Codex Beratinus {Φ}

*While recently researching the discovery of early NT Greek manuscripts (MSS), I happened across information that I found particularly interesting.  In 2007 renowned grammarian and text-critic Dr. Daniel Wallace and his team traveled to Albania to digitize approximately 13 early MSS that were housed in the national library.  Albania had been largely shut-off from the Western word until the demise of communism in March of 1992.  

*Upon arrival and subsequent investigation, Wallace and his team found a total of 45 Greek NT MSS—the second largest cache of NT MSS in the last half-century!  The most important manuscript discovered was Codex Beratinus – designated as 043 {Φ} in the Gregory-Aland numbering system – and dates back to the 6th century.  This particular codex enjoys both a long and rich history.  

*During World War II, Hitler had learned of this particular manuscript and ordered his soldiers to destroy the parchment—even if they had to kill the monks and priests who cared for it since it was housed at the Monastery of Berat.  It is now a well-known fact that Hitler’s soldiers lined up the monks and priests and inquired as to the manuscript’s whereabouts – with guns pointed at their heads.  To a man, they all deflected the soldier’s queries, risking their very lives over this important document.  

*Personally, I find it intriguing that these men would rather meet death than betray this ancient prize (though I certainly do not approve of their dishonest tactics)—especially when they already possessed printed Bibles.  In the end, the soldiers believed the monks and the parchment survived.  It had actually been well-hidden under a pile of stones in the monastery.  Today, Codex Beratinus is the number one national treasure of Albania and is housed at the National Archives of Albania.  In fact, Austria attempted to purchase the codex some years ago—and all offers were met with rejection from the Republic of Albania.

*Two things about this codex quickly attracted the attention of Wallace and his team:  (i) the manuscript was written in an uncial (all capital lettering) hand which alerted them that this was an early parchment.  (ii) the codex was dyed purple (i.e., a Royal Codex) with mostly silver writing which told them that the manuscript contained portions of the gospels—since in antiquity scribes universally used purple dye to signify that the gospels were being transmitted.

*However, (and this is what really got my attention) there were four words that were exclusively written in gold—“God,” “Lord,” “Jesus” and “Christ”—indicating that the earliest scribes saw our great God and savior, the Lord Jesus Christ as the one divinity in the biblical data.  That is, the form of this royal codex demonstrates that the early church clearly saw Jesus Christ as the one God of the Bible.

*For more on Wallace’s trip to Albania see here: http://www.csntm.org/Expedition/Albania2007

*You can view the actual parchment here:   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Page_from_the_Codex_Purpureus_Beratinus.JPG      

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