The Discovery Of Codex Sinaiticus
In 1844 the German scholar Constantine Tischendorf was searching for New Testament manuscripts. By accident, he noticed a basket filled with old pages in the library of the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai. The German scholar was both elated and shocked. He had never seen Greek manuscripts that old.
Tischendorf asked the librarian about them and was horrified to learn that the pages had been discarded to be used as fuel. Two basketloads of such papers had already been burned!
Tischendorf’s enthusiasm made the monks wary, and they would not show him any more manuscripts. However, they did allow Tischendorf to take the 43 pages he had discovered.
Fifteen years later, Tischendorf returned to the Sinai monastery, this time with help from the Russian Tsar Alexander II. Once he was there, a monk took Tischendorf to his room and pulled down a cloth-wrapped manuscript that had been stored on a shelf with cups and dishes. Tischendorf immediately recognized the valuable remaining portions of the manuscripts he had seen earlier.
The monastery agreed to present the manuscript to the tsar of Russia as protector of the Greek Church. In 1933 the Soviet Union sold the manuscript to the British Museum for £100,000.
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the earliest complete manuscripts of the New Testament we have, and it is among the most important. Some speculate that it is one of the 50 Bibles the emperor Constantine commissioned Eusebius to prepare in the early fourth century. Codex Sinaiticus has been of enormous help to scholars in verifying the accuracy of the New Testament.