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Three Oldest Manuscripts and The Great Uncial Codices

Three Oldest Manuscripts and The Great Uncial Codices

Three Oldest Manuscripts and The Great Uncial Codices – Bible contains words of God. However, before Bible can be seen as what Christians have nowadays, there is long history of manuscripts and old texts that contain the words of Gods. Originally, the texts of bible are written in Aram and Hebrew. Of course, it is impossible to find the first texts of bible. The originals could not survive because those texts were from thousand years ago and at that time, technology is not as what people have nowadays. What people can find and preserve are copies and even these copies are very old and these were only found after hundreds of year since its composition. Normally, these texts are called ad as ancient texts or manuscripts. They were still written by hands. In this case, there are three oldest manuscripts of biblical texts.

First, it is the Nash Papyrus. Based on the research, it is found that this ancient text is written in second century B.C. however, it was found in 1902 in Egypt. The manuscript was bought from antiquities dealer. The name of buyer is Walter Llewellyn Nash. That is why it is called as Nash Papyrus. It was considered to become the oldest biblical texts but it changed after the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The Nash Papyrus contains the 10 commandments as found in the Book of Exodus in Old Testament. There is also Shema Yisrael prayer that can be found in Deuteronomy. Some scholars believe that the Nash Papyrus was used by the Egyptian Jews. The texts were used by them in daily worships because it is said that ancient Jewish worshipped God by reading the Ten Commandment and then continued by reading the Shema prayer.

The Dead Sea Scrolls can be considered as the most important ancient biblical texts. The scrolls have more than 900 manuscripts. These were discovered in Qumran Caves. The location is near the Dead Sea, and that is why these scrolls were called as The Dead Sea Scrolls. The excavations of the scrolls were conducted between 1947 and 1956 and these were performed in 11 caves. The scrolls contain most parts of Old Testament expects the parts of book of Nehemiah and Esther. It was predicted that the manuscripts were written from third century B.C. that is why these are older than Nash Papyrus. Before this significant discovery, the earliest complete texts of Old Testament were found in Leningrad Codex, one of the Great Uncials. By the finding of The Dead Sea Scrolls, experts could learn changes that happen over 1000 years by comparing the texts in Leningrad Codex and the ancient scrolls. Although there were changes, it is surprising that there is high accuracy in both texts.

Third oldest manuscript is The Silver Ketef Hinnom Scrolls. This is considered as the oldest texts because the Hinnom Scrolls was from seventh century BC. However, it was not like the Dead Sea Scrolls that have complete texts of Old Testament. The Hinnom Scrolls was found in 1979 during excavation. This was led by Gabriel Barklay in Ketef Hinnom. The silver scrolls contain the priestly Benediction. This may not have complete texts, but it has biblical reference regarding YHWH.

In addition to those three oldest ancient biblical texts, there are four Great Uncial codices. Uncial is special term to refer the majuscule script. In other word, the whole manuscripts were written in capital letters. This is the style of writing commonly used in 4th to 8th century. The uncial letters are commonly used by Greek and Latin scribes. These are the Greek bible containing both Old and New Testaments. The four codices are the only remaining texts that can be preserved until now. Those codices are Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus. The Codex Sinaiticus was written in fourth century and it becomes the oldest manuscript with complete New Testament. Currently, the codex is preserved in St. Catherine;s Monastery located on Mount Sinai. That is why it is called as Codex Sinaiticus.

Codex Vaticanus is special because it is the oldest manuscript of Greek Bible containing the Old and New Testaments. The name is related to the place of its preservation, that is in Vatican Library. It was also written in fourth century and it is almost similar to the Codex Sinaiticus. For the Codex Alexandrinus, it was brought to Europe from Alexandria. Now, it can be found in Ritblat Gallery of British Library. It also contains both parts of New and Old Testaments. Last codex is Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus. This is written in fifth century. The name has special meaning because the parchment of the manuscript is recycled. These four are considered special because the four codices are the oldest Greek manuscripts that can be found. All of them also show both Old and New Testaments. That is why they were preserved carefully because these are also parts of the biblical histories dated from two thousand years ago.