Great uncial codices
The great uncial codices or four great uncials are the only remaining uncial codices
A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...

 that contain (or originally contained) the entire text of the Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....


Only four great codices have survived to the present day: Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible. It is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in the 4th century in uncial letters on parchment. Current scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of...

, Codex Vaticanus
Codex Vaticanus
The Codex Vaticanus , is one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible , one of the four great uncial codices. The Codex is named for the residence in the Vatican Library, where it has been stored since at least the 15th century...

, Codex Alexandrinus
Codex Alexandrinus
The Codex Alexandrinus is a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible,The Greek Bible in this context refers to the Bible used by Greek-speaking Christians who lived in Egypt and elsewhere during the early history of Christianity...

, and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus is an early 5th century Greek manuscript of the Bible, the last in the group of the four great uncial manuscripts...

. Though they were discovered at different times and places, they share many similarities. They are written in a certain uncial style of calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

 using only capital letters, written in scriptio continua
Scriptio continua
Scriptio continua is a style of writing without spaces or other marks between words or sentences....

(meaning without regular gaps between words). Though not entirely absent, there are very few divisions between words in these manuscripts. Words do not necessarily end on the same line on which they start. All these manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s were made at great expense of material and labour, written on vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

 by professional scribe
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing...

s. They seem to have been based on the most accurate texts in their time.

All great uncials were written on fine vellum, the leaves are arranged in quarto
Quarto could refer to:* Quarto, a size or format of a book in which four leaves of a book are created from a standard size sheet of paper* For specific information about quarto texts of William Shakespeare's works, see:...

 from. The size of the leaves is much bigger than in papyri codices:
Sinaiticus – 38 x 34 cm
Vaticanus – 27 x 27 cm
Alexandrinus – 32 x 26 cm
Ephraemi – 33 x 27 cm

Codex Vaticanus uses the most ancient system of text's division in the Gospels. Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi have the Ammonian Sections
Ammonian Sections
Eusebian canons or Eusebian sections, also known as Ammonian Sections, are the system of dividing the four Gospels used between late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The divisions into chapters and verses used in modern texts date only from the 13th and 16th centuries, respectively...

 with references to the Eusebian Canons. Codex Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Rescriptus use also a division according to the larger sections – κεφάλαια (chapters). Alexandrinus is the earliest manuscript which uses κεφάλαια. Vaticanus has a more archaic style of writing than the other manuscripts. There is no ornamentation or any larger initial letters in Vaticanus and Siniaticus, but there is in Alexandrinus. Vaticanus has no introduction to the Book of Psalms, which became a standard after 325 AD, whereas Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus do. They have different order of books.

In the 19th century, the Codex Bezae
Codex Bezae
The Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis, designated by siglum Dea or 05 , δ 5 , is a codex of the New Testament dating from the 5th century written in an uncial hand on vellum. It contains, in both Greek and Latin, most of the four Gospels and Acts, with a small fragment of the 3 John...

 was also included to the group of the great uncials (F. H. A. Scrivener, Burgon). According to Dean Burgon, the five great uncials (א A B C D) were the by-products of innovation but this flies in the face of the evidence.

Alexandrinus was the first of the greater manuscripts to be made accessible to scholars. Ephraemi Rescriptus, a palimpsest, was deciphered by Tischendorf in 1840-1841 and published by him in 1843-1845. Codex Ephraemi has been the neglected member of the family of great uncials.

Sinaiticus was discovered by Tischendorf
Constantin von Tischendorf
Lobegott Friedrich Constantin Tischendorf was a noted German Biblical scholar. He deciphered the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, a 5th century Greek manuscript of the New Testament, in the 1840s, and rediscovered the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century New Testament manuscript, in 1859.Tischendorf...

 in 1844 during his visit at Sinai
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

. The text of the codex was published in 1862. Vaticanus has been housed at the Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

 at least since the 15th century, but it became widely available after a photographic facsimile of the entire manuscript was made and published by Giuseppe Cozza-Luzi
Giuseppe Cozza-Luzi
Giuseppe Cozza-Luzi was an Italian savant, Abbot of the Basilian monastery of Grottaferrata near Rome.-Biography:...

 in 1889–1890 (in three volumes).

It has been speculated that Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus were part of a project ordered by Emperor Constantine the Great to produce 50 copies of the Bible
Fifty Bibles of Constantine
The Fifty Bibles of Constantine were fifty Bibles commissioned in 331 by Constantine I and prepared by Eusebius of Caesarea. They were made for the use of the Bishop of Constantinople in the growing number of orthodox churches. It was described by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine and his account...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.