Friday, May 12, 2023

WM 280: Debunking the anecdote that Sinaiticus & Vaticanus were "de luxe" copies ordered by Constantine



First: The legend articulated:

Background to the legend: Eusebius, The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine, 4.36-37.

The legend promoted: See Fragments of Truth video (42:29).

Second: Three Reasons the legend is NOT true.

First: There is no explicit evidence that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were among the “de luxe” copies mentioned by Eusebius. There are certainly no indications of this in the mss. themselves.

Second: According to Eusebius, the copies ordered by Constantine were for the church in and around Constantinople.

Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, however, are both generally associated with Egypt.

To use now outdated text-type language. Copies made in Constantinople would most likely have reflected the “Byzantine” text and not the “Alexandrian” text.

Third: There are numerous differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which would be unlikely if they had been among these works that were made to order.

Dean John Burgon in The Revision Revised (1881) noted thousands of differences between the two manuscripts in the Gospels alone (see this article).

There is even a significant difference in the ordering of the books. Sinaiticus places Acts after the Pauline letters and before the General epistles, while Vaticanus places Acts after the Gospels and before the Pauline epistles.

Three: This legend has long-been discounted even by mainstream scholars.


Bruce Metzger, The Text of the NT: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964): 7-8.

D. C. Parker, Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (2010): 19-22.


Clearly, this scholarly legend has been fabricated by some to promote a level of prestige and acceptance of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as premiere authorities.


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