As the media bomb us with announcements of a forthcoming online publication of Codex Sinaiticus, many readers of Ellopos ask my opinion on the value of this publication. Let me start with an important incident of the previous century (1932).

The place is Mt Athos, when a Catholic scholar visited the monastery where St. Siluan lived. He asked what books the monks read, and a father answered him that they read St John of the Divine Ladder, Dorotheus, Theodore Studites, Cassian, Ephraem, St. Macarius the Great, Isaak Syrus, Symeon the New Theologian, Niceta Stethatus, Gregory Palamas, Maximus Confessor, etc. 

The visitor was surprised that monks read such books, and remarked that in the West only professors read them. Of course, all of these books were written for just Christians, not for professors, there is nothing strange in monks reading them. The interesting (and most relevant to this post) fact is that when St. Siluan learned about this conversation, he made the following comment:

“You could have said to Dr. B.. that our monks not only read these books, but they could themselves write similar books… They don’t do it because many great books already exist and they are satisfied with them. Yet, if those books, for any reason, disappeared, monks would write new ones”. (From St Sophrony Sakharov, St Siluan the Athonite, Essex 1995).

Perhaps this statement sounds exaggerated; it is accurate. Christianity is not a faith of books.

If Orthodox believers came to the point of not being able to know firsthand what the authors of such books knew and wrote, no book would be able to help them. Wisdom is not hidden in ancient manuscripts. Wisdom lives in between us, or it does not live at all for us.

As for the New Testament text, we have it already. It is the text used for two millennia in Byzantium.

No special codex, of any age, even if it were of the second or third and not of the fourth century, no special codex can really advance our knowledge of the New Testament.

The publication of Codex Sinaiticus may be of some interest to scholars of the philological tradition of the text, but for a person who uses the Bible in order to reflect on his faith, this publication is of no importance whatsoever.

Cf. Elpenor’s Bilingual New Testament

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