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Highly-recommended introduction to Codex Sinaiticus
on 23 February 2013
Dr Parker describes this as "a less specialist book" (p. 182) with two target audiences:
1) "it gives a researcher a broad description which will suggest areas where further work is awaited";
2) "it shares scholarship with a wide audience"
This is a justified description of what the book is.
A knowledge of Greek is not required to understand this book, although knowing some Greek may enhance the reader's appreciation of some points.
Access to a copy of the facsimile edition of Codex Sinaiticus is not essential to understand this book, although having such access will enable the reader to see in greater detail some of the features that are described in the book.
In the absence of such access, two particular sources of information will be invaluable to the reader of this book:
1) the significant number of expertly-produced full-colour images of details from Codex Sinaiticus, reproduced in this book on high-quality glossy paper - the best Greek manuscript images that I have seen after having consulted a number of books;
2) the availability of the codexsinaiticus dot org website, where one can view any page of the Codex manuscript and find much other helpful information.
Indubitably one person was key in the preservation for future generations of the manuscript known as Codex Sinaiticus: the nineteenth-century German academic Constantin Tischendorf, and his role is described in this book.
The book covers the history of the Codex Sinaiticus from the time of its production until the 21st century and while the information provided is invaluable, in the opinion of the present reviewer the one flaw is the way that it judges Constantin Tischendorf harshly by the politically-correct standards of the 21st century and makes light of the indisputable evidence that in the hands of the monks of St Catherine's Monastery in the 19th century (and earlier), the Codex Sinaiticus was being deliberately, progressively and aggressively destroyed. Perhaps this stance by Dr Parker was imposed on him in consequence of the fact that the production of this account was one of the objectives of the partnership agreement that was signed in 2005 between the four institutions that today have parts of the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript, of which St Catherine's Monastery is one. (Other objectives included the production of the website, and the publication of the printed facsimile of the Codex).
This book is jointly published by the British Library and Hendrickson Publishers, who also jointly published the facsimile edition of the Codex, and it should in the opinion of the present reviewer be considered an essential purchase for any English-speaking reader who buys the Codex.
If you only buy one book on the Codex Sinaiticus, this is the one to buy. Essential reading on the subject.