NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL STUDIES: Important Uncial Manuscripts

The manuscripts typically classified as “uncial” are so designated to differentiate them from papyrus manuscripts. In a sense, this is a misnomer because the real difference has to do with the material they are written on—vellum (treated animal hide) as compared to papyrus—not the kind of letters used. Indeed, the papyri are also written in uncials (capital letters), but the term “uncial” typically describes the majuscule lettering that was prominent in fourth-century biblical texts, such as in א, A, B, C.

Greek Uncial (Majuscule) Manuscripts of the New Testament

Biblical manuscripts that were written in Greek (whether translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, or copies of the Greek New Testament, or both) can be divided or organized by the writing style, which also helps the paleographer in dating them. The older (earlier) style (especially from the fourth to the ninth century C.E.) is the uncial manuscript, written in large, separated capital letters. Uncial is a majuscule script (written entirely in capital letters) commonly used by Latin and Greek scribes.

Codex Bezae—A Unique Manuscript

Theodore Beza was a French Reformed Protestant theologian, a scholar of the Greek New Testament. He was a close associate and successor of the Protestant reformer John Calvin. In the year 1562, Beza, as he is more commonly known, made known this unusual ancient manuscript.

Comparison of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus

Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, two of the great uncial codices, representatives of the Alexandrian text-type, are considered excellent manuscript witnesses of the text of the New Testament. Most critical editions of the Greek New Testament give precedence to these two chief uncial manuscripts, and the majority of translations are based on their text.

CODEX SINAITICUS: End of Mark’s Gospel

Codex Sinaiticus (01, א) alone has a complete text of the New Testament and portions of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint. It is a vellum manuscript written in Greek dating to c. 330–360 C.E. The Codex Sinaiticus Project has described the Sinaiticus as “one of the most important books in the world.”

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