Saturday, March 12, 2005

Sinaiticus and the Media

The project of digitalizing the Codex Sinaiticus has received some notice on several sites, including the SBL Technology Research page. But the Dallas Morning News has produced a truly garbled story on the initiative. For instance:

Ray Bruce, a film director who is producing a documentary on the project, cited the Book of Mark as an example of how much the modern Bible has been altered from the codex. In the codex, he said, the Book of Mark ends at Chapter 16, Verse 8, with the discovery that Christ's tomb was empty.

But more modern versions contain an additional 12 verses with testimony from Mary Magdalene and 11 apostles referring to the resurrection of Jesus.

"It shows how much this is a dynamic process of editing and adaptation," he said, but also raises questions about the influence man has had on texts regarded by Christians as divinely inspired.

It is completely misleading to say that the Longer Ending of Mark is a feature of "modern Bibles." It is contained in a fair number of uncial manuscripts (including Alexandrinus) and is witnessed to by Irenaeus and the Diatessaron. Although it is certainly a secondary addition to Mark, it is certainly not "modern."

Then we have this:
Researchers and plunderers have particularly coveted the codex because the texts were written so soon after the life of Jesus, and they are the largest and longest-surviving Biblical manuscript in existence, including both the Old and New Testament. In addition, the codex contains two Christian texts written around A.D. 65, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas.
Sinaiticus is very old, but it is not by any stretch the oldest Biblical manuscript in existence. There are earlier manuscripts for both Old and New Testament. Not only that, the Shepherd of Hermas was written probably around 140 A.D., and the Epistle of Barnabas possibly four or five decades earlier. They were not written "around A.D. 65"!

Unfortunately, this example of confusion in the media about Biblical studies is all too typical.

1 comment:

Jan-Wim Wesselius said...

There is always worse, and sometimes in an unexpected corner. In our new Dutch Bible translation of 2004, Nieuwe Bijbelvertaling (NBV), the translators give the following note to Mark 16:9-20, materially perhaps correct but quite misleading: "In other manuscripts these verses are absent" [sic!]. And the Old Testament comes off even worse than that, with dozens and probably hundreds of translation errors like "Jacob mourned for his son for days" (Gen 37:34, instead of the correct "many days" or "a long time". A very sad affair.
Jan-Wim Wesselius, Theological University of Kampen, Netherlands