Bobby K. of Hendrickson has sent a copy of Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript. It’s available in the UK from the British Museum but won’t be available here in the States until September.
The table of contents of this very impressive volume is available here. Readers will want to visit that link before proceeding to the review which follows. And do note, the siglum for Sinaiticus (א) will be used throughout the remainder of the review to spare readers from having to see the phrase ‘Codex Sinaiticus’ over and again.
The volume’s opening essay by Gamble sets the Codex in its historical context by discussing in the first place ancient book production techniques. Then Gamble leads readers into the sometimes murky history of the biblical canon and א place in it. Thirdly, and the heart of Gamble’s presentation, is a discussion of the ‘Origins and Uses’ of א. The essay concludes, as do they all, with a very nicely thorough bibliography as well as the (by many) dreaded endnotes.
The second segment of the book consists of three essays and focus on the latest research on the Septuagint.
Section three, the longest, is also the most ‘technical’ and the most important. In particular, the essays by Wachtel (The Corrected New Testament Text of Codex Sinaiticus) and Myshrall (The Presence of a Fourth Scribe?), as well as Batovici’s (The Appearance of Hermas’s Text in Codex Sinaiticus) are what would fall under the category of ‘cutting edge research’ and, as a result, really should be read in whole even if other parts of the volume which do not interest particular readers are set aside for a later time.
Various of the essays include fantastic illustrations. For instance, Wachtel’s previously mentioned contribution has a couple of tremendous photos which show scribal corrections up close in full color (at Mark 6 and John 6). These sorts of illustrations are indispensable and whilst many volumes would simply provide black and white and somewhat grainy reproductions the present volume offers crystal clear color examples.
Section four of the volume turns to the interesting topic of א in modern history, and the four articles in this segment describe and investigate such matters as the discovery of the manuscript, and the acquisition of א by the British Museum.
The fifth and final section concerns itself with א in modern research, conservation and presentation. Steve Walton’s essay, which closes the volume, is titled ‘Codex Sinaiticus and its Importance for Contemporary Christianity’ is particularly engaging. He writes
Academics are regularly caricatured in the popular media as people out of touch with reality. Thus, the topic of Codex Sinaiticus might be seen as abstruse and irrelevant to most. However, three observations should make us hesitate about such a view (p. 295).
Perhaps most intriguing about Walton’s essay is his discussion of א and Christian dialogue with Islam. Walton makes the very interesting point that whilst א shows numerous corrections, the Qur’an, believed to have been dictated from heaven, lacks such textual markings because there can only be one correct text to which all others must be aligned. The implications of this historical fact are then fleshed out by Walton.
He writes in conclusion
So is Codex Sinaiticus only of antiquarian interest? μη γενοιτο! (‘by no means’)! This Codex is highly significant for Christian thinking, belief and living in the twenty-first century (p.301).
The same could, with the appropriate modifications, be said of this volume. It is an important contribution to our understanding of an important text which is highly significant for Christian faith and practice in the present day.
The volume closes with a list of papyri and manuscripts, along with a website containing manuscript catalogs: LDAB – Leuven Database of Ancient Books – http://www.trismegistos.org/ldab/, which currently has 14761 Greek, Latin, Coptic, Demotic, Syriac and other literary texts. There are, of course, the usual indices of Scripture and general topics.
This collection of essays will be of value to Septuagintalists, Text Critics, and historians of the biblical text. It is a well produced, well written, engaging, informative volume.