Since the publication of the book entitled “Travels and Experiences in Other Lands” requests have been made to have the chapter “How We Got Our Bible” more extensively published. To meet the demand, this little volume is sent forth, which includes the chapter “Examining Manuscripts,” taken from the book of travels. As a matter of further interest, a few pages are inserted, being a translation of an old Latin manuscript kept in the Vatican Library at Rome, which is a report of Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar, giving a report of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
—E. E. B.
Moundsville, W. V., Sept. 11, 1905.
Examining Manuscripts of the Bible
While traveling in foreign countries in the year 1904, one of the objects of our mission was to examine ancient manuscripts of the Bible, some of which are kept in England. The first place visited for that purpose was the famous Bodleian Library, Oxford, England. There are probably not more than two larger libraries in the world than this one. Besides the several hundred thousand printed books, there are 32,000 manuscripts. However, there was only one manuscript at that place in which we were especially interested, and that was the volume which contains the New Testament Scriptures, and known as Codex Tischendorfianus IV. This manuscript is a volume in old-fashioned design, and made up of parchment leaves over 1,100 years old, not printed in type, but written in large square capital letters of Greek, without any punctuation or division between the words, having only paragraphs here and there. It is the oldest New Testament that Oxford possesses. While in conversation with a librarian we soon learned that he was a higher critic, and in making mention concerning the ancient manuscripts and especially concerning the Gospels, he said:
“You are no doubt aware that the last twelve verses of the last chapter of St. Mark are spurious.”
We replied, “We are not aware of this being the case, although we have frequently heard it so stated.”
To this he said, “It is not in the old manuscripts,” and aimed to leave the impression on us that it was not in this manuscript.
He further stated, “I have written a commentary on St. Matthew and also on St. Mark. The one on Matthew has been published; the one on Mark has not.”
We soon found that he was not very much of a believer in preaching and practicing the whole Word of God in these days. We told him that we should like to examine the ancient manuscript, and especially the last chapter of St. Mark. To this he replied, “It would do you no good, as the passage is spurious.” However, we made application according to the rules of the library, and he could not refuse letting us see the manuscript. Upon examination we found the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark in full, as we had anticipated. Other questionable passages were also to be found in this manuscript. The questionable verses in St. Mark in the Common Version read as follows: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Mark 16:9–20.
From Oxford we went to London to continue our work regarding the manuscript at the British Museum. This is one of the greatest museums of the kind in the world. There are several large rooms in this spacious building containing only manuscripts. Some of them contain the most ancient in existence. As we had only two or three days in which to complete our work there, we had to ask the Lord to open the way before us. The rules of the Museum were that those desiring to examine the manuscripts were to take out a reader’s certificate for three or six months, and three days were required after application was made before the certificate was granted.
By the time of the expiration of three days it was necessary that we be on our way to another country. Having a letter of introduction to Lord Kinnaird we visited him at his place of business, and found him very busy. We were received with courtesy. After making known to him our desires concerning an immediate examination of the old Greek manuscripts at the British Museum, he turned to his stenographer, and commenced the dictation of a letter to the secretary of the Museum. After giving the address, he turned to me and said, “You dictate this letter to suit yourself,” and hurried into another room with his hands filled with business papers. In my dictation I asked the secretary to “please permit Mr. E. E. Byrum and Mr. A. D. Khan to have immediate admittance into the manuscript department of the library, granting them any favors necessary for their work.” Upon his return from the room, he hastily glanced over the letter, signed his name to it, and expressed a willingness to further aid us should necessity demand other favors.
The secretary was very kind, and gave us special favors, and waived the rules, giving us immediate admittance, and mailing the notice concerning the certificate three days later in fulfillment of the rules of the library. Through these special favors by the help of the Lord we not only had the privilege of examining the photographic copies of the old manuscripts, but were permitted to examine the old manuscripts themselves. Upon these old parchments the Bible was written hundreds of years ago.
They were kept in places hidden away until almost forgotten. Since they have been discovered again, they are kept in museums and libraries. They were written in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin, and have since been translated into the English and other languages, and Bibles have been printed.
Here we examined three of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible. The first of these, the Codex Alexandrinus, one of the three most ancient manuscripts of the Bible in the world, was written in Greek paleography about 1,500 years ago, on fine parchments that have so well stood the hostile attacks of unfavorable ages, and the wear and tear of centuries past, standing as a firm and strong monumental witness to the providence of God in preserving the Sacred Oracles in record. The original of these precious documents is kept with great care, and is not for public handling or inspection; but a perfect facsimile, photographic copy is allowed to be used. At first they refused to allow us to examine the original. However, through the grace of God we had the privilege of reading the very original volume, but the superintendent of that department of the library stood by and turned the leaves for us, not permitting us to handle them. In this volume we found the entire passage of Mark 16:9–20.
Then we examined the Codex Harleianus, a manuscript of the ninth and tenth century, and the Codex Burneium of the eleventh century, both of which contain the disputed conclusion of Mark uncurtailed. Besides this passage we examined some other New Testament scriptures, the genuineness of which is sometimes questioned by the scholars (so called); and we are glad to say that we found them all right in the manuscripts. Now these are all of the most ancient manuscripts of the kind in the British Museum.
A few days later we continued our work with the manuscripts at the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris. At first everything seemed to go against us in obtaining admittance to the library; but after working hard all day, traveling from place to place, we had made the necessary arrangements, which gave us admittance early the next morning to the National Libraries of Paris. Here we examined the important and curious manuscript known as the Codex Ephraemi, which is one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible. In value it is as important as the Codex Alexandrinus of the British Museum, and in antiquity it stands fourth, if not earlier; the Codex Sinaiticus in St. Petersburg, the Vaticanus in Rome, and the Codex Alexandrinus in London, are the first three. But this manuscript is perhaps the most difficult to read, as it is most obscure and blurred, as if blue or black ink had been smeared over the paged of the sacred volume. This was the result of a chemical which the parchment folios underwent in order to bring to light the almost obliterated sacred writing, which was rubbed out to receive a later inscription. The manuscript is about 1,500 years old. We examined this codex and found the last twelve verses of Mark’s Gospel in it all right.
Then we examined the Royal Manuscript of Paris, which is about 1,200 years old. This is the only manuscript, so far as we know, that contains an alternative conclusion of Mark, but it gives in full the usual revision of the text at the end of the gospel. The next manuscript we examined was Codex Cyprius, which is also about 1,200 years old. This contains the section in question in toto. Besides these we examined ten other important manuscripts, all of which contain the passage in full, and discovered some of the false arguments and misrepresentations of some of the eminent scholars (so called). In Venice we had no difficulty in gaining admittance to the library, and had the privilege of examining four important manuscripts of the Bible, one of which was about one thousand years old, and found the passages in question in all of them.
From Venice we continued our work at the Vatican in Rome. The Vatican Library contains one of the five most ancient copies of Biblical manuscripts. The extreme carefulness of admittance is not peculiar to Rome. We met with the same in almost all the other libraries, and had to secure admittance and privileges to handle these manuscripts by special effort and influence.
When we arrived in Rome we thought of getting help of the British Consul, but soon learned that he had no influence with the Vatican. After prayer we secured a Roman Catholic guide as interpreter, went to the Vatican, presented our cards of recommendation, which we secured at London and Paris, and the Lord gave us favor in the sight of the superintendent of the library and he granted our request. The Vatican was well guarded by soldiers both inside and outside the building. We examined the manuscripts in the Vatican, and found the last chapter of Mark uncurtailed in all but one. This has only the first part of Mark sixteen to the end of verse eight; but there is a peculiar fact in reference to this manuscript. The codex is a quarto volume containing three columns on each page. The eighth verse ends about the middle of the second column and the entire third column is left vacant, leaving sufficient space for the remainder of the chapter. The Gospel of St. Luke begins over on the next page. Now, there is no other similar instance in the whole New Testament portion of the manuscript. If a book ends in the middle of the first column, the next book always begins at the next column. We examined the whole of the New Testament, and found no other unnecessary vacancy anywhere else. This singular fact decidedly proves that the original manuscript from which this copy was made must have contained the verses nine to twenty in full, but for some reason or other the translator did not copy them. It may be the signs and wonders promised to the church had almost ceased at the time because of the unbelief of the apostate professors, and in order to free themselves they kept the truth hid from the people. Nor is this a wild imagination and groundless fancy, for humanity is so deceptive and deluded that it would sooner doubt God than itself.
At the present time many do not believe in the genuineness of these verses. Because of their inability to work the signs that are to follow the believers. For such reasons the omission of the passage from this manuscript can be accounted for. Besides this, it may also have been because that in the original manuscript this was the last leaf and it was torn off, which caused the absence of the section in subsequent copies of which this manuscript in the Vatican is a sample. This idea has been entertained by several of the able scholars of Biblical criticism; for they are all united in declaring that the gospel could not have been ended with verse eight, the last word of which is a conjunction “for,” which can never close a book without doing severe violence to the simple and elementary laws of composition and rhetoric. There are many other internal and external reasons in favor of the genuineness of the passage. In fact, all the manuscripts that we examined contained the passages, except this one. Another one at St. Petersburg, which we have not seen, does not contain it. But we have since received facsimile pages of the last chapter of St. Mark and the first chapter of St. Luke from this manuscript. It is to be found in all the ancient versions and in the writings of the Fathers. One of the earliest Fathers, Irenaeus, who was the disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of John the Evangelist, quotes the passage in his treatise against the heretics. There are many other overwhelming evidences of the genuineness of these scriptures.
How We Got Our Bible
“We live in a land of Bibles” is an oft-quoted expression. But the inquisitive reader asks, “Whence came this Bible? Have we the original manuscripts and books written by Moses, the prophets, and the apostles?” When we reply that none of these original books or writings have been discovered in this age of the world, then the question comes, “What evidence have we of the genuineness of these Scriptures?” Some say that it was handed down from generation to generation by hearsay until centuries after the time of the apostles; but such is not the case.
The Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, whose writing is ascribed to Moses, and which is sometimes called “the book,” or “the book of Moses,” was a written book. It was sometimes called “the law,” or “the book of the law.” Moses gave the law to the people, and after his death we find Joshua having the people gather together between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, near Shechem, and the law was read to them.
Centuries after this we find about the time Nehemiah was preparing to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he had the people gather together, and told Ezra to “bring the book of the law.” Neh. 8:4. And the book was brought, “and Ezra opened the book” and read to the people. We find, also, in the Old Testament where it is stated that the acts of the kings are recorded in the book of the Kings and in Chronicles, etc. These records were preserved and handed down from generation to generation, and the people of God were made acquainted with their teachings.
When Jesus Christ came and began his ministry, he frequently referred the people to what had been written. In St. Luke 4:16–20 is an account given of the time when Jesus began his ministry at Nazareth, which says, “He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” etc. “And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down.” They not only had in those days the book containing the Law, but here Jesus read from the book or Isaiah the prophet, which told concerning himself. It was a book which could be opened (verse 17), and it says he “closed the book.” Verse 20.
It is plain to see that they had the Scriptures recorded in book form, not only during the centuries before Christ, but at the time he began his ministry, and no doubt they had copies of these Scriptures in all the synagogues. It would not, therefore, be a strange thing if many copies of these ancient manuscripts were sealed up and kept in some secluded place for centuries and many copies were made from others. In consideration of the fact that the Scriptures, or Old Testament, were so made into book form and were carefully preserved before and during the time of Christ, it would not seem strange if his own words and the words of the apostles were also carefully preserved in book manuscript, written upon the durable parchments of that day.
When the devil came to tempt him, Jesus said, “It is written,” etc. To the Jews who were not willing to accept Jesus as a Savior he said, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39. Now, he would not have told them to search the Scriptures had there not been some records for them to search. There was a book of Psalms (Acts 1:20), which David wrote (Luke 20:42); and Jesus told of what was “written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms.” Luke 24:44.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we find Paul preaching to the people, as recorded in Acts 17:11, “and they searched the Scriptures daily.” Upon this occasion there were “noble” Jews, and also “honorable” men and women among the Greeks. At one place was a man named Apollos, of whom it is said, that he was “mighty in the Scriptures.” Acts 18:24. These Scriptures were without doubt the books or writings of the Old Testament. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy spoke to him about the cloak, which, said he, “when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” 2 Tim. 4:13. It is very likely that some of these books mentioned were not only the Old Testament, but also the Gospels; and the parchments were to be brought that Paul might complete the writing of the Epistles. The parchments were prepared skins of goats or of some other animals. They were prepared in such a manner as to very much resemble paper, although very strong and durable.
The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language, while the original language of the New Testament was Greek. A knowledge of this fact explains the different use of words. For instance, 1 Kings 18:41–46, which relates the circumstances of the prayer of Elijah after the famine of three years and six months. In referring to him, in translating from Hebrew to English, his name is called Elipah. In James 5:17, referring to the same occurrence, the same name translated from the Greek is Elias, meaning the same person. There are a number of similar changes.
The earliest Hebrew text known of the Old Testament is one in the British Museum, which dates back about to the ninth century A.D.; but there are many other evidences of the writings of the Old Testament in existence which date back much further. Aside from the Talmud and the Targums, there is the Samaritan Pentateuch. This is a very ancient manuscript in the form of a roll, written in Samaritan or Old Hebrew characters, independently of the Orthodox Jews, and is supposed to be almost as ancient as the Hebrew. It contains the first five books of the Bible. It has been kept by the Samaritan people at Nabulus, a city which is built on the site of the ancient city of Shechem. It is claimed that this manuscript was written by the great grandson of Aaron. In our travels through Palestine we remained one night in this city, where there are about one hundred and fifty of the Samaritan people still living as a colony. They take much pride in the preservation of these manuscripts.
The Septuagint Version
We have today what is called the Septuagint Version or version of the Seventy. This is a translation of the Old Testament made in the Greek language at Alexandria by seventy-two Jewish scholars, and for this reason it is called the Septuagint or Seventy. It is said that Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt B. C. 284–246, while preparing his large library, desired to have reliable books on every theme from the best authority possible; therefore sent an embassy to Eleazar the high priest at Jerusalem to obtain copies of their sacred books and of the Hebrew law, and make a translation of the same. This high priest sent the copies requested, together with these seventy-two translators. It is said that they were separated from each other, and that when their translations were compared they were exactly the same. However, let that be as it may, a translation of the books of the Pentateuch was made about two hundred and fifty years or more before Christ, and the other books completed a few years later. Thus the entire Old Testament was translated into Greek over one hundred and fifty years before Christ. There have been a number of other versions since that time. But, it is the New Testament that we desire more especially to dwell upon.
The New Testament
We have a Bible today consisting of both the Old and New Testaments. We have shown that the Old Testament existed in book form before and at the time of Christ and his apostles; but it is almost nineteen centuries since that time, and the question comes to us now, How was this Bible handed down to us from generation to generation and from century to century? or, in other words, How did we get our Bible, as none of the original manuscripts of the apostles’ writings are known to be in existence today. The evidences by which we may know the facts concerning the reliability and genuineness of our Bible are through the versions, manuscripts, and quotations from the Bible by early writers. There are, however, a few things that we do know beyond doubt. One is that we have today a version of the New Testament called the Twentieth Century Testament, given in modern English. Then, we have what is called the Revised Version of both Old and New Testaments, dated 1881–85. Also, the Authorized or King James’ Version, dated 1611. This is the one in general use today. No one calls in question that King James I, almost three centuries ago ordered it to be translated and printed. Neither do they believe that King James or any one else in his day wrote this book in order to deceive the people. Consequently there must have been some versions or manuscripts older than this one. In fact, the title page of what is called the Authorized Version, states that it is “translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.”
We have heretofore stated that the original language of the New Testament was Greek. About the eighth century some portions of the Scripture were made into Anglo-Saxon, and into English about the thirteenth century. About 1380 Wyclif, with some of his followers, translated the entire Bible into the English from the Latin Vulgate; but as this was before the days of printing, it existed only in manuscript form until about the year 1848 or 1850, when it was published in type. In 1525 William Tyndale began the publication of his translation of the New Testament. In 1534 he published a revised edition of the New Testament. In 1535 Miles Coverdale translated the Bible from the Swiss-German Bible and the Latin Version of Pagninus. This was the first version of the entire Bible published in English. Then came what was known as Matthew’s Bible, 1537; Taverner’s 1539; the Great Bible, 1539; the Geneva Bible, 1560; the Bishop’s Bible, 1568; Reims’ New Testament, 1582; then came the Authorized Version, 1611. King James had fifty-four scholarly persons assigned to the work of translating and preparing this Bible. They were located at Westminister, Oxford, and Cambridge. It was not particularly to be a new translation, but to be a better one, as many errors had been made in the former translations. They were to follow the text of the Bishop’s Bible with as little alteration as the truth of the original permitted. They used the text of Beza’s Latin and Greek Testaments of 1598, and also made considerable use of the Geneva of 1560 and the Reim’s New Testament of 1582. They did not at that time have access to the older Greek manuscripts, the most reliable of which have been discovered and brought into use since that date.
After some of these older manuscripts were found it was deemed necessary to get out a revised edition in order to correct some of the errors that were clearly pointed out through the reading of the older manuscripts, and some also found to be made by those who copied the manuscripts in later years, although there was nothing of such a serious nature as to change the doctrine or teachings to any great extent. Another reason for the change was to bring the expression in the English up to date, as many of the English words formerly used have become obsolete.
But now we must go further back than the English versions, and see what we can find among the manuscripts. A version is that which is translated from another language. For instance, from Greek to Latin or from Greek to English or some other language. The manuscripts are written on parchments made of the skins of animals. They very much resemble paper, and the words are printed and written with ink. There are two classes of Greek writing; the oldest being written in capital letters, which is called uncial. These are written without any extra space between the words, making it quite difficult to read. It is not divided into sentences, and is without punctuation. However, about the ninth or tenth century another style of writing was used, which is called the cursive style, which is a kind of running hand.
There are about one hundred of the old uncial manuscripts and nearly three thousand of the cursive manuscripts which are to be seen and examined. The most important of the old Greek manuscripts that have been found are the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Ephraemi. These date back from A. D. 300 to A. D. 450. Some claim the Codex Vaticanus to be the oldest, while others believe the Codex Sinaiticus to be the oldest volume. There are strong evidence that both of these were copied from other manuscripts between the years 300 and 400 A. D.
The three oldest Greek manuscripts of the Bible in the world are the Vatican, Sinaitic, and Alexandrian. Frequent use of them was made in making the Revised Version in 1881 and 1885; but none of them were used by the translators of the Authorized or King James’ Version. The two latter manuscripts were discovered and brought into use at a later day and the Codex Vaticanus was not accessible at that time. These manuscripts give us positive evidence of the existence of the Bible soon after the apostolic days. From the days of the apostles and their original writings to the time of these manuscripts just mentioned, is about the same period of time as from the date of the King James’ Version to the time of the Revised Version and later versions.
The Alexandrian manuscript, the youngest of these three great manuscripts, is preserved in the British Museum. It was presented to Charles I by the Patriarch of Constantinople, A. D. 1628. This was seventeen years too late to be used in preparing the Authorized Version. Only ten leaves are missing from the Old Testament; but of the New Testament twenty-five leaves have been lost from the beginning of Matthew, two from John, and three from Corinthians. It is written two columns on a page. The Vatican manuscript is written three columns on a page, and the Sinaitic has four columns.
The Vatican, or the Codex Vaticanus, which is generally considered the most ancient in existence, has been in the Vatican Library for at least four or five hundred years. The early history of this manuscript is not known. It contains over seven hundred leaves of the finest vellum, about a foot square, bound together in book form. Gen. 1 to 46 is lost, also Psa. 105 to 127, and all after Hebrews 9:14 of the New Testament. In this manuscript, which is generally claimed to be the oldest one, the last twelve verses of the last chapter of St. Mark are omitted. But for some reason, enough blank space is left on the page, showing that the scribe knew of its existence; but for some reason it was not inserted, although in other old manuscripts and still older versions in other languages these verses appear; also in the writings of the early church Fathers. This manuscript having been kept in the Vatican Library by the Roman Catholics, it was not until recent years that any one but the Roman Catholics had access to it, and at the present time it is very carefully guarded, and a hard matter to obtain the privilege of examining it. A number of years ago Dr. Tregelles, who is said to be one of the most eminent of textual critics, made an attempt to examine the manuscript but he said they would not let him open the volume without first searching his pockets and depriving him of pens, ink, and paper. The two priests who were left to guard and watch him would try to detract his attention if he seemed too intent on any passage, and if he studied any part of it too long they would snatch away the book. Since that time, by order of Pope Pius IX, facsimile pages have been made of it, and bound volumes are to be found in many of our chief public libraries.
When Brother A. D. Khan and I asked for the original, we were at first refused. They gave us a facsimile volume, and told us that we could look at the original open book through a glass case. To this we replied that we had special reasons for desiring to examine the original manuscript, as we were there under peculiar circumstances, and were expected to examine the original without fail. We had already presented our letters of recommendation and our cards showing that we had examined the manuscripts in London and Paris, and after some hesitation the original manuscript was brought forth and was at our disposal, although closely guarded with the greatest of care.
The Sinaitic manuscript, which was copied about the same time of the Vatican manuscript, was of more recent discovery. The story of its discovery is quite an interesting one. Tischendorf, who for some years had been spending his time principally in examining all the old manuscripts he could find, decided to make a special tour through the East and visit the old libraries and convents in order to find more ancient manuscripts of the Bible. From the very earliest age of the Christian era the Greek texts had been translated into different languages—into Latin, Syrias, Egyptian, etc. Ancient manuscripts of these versions had been brought to light where for centuries they had been hidden away in old libraries and convents. But it was the ancient Greek manuscripts that he was more anxious to obtain.
In the year 1844 he embarked for Egypt, and was soon at the foot of Mount Sinai in the convent of St. Catherine. While here, in the month of May, he found in the middle of a great hall a basket full of old parchments. The librarian told him that two heaps of papers like those had already been committed to the flames. Tischendorf looked over this pile of papers and found several sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to him the most ancient of any he had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed him to take one-third of the pile of parchments in the waste-basket, or about forty-five sheets. He was so delighted, and gave expression to his feelings to such an extent that they suspicioned the manuscript was of great value and refused to allow him to take any more than the forty-five sheets. He tried in various ways to procure the others, but failed.
In February, 1854, he again visited the convent at Sinai. This visit was successful in some ways, but he was not successful in procuring the desired manuscripts. He was not able to discover any further traces of those he had seen in 1844, although he found in a roll of papers a little fragment written on both sides which contained eleven short lines of the first book of Moses, which convinced him that the manuscript originally contained the entire Old Testament, but that the greater part had been long since destroyed.
On January 18, 1859, he made a short visit to the convent, hoping to make some further discoveries. After remaining a few days looking over some other ancient manuscripts, he made arrangements with his Bedouin guides to make ready for their return journey soon, when a peculiar circumstance took place. To give it in his own language, he says:
“On the afternoon of this day I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighborhood, and as we returned towards sunset he begged me to take some refreshments with his in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said, ‘And I too have read a Septuagint, that is, a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy’; and so saying he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume wrapped up in red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Pastor of Hermas. Full of joy, which I had at this time the self-command to conceal from the steward and the rest of the community, I asked, as if in a careless way, for permission to take the manuscript into my sleeping-chamber, to look over it more at leisure. There by myself, I could give way to the transport of joy which I felt. I knew that I held in my hand the most precious Biblical treasure in existence—a document whose age and importance exceeded that of all the manuscripts which I had ever examined during twenty years’ of study on the subject. I can not now, I confess, recall all the emotions which I felt in that exciting moment, with such a diamond in my possession. Though my lamp was dim and the night cold, I sat down at once to transcribe the Epistle of Barnabas. For two centuries search had been made in vain for the original Greek of the first of this epistle, which has been only known through a very faulty Latin translation. And yet this letter, from the end of the second down to the beginning of the fourth century, had an extensive authority, since many Christians assigned to it and to the Pastor of Hermas a place side by side with the inspired writings of the New Testament. This was the very reason why these two writings were thus both bound up with the Sinaitic Bible, the transcription of which is to be referred to the first half of the fourth century, and about the time of the first Christian emperor.
“Early on the 5th of February, I called upon the steward and asked permission to take the manuscript with me to Cairo, to have it there transcribed from cover to cover; but the prior had set out only two days before for Cairo, on his way to Constantinople, to attend at the election of a new archbishop, and one of the monks would not give his consent to my request. What was there to be done? My plans were quickly decided. On the 7th, at sunrise, I took a hasty farewell of the monks, in hopes of reaching Cairo in time to get the prior’s consent. Every mark of attention was shown me on setting out. The Russian flag was hoisted from the convent walls, while the hillsides rang with the echoes of a parting salute, and the most distinguished members of the order escorted me on my way as far as the plain.
“The following Sunday I reached Cairo where I was received with the same marks of good-will. The prior, who had not set out, at once gave his consent to my request, and also gave instructions to a Bedouin to go and fetch the manuscript with all speed. Mounted on his camel, in nine days he went from Cairo to Sinai and back, and on the 24th of February the priceless treasure was again in my hands. The time was now come at once boldly and without delay to set to work to a task of transcribing no less than one hundred and ten thousand lines, of which a great many were difficult to read either on account of later corrections or through the ink having faded, and that in a climate where the thermometer through March, April, and May is never below seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. No one can say what this cost me in fatigue and exhaustion.”
On the 27th of September Tischendorf returned to Cairo, and received from the monks under the form of a loan the Sinaitic Bible, which he took to St. Petersburg, where it was accurately copied.
Since my return from India, in the month of November, 1904, I received two facsimile pages from the original manuscript, which is now at St. Petersburg, Russia. These consist of the last chapter of St. Mark and the first chapter of St. Luke.
There is another quite important one of the uncial manuscripts, called Codex Ephraemi. This, however, is called a palimpsest or rescript manuscript, that is, the original writings were rubbed out in order to make room for other writings. It was first written in uncial characters, and about the twelfth century these pages were washed and pumiced, and on it were placed the writings of an old church Father by the name of Ephraem Syrus. This last writing was done in the cursive or running hand style of writing. About two hundred years ago a Swiss theologian attempted to decipher a few traces of the original manuscript. Some time after that another man undertook it with but little success. In later years an attempt was made to bring out the characters by means of chemicals. But after all these attempts proved to be unsuccessful, Tischendorf tried his skill at the manuscript, and by the use of chemicals was enabled to be successful in his efforts, insomuch that he was able to completely decipher the whole of it and distinguish between the dates of the different writers who had been engaged upon the manuscript. This manuscript is kept in the Royal Library at Paris.
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