting of a larger or smaller number of words, at the end of which the reader was to pause, which was applied to the Pauline epistles by Euthalius of Alexandria in the year 458, and which soon came into general use—it has been inferred that the MS. is not of later date than the middle of the 5th century. Again, the presence, in the text of the Gospels of the Ammonian sections and Eusebian canons, and of the epistle of Athanasius (who died in 373) to Marcellinus, which is prefixed to the Psalms, shows that it could not be older than the end of the 4th century. In addition to this external testimony, paléographie reasons, such as the general style of the writing, and the formation of certain letters, would seem to refer the MS. to about the middle of the 5th century, and this date is now generally acquiesced in by scholars. There is an Arabic inscription, indeed, written on the page which contains the list of the various books of the Old and New Testament, which states that the MS. was written by the hand of the martyr Thecla, while a Latin inscription by Cyril himself gives the tradition that the Thecla who wrote the MS. was a noble Egyptian lady who lived shortly after the Council of Nice. No reliance, however, can be placed on these statements, for, according to Scrivener, "Tregelles explains the origin of the Arabic inscription on which Cyril's statement appears to rest, by remarking that the New Testament in our MS. at present commences with Matt. xxv. 6, this lesson (Matt. xxv. 1-13) being that appointed by the Greek Church for the festival of St Thecla. The Egyptian, therefore, who wrote this Arabie note, observing the name of Thecla in the now mutilated upper margin of the codex, where such rubrical notes are commonly placed by later hands, hastily concluded that she wrote the book, and thus has perplexed our biblical critics. It is hardly too much to say that Tregelles's shrewd conjecture seems to be cer-tain, almost to demonstration."

This MS. contains the last twelve verses of St Mark's Gospel. It is defective in that part of St John's Gospjel where the pericope adultéras occurs in the ordinary text, but Scrivener shows by an enumeration of the letters in each page that the two missing leaves did not contain the suspected passage. It is almost unnecessary to say that 1 John v. 7 is not found in this or in any uncial MS. of the New Testament. The reading of the MS. in 1 Tim. iii. 16 has given rise to a good deal of discussion. Woide in his fac-simile edition gave the reading 62 for 6E02. The element of uncertainty was whether the cross bar of the theta had not been added by a later hand, so that the original reading may have been 02. Bishop Ellicott carefully examined the passage with the aid of a strong lens, and the result of his investigation, as given in a note appended to his Critical Commentary on First Timothy, in his edition of the Pastoral Epistles, was to satisfy him that the original reading was 5s, the cross bar of the theta having arisen from the central line of e in the word tvo-eBela, which is directly opposite, shining through the leaf, and being mistaken by a scribe for part of the theta, and being touched up accordingly,—a view which was maintained by Wetstein. On the other hand, both Tregelles and Scrivener, who made the same investigation, are of opinion that the stroke of the epsilon cuts the theta much too high to be mistaken by any ordinary scribe for the cross bar of the theta. When critics of such distinguished reputation differ, the question of the original reading will probably remain for ever uncertain.

The first use that was made of the MS. for critical purposes was by Bishop Walton, who had the various readings which it presents inserted in his great Polyglott Bible, under the texts of the Septuagint and New Testament respectively. It was collated by both Mill and Wetstein for their editions of the Greek Testament. In 1786 the New Testament was published in a fac-simile edition by Dr Woide, at that time librarian to the British Museum ; the types of this edition were cut so as to represent the general appearance of the letters ; and the edition exhibits the MS. page for page, line for line, and letter for letter. The work was accompanied by valuable prolegomena on the history, age, &c, of the MS. ; and is allowed to have been executed with remarkable accuracy. In 1828 the Rev. H. H. Baber completed the publication of the Old Testament portion in three large folio volumes (1816-1828) also in fac-simile, with useful prolegomena and notes.

Tischendorf considers the editorial accuracy of Baber as inferior to that of Woide, and enumerates a number of instances where the readings of the original have been incorrectly given by Baber (Prolegomena to Tischendorf's 4th ed. of the Septuagint, p. 69, sq.) In 1860 the text of the New Testament was published in common type by B. H. Cowper, the defective portions being supplied from Küster's edition of Mill's Greek Testament, and some inaccuracies in Woide's edition corrected from the original. In 1864 there was published at Oxford, under the editorship of Mr Hansell, the text of the Codex Alexandrinus, along with that of three of the most ancient MSS., viz., Codd. B, C, D, with the Dublin Cod. Z, and a collation of the Cod. Sinaiticus. The work is arranged in parallel columns, and thus presents, at one view, the readings of four of our earliest authorities for the text of the New
Testament. (P. C.)

For more minute information regarding this MS. we refer to the prolegomena of Woide and Baber ; to Scrivener's Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Cambridge, 1861 ; to the fourth volume of Home's Introduction to the New Testament, by Tregelles, London, 1866; and to Davidson's Biblical Criticism, vol. ii., Edin-burgh, 1852. We subjoin a list of the books of the Old and New Testament in the order in which they are found in the MS. :—

== TABLE ==

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries