Recently the Biblical Archaeology Review website republished a short article on Codex Sinaiticus. The article was titled: “What’s Missing from Codex Sinaiticus, the Oldest New Testament? Compare differences between the King James Version and Codex Sinaiticus.” [Attributed to the “Biblical Archaeology Society Staff 06/05/2017”]
This particular Codex has been at the center of debate since Constantine Tischendorf reported in 1860 about his discovery and acquisition of the manuscript.
The Biblical Archaeology Review article is a hit-piece that has two targets. The named target it the King James Version, but the actual targets are the doctrine of Christ through undermining confidence in the teaching of the Bible.
The points made in the Biblical Archaeology Review article are that Codex Sinaiticus is one of the oldest and most complete manuscripts of the Bible. The article cites some passages to demonstrate that there are significant differences between the Codex and the King James Version. The wording of the article implies that there are serious problems with Christian doctrine as represented in the KJV because these teachings are not found in these key passages of Codex Sinaiticus.
This discussion is not an apologetic for the KJV, the Textus Receptus, or the Majority Text. What I wish to show here is how hollow and disingenuous the arguments framed in the Biblical Archaeology Review article are, as well as by others which intend to undercut doctrines of Scripture through these kinds of Textual Critical argumentation. The Biblical Archaeology Review article resorts to cherry-picking, but the manuscript the authors claim as evidence actually does teach the orthodox faith. And it does so very clearly.
Here are three of the main arguments presented in the article:
1 The denial of Christ’s bodily resurrection
The authors state:
For example, the resurrection narrative at the end of Mark (16:9–20) is absent from the Codex Sinaiticus….Tischendorf was not troubled by the omission of the resurrection in Mark because he believed that Matthew was written first and that Mark’s gospel was an abridged version of Matthew’s gospel. If this were true, the absence of resurrection in Mark would not be a problem because it appears in the older Matthean gospel. Modern scholarship generally holds that Mark is in fact the oldest of the Synoptic Gospels, which could cause theological concerns over the omitted resurrection.
The title of the article is “What’s Missing from Codex Sinaiticus, the Oldest New Testament?” (emphasis added) The authors leave heavy implication that this alleged lack of an account of the resurrection in the Gospel of Mark in Codex Sinaiticus means two things:
- That Sinaiticus as a Manuscript does not support the resurrection of Christ.
- That because of this the historicity of Christ’s resurrection is in doubt.
But the bodily resurrection is not missing from Codex Sinaiticus. In fact, the section listed in the article is in no way demonstrates that Codex Sinaiticus denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is actually included in Codex Sinaiticus:
- Codex Sinaiticus’ Matthew 28 Resurrection account: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=33&chapter=28&lid=en&side=r&zoomSlider=0
- Codex Sinaiticus’ Luke 24 Resurrection account:
- Codex Sinaiticus’ John 21 Resurrection account: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=36&chapter=21&lid=en&side=r&zoomSlider=0
- Codex Sinaiticus’ Acts 1 Resurrection account:
- Codex Sinaiticus’ I Corinthians 15 Resurrection account:
- Codex Sinaiticus’ Mark 16 Resurrection account:
And the point could be belabored with at least a dozen more references that show that the texts in Codex Sinaiticus teach the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But the evidence that shows most clearly the disingenuous presentation of this Biblical Archaeology Review article are the verses in Codex Sinaiticus right before the missing section:
5 και ειϲελθουϲαι ειϲ το μνημειον ειδον νεανιϲκον καθημενον εν τοιϲ δεξιοιϲ περιβεβλημενον ϲτολην λευκην και εξεθαμβηθηϲαν 6 ο δε λεγει αυταιϲ μη εκθαμβειϲθε ϊηϲουν ζητειτε τον εϲταυρωμενον ηγερθη ουκ εϲτιν ωδε ιδε ο τοποϲ οπου εθηκαν αυτον 7 αλλα υπαγετε ειπατε τοιϲ μαθηταιϲ αυτου και τω πετρω · οτι προαγει ϋμαϲ ειϲ την γαλειλαιαν · εκει αυτον οψεϲθε καθωϲ ειπεν ϋμιν ·
5 And they entered the sepulcher and saw a young man, sitting at the right side, clothed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 But he says to them: Be not amazed. You seek Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified; he has risen, he is not here: see the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee: there you shall see him, as he said to you.(Mark 16:5-7)
Now the authors might claim that they were only talking about the specific text at the end of Mark, and that they did not really mean the rest of the Codex rejected the resurrection of Jesus. Such an explanation would fail to satisfy. The question still by why they generalized about “What’s missing from Codex Sinaiticus” that would “cause theological concerns” without bothering to show what the rest of Codex Sinaiticus actually says on the issue.
But this cherry picking is an essential feature of the authors’ method. We see this when we turn to the next issue.
2 The Denial of Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven
Again, the title of the article is: “What’s Missing from Codex Sinaiticus, the Oldest New Testament?” (emphasis added) The article heavily implies that Codex Sinaiticus does not support the teaching that Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection. The authors state:
One other omission in Codex Sinaiticus with theological implications is the reference to Jesus’ ascension in Luke 24:51.
The ending of Luke’s Gospel in Codex Sinaiticus says:
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and having lifted up his hands, he blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, as he blessed them, he was separated from them. [διεϲτη απ αυτων] And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
This is supposed to lead us to question whether or not the KJV is valid. After all, the article says Codex Sinaiticus is older and more reliable. The KJV has “ and carried up into heaven” after the last words of verse 51. Wow, we are supposed to think, the KJV is obviously later–the author said so. And the KJV obviously has extra words compared to the older text. Therefore we are supposed to conclude the words do not belong. And furthermore we are supposed to conclude that the more ancient Bible does not really teach Jesus bodily ascension to heaven.
So let us turn to Codex Sinaiticus itself and see if it does deny the bodily ascension of Jesus. The Codex says at Acts 1:9-11:
9 And when he had said these things, as they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they were looking steadfastly toward heaven as he departed, behold, two men stood by them in white garments, 11 who also said: Men of Galilee, why stand looking towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.
In Codex Sinaiticus Peter records the ascension of Jesus:
foreseeing, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that neither was he left in hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus has God raised up, of whom we all are witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you both see and hear.
(Codex Sinaiticus Acts 2:31-32)
Also in Codex Sinaiticus Peter testifies to the ascension of Jesus in his First Epistle:
Which (water) in its antitype, baptism, now saves you also (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the inquiry of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him.
(Codex Sinaiticus 1 Peter 3:21-22)http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=53&chapter=3&lid=en&side=r&zoomSlider=0
At the martyrdom of Stephen Codex Sinaiticus reports:
55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.
(Codex Sinaiticus Acts 7:55-56)
Some of what Codex Sinaiticus records of the ascension in the writings of Paul:
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died; yes, more, who has risen, who is at the right hand of God; who also intercedes for us.
(Codex Sinaiticus Romans 8:34)
which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and caused him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every principality and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that to come, and subjected all things under his feet, and gave him as the head over all things to the church,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God…
(Codex Sinaiticus Colossians 3:1)
In the text of Hebrews as recorded in Codex Sinaiticus the ascension of Jesus and His being seated at the right hand of the Father is recorded:
who, being the effulgence of his glory and the exact image of his substance, bearing onward also all things by the word of his power, when he had through himself made a cleansing of sins sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having become so much superior to angels as the name which he has inherited is more excellent than they. (Codex Sinaiticus Hebrews 1:3-4)
Now in respect to the things spoken, the main point is: we have such a high priest who took his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, (Codex Sinaiticus Hebrews 8:1)
in which will, we are sanctified, who have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest indeed stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but he, after having offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down at the right hand of God, henceforth awaiting till his enemies be made his footstool. (Codex Sinaiticus Hebrews 10:10-13)
therefore, having so great a cloud of witnesses lying round about us, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that easily besets, and run with perseverance the race that lies before us, looking away to Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy lying before him endured the cross, having despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Codex Sinaiticus Hebrews 12:1-2)
The testimony of the Apostle John:
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured concerning this, said to them: Does this offend you? If then you should see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
(Codex Sinaiticus John 6:61-62)
Jesus said to her: Mary. She turned and said to him in Hebrew: Rabboni, which is called, Teacher. Jesus says to her: Touch me not; for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them: I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.
(Codex Sinaiticus John 20:16-17 — Both the resurrection and the ascension)
As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me. He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit with me in my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father in his throne.
(Codex Sinaiticus Revelation 3:19-21)
At this point, some might object that some of these passages speak about the ascension but others are about the session at God’s right hand. That is a non-textual distinction, and quite simply a distraction from the facts of the evidence. Scripture, even Codex Sinaiticus, teaches both the bodily resurrection, the bodily ascension, and the session of Christ at the Father’s right hand. The Scripture, even the books in Codex Sinaiticus teach that the purpose of Christ’s ascension is his being seated in Glory as the God-Man at the right hand of the Father in authority over all creation to be worshiped.
3 The Denial that Jesus is God
So, the third main claim is that “What’s missing from Codex Sinaiticus” is that Jesus is God’s Son.. “Mark 1:1 in the original hand omits reference to Jesus as the Son of God.”
The reader should, by now, realize how weak and actually silly these claims are. So what if Codex Sinaiticus does not have that particular phrase at that verse? The rest of the whole of Codex Sinaiticus is filled with references to the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The pattern of these three objections to the KJV are not really against the KJV per se. Rather, these are objections trying to undermine confidence in Scripture with the purpose of denying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We have already listed plenty of passages above with reference to their wording in Codex Sinaiticus.
But let us take what Codex Sinaiticus says are Jesus’ own words in answer to that particular question, as they are stated in the Gospel of Mark:
And the chief priest arose in the midst and asked Jesus, saying: Answerest thou nothing? What do these testify against thee? But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the chief priest asked him and said to him: Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said: I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. [ο δε ιϲ ειπεν εγω ειμι και οψεϲθε τον υϊον του ανθρωπου εκ δεξιων καθημενον τηϲ δυναμε ωϲ και ερχομενον μετα των νεφελων του ουρανου ] And the chief priest rent his clothes and said: What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy: what think you? And they all condemned him to be worthy of death.
(Codex Sinaiticus Mark 14:60-64)
Read also Codex Sinaiticus’ words in the first fourteen verses of John’s Gospel.
There is no denying that the text contained in Codex Sinaiticus clearly teaches the divinity of Jesus Christ. Indeed the Hypostatic Union is very clear. Even though there are textual variants that at some points impact how some passages relating to these issues might be read. The fact is that the overall content of Codex Sinaiticus affirms the orthodox faith.
The Biblical Archaeology Review article that prompted this article is just one example of many. These kinds of cherry picking attacks take place in scholarly works and non-professional works. They form the basis of much of the current Atheist anti-Christian apologetic. Learning what these attacks are and how to look them up in the manuscripts they list as evidence can go a great way to demonstrate the hollowness of their attacks.