Codex Bezae

From Academic Kids

The Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis is one of the five most important surviving early Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is a fifth- or sixth-century manuscript in an uncial hand on vellum, which contains an older (perhaps the oldest) version of the four canonical Gospels, in the unusual order Matthew, John, Luke and Mark, of which only Luke is complete; after some missing pages the MS picks up with the Third Epistle of John and contains part of Acts. The Greek left-hand pages face Latin right-hand pages. It has 406 leaves (out of perhaps an original 534). As many as nine correctors have worked on the manuscript between the sixth and twelfth century.

The Greek text is unique, with many interpolations found nowhere else, with a few remarkable omissions, and a capricious tendency to rephrase sentences. The type of text found in the Codex Bezae is very ancient. Aside from this one Greek manuscript it is found in Old Latin (pre-Vulgate) versions— as seen in the Latin here— and in Syriac, and Armenian versions. It is one type of the Western text-type. The manuscript demonstrates the latitude in the manuscript tradition that could still be found in the 5th and 6th centuries, the date of this codex. Of the four gospels, the variants from the common text found in this Greek Gospel of Luke are the most important; they are separately discussed at that entry.

The relation of the Latin text to the Greek text is not straightforward and has occasioned much disagreement among critics. The modern consensus is that the Greek descended from an early offshoot of the mainstream manuscript tradition. Most writers consider that this Greek text developed independently, while the Latin text is seen as originating in a clumsy attempt to translate the Greek, which then was amended in its turn, to conform to the Latin. Issues of conformity have dogged the usage of the Codex Bezae in biblical scholarship too. In general the Greek text is treated as an unreliable witness and treated as "an important corroborating witness wherever it agrees with other early manuscripts" as one of the links below freely admits.

Some of the outstanding features: Matthew 16:2f is present and not marked as doubtful or spurious. The longer ending of Mark is given. Luke 22:43f and Pericope de adultera are present and not marked as spurious or doubtful. John 5:4 is omitted. The ending of Acts is lost.

History of the Codex

Missing image
A sample of the latin text from the Codex Bezae
Missing image
A sample of the Greek text from the Codex Bezae

The manuscript was closely guarded for many centuries in the monastic library of St Irenaeus at Lyon. During the upheavals of the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, when textual analysis had a new urgency among the Reformation's Protestants, the manuscript was taken in 1562 and delivered to the Protestant scholar Theodore Beza, the friend and successor of Calvin, who gave it to the University of Cambridge, in the comparative security of England, in 1581, which accounts for its double name. It remains in the Cambridge University Library.

The importance of the Codex Bezae is such that a colloquium held at Lunel, Herault, in 1995 was entirely devoted to it. Papers discussed the many questions it poses to our understanding of the use of the Gospels and Acts in early Christianity, and of the text of the New Testament.


  • Catholic Encyclopedia 1910: Codex Bezae

External links


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