Benjamin Kantor, over at KoineGreek.com, has put together what promises to be a gem of a volume in this pseudo-facsimile of the Gospels. As a pseudo-facsimile it is a modified reproduction of Codex Vaticanus (technically, it is a reproduction of the facsimile of Codex Vaticanus by Carlo Vercellone Giuseppe Cozza-Luzi). This means it aims to both reproduce the features of the original Codex Vaticanus while also adding key features aimed at usability.
What is Codex Vaticanus?
Codex Vaticanus is one of the most important Greek Bible Manuscripts that we posses. It also is a very readable manuscript, which is a major plus. You can check out high resolution pictures of the original manuscript at the Vatican Library digital images (the text begins on pg 1235). To see the facsimile on which this new volume is based go to the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. If you take a look at these texts, it will be apparent that as readable as the actual Codex Vaticanus is, The Vaticanus Bible: Gospels has a lot to offer in making the text even more accessible.
What does this text offer that is special?
In this brief video I highlight some of the unique features you get to see when you read from The Vaticanus Bible: Gospels as opposed to a critical edition of the Greek text.
Reasons why you should read this edition:
This text is far easier to read than an actual manuscript (no yellowing of the pages, blotched ink, etc.), so it is a more inviting way into reading uncial manuscripts (an uncial manuscript is one that is written in all majuscules, or “capital letters”). The print is more standardized than the actual handwriting in Vaticanus, meaning that the letters do not vary so much in size and shape. Again, this makes it an easier first step in reading uncial texts. There is also a chart showing the form of the different letters in this manuscript, which is a plus if you don’t have any experience reading uncials.
The size of this volume is one of its most attractive features. The actual Codex Vaticanus has three columns of text on each page, meaning the pages are quire large and any strict reproduction is unwieldy. The Vaticanus Bible: Gospels solves this by putting just one column per page. The size of each column is the same, the text in each column is the same, but since there is only one per page the pages are much smaller. The result? This is a codex that you can easily carry around! The pages are smaller (though the columns of Greek text are identical) and in a more familiar feeling format. (compare features). If you want to compare the text to the actual manuscript, or just look at what the original looks like for any passage, the column numbers are printed on the top of each page to facilitate easy comparison.
Lastly, it includes the modern chapter and verses in the margin making the text far easier to navigate than looking at the actual manuscript. If you want to find Luke 12.14, for instance, you can easily find it through the modern reference system, rather than finding ΚΑΤΑ ΛΟΥΚΑΝ, guessing where chapter 12 probably starts, and reading until you find the verse you are looking for. This is a great feature.
One feature that would have been very desirable but is sadly absent is a brief description of the various signs and symbols the reader sees in the text that are unfamiliar. An example or two showing spelling corrections in the text, the insertion of elements, why there are some small letters, what the running letters next to the text are, and what some of the assorted signs and symbols in the text mean (or might mean). Getting into reading manuscripts is partially difficult because there are many features in a manuscript that are puzzling and the best way to learn what they mean is for someone who knows to tell you. I have had some instruction in manuscript reading in my studies (which is a rarity), so I know enough to find my way around. A short primer on the signs and symbols of the manuscript would have been a thoughtful addition.
The Vaticanus Bible: Gospels provides an up close and personal encounter with a variety of the sorts of things going on in manuscripts – corrections, insertions of different readings, “misspellings”, nomina sacra – which the apparatus in a critical text hides away. And it does all this while minimizing many of the inconveniences of reading directly from the manuscript! This book is a win-win scenario.
Whether you are wanting to venture out into reading uncial Greek script, preparing for study of manuscripts, engaging with an actual Ancient Greek testament as it would have been read and known by many in the early church, or just wanting to improve your Greek, this volume will help you do that.