CODEX ZACYNTHIUS

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Philosophy Theology & Religion

Abstract

What is Codex Zacynthius?
It is the oldest manuscript of the Greek New Testament to contain extracts from early Christian theologians writings as well as the biblical text. It is a manuscript with two stages to its history. The original manuscript was copied around the year 700, and contained the Gospel of Luke, with the extracts written around it in the three outer margins. It has recently been bought by Cambridge University Library, and this provides a unique opportunity to find out more about it.

In the thirteenth century the manuscript was dismembered and the ink was rubbed out. It was then re-used to make a lectionary manuscript of the Gospels, written at right-angles to the original text. As a result, the older text is incomplete and much of it has been illegible ever since.

Why is it called Codex Zacynthius?
Manuscripts are often given a Latin name showing where they were found, or where they are now kept. Codex Zacynthius was found on the Island of Zante (Zakynthos), the most southerly of Greece's Ionian Islands. It was a gift from Prince Comuto of Zante to a British soldier, General Colin Macaulay, who donated it to the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1821. It has for long been in the keeping of Cambridge University Library, who finally bought the manuscript in 2014.

Why does the original manuscript matter?
The custom of making extracts from early Christian writers explaining biblical text is a fascinating study in its own right, showing how different generations understood scripture in the context of their entire heritage. It is also of value because some of these excerpts are taken from writings that have been lost in their entirety. Sometimes these are writings expressing views later deemed heretical, so that we lost access to the views themselves and only saw them through their opponents' eyes. Recovering these extracts gives us tantalising glimpses of such lost writings and lost interpretations.

The later text is important because lectionaries are an under-studied element of the textual tradition of the Greek New Testament, but represent the form in which most people encountered the Bible as they were used for reading during public worship.

What will the project achieve?
Because the older manuscript was so thoroughly cleaned, it cannot be fully read either by eyesight or by traditional photography.The project will make new digital images using a technique called Multi-Spectral Imaging, which will make it possible to find the exact wavelength of the original ink. From these images we will be able to make the first complete transcriptions of the original text of the manuscript. We will also make a complete transcription of the later text. We will also make a translation of the extracts.

We will makes these transcriptions in an electronic format, using techniques developed in the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham. The images and transcriptions will all be published on the internet. We will also study the extracts and be able to write the first complete account of the way in which they were put together. We will then be able to discuss their place in the wider picture of biblical study. We will translate the original text in order to make it accessible to a non-Greek speaking audience.

Planned Impact

1. Who might benefit from this research?
Researchers studying the history of the text of the Gospels, the ways in which later Greek-speaking Christians interpreted them, and the writings of those later Christians, typically are involved in a variety of outside activities. These include writing books for a wide audience, engaging with Christian congregations and other faith groups, media appearances and speaking to general audiences. There is therefore a wide range of groups which may benefit from this research.

How might they benefit from this research?
By gaining a deeper understanding of the way in which Luke's Gospel and traditions about the historical Jesus changed and were interpreted in early Christian tradition, and the intellectual world out of which both grew.

2. Who might benefit from this research?
A better knowledge of the text of Luke's Gospel in Codex Zacynthius will contribute to the new critical edition of the New Testament being made in Münster. This text will be reproduced by the hand editions produced for the use of students and scholars, the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament. These in turn are used as the basis for almost all translations into the vernacular worldwide. The research has the potential to benefit all bible readers.

How might they benefit from this research?
By having access to a modern edition and translation of the New Testament based on the latest research and with a reliable historical foundation for the wording on which it is based.

3. Who might benefit from this research?
The publication of the images and transcriptions on a website will provide a resource for everyone with an interest in books and the world's written heritage to explore this fascinating artefact.

How might they benefit from this research?
By exploring the images with the benefit of transcriptions and explanatory text to understand the history of the manuscript as an example of one of the many forms n which the oldest Christian texts were realised and handed on.

Publications


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