Oxford Handbook on Revelation - Sinaiticus "secondary witness", "inferiority"

Steven Avery

The Oxford Handbook of the Book of Revelation



Steven Avery

Oxford Handbook

Constantin von Tischendorf:

The Recovery of Key Manuscripts for the Text of Revelation

The arrival of Constantin von Tischendorf inaugurated major advances in the study of the Greek NT. The
recovery of additional manuscripts, the publication of new and accurate transcriptions, and the
construction of multiple critical editions of the Greek NT broke new ground and laid a foundation for
research that would transcend his career. Of Tischendorf’s editions, the Editio Critica Octava is the most
consequential due to the wealth of its apparatus (Tischendorf, 1869-1872). As for Revelation, the
manuscripts Tischendorf recovered, transcribed, edited, and published would go further to illuminate the
book’s textual history than the various installments of his reconstructed text.

The primary manuscripts used by Tischendorf for the reconstruction of the text of Revelation are the
codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, and Sinaiticus. Tischendorf was the first to decipher Codex
Ephraemi (1843), as well to recover Codex Sinaiticus (1863). Together with Codex Alexandrinus, Codex
Ephraemi would represent one of the two best witnesses for the text of Revelation. Tischendorf, however,
deferred to Codex Sinaiticus for a number of unique (and suspect) readings for Revelation. Sinaiticus
certainly preserved an “old text” but, as textual critics would later recognize, it was a secondary witness

relative to Alexandrinus and Ephraemi for the book of Revelation. Tischendorf’s selection of “special”
readings would be ignored (Schmid, 2018).

Tischendorf’s recovery of two late majuscules, however, would contribute to the reconstruction of the
textual history of Revelation in unprecedented ways. The two—the palimpsest Codex Porphyrianus (P
025) and Greek Codex Vaticanus 2066 (Q 046)—are late and dubious witnesses to an early text.
would nonetheless serve to illuminate the later stages of the textual tradition and, for a time, rank as
authoritative witnesses of the Andreas (Αν) and Koine (K) traditions respectively. Bernhard Weiss and
Wilhelm Bousset would make advances in that particular direction. Tischendorf, however, was
responsible for the recovery and initial critical editing of the two manuscripts.

Westcott and Hort:

The Original Text of Revelation
Any reluctance over claims of having reconstructed the original was abandoned with Westcott and Hort.
The title of their edition, The New Testament in the Original Greek, leaves no doubt about their view of
the text (Westcott and Hort, 1881). Hort, like Tischendorf, considered the joint witness of Alexandrinus
and Ephraemi authoritative for the reconstruction of the Greek text of Revelation. The two witnesses
represented the Neutral text for Hort—a pure textual stream that flows directly from the original.
Alexandrinus and Ephraemi were thus on a par with the codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (B 03) for the
rest of the NT. Hort abandons Tischendorf, however, in underscoring the relative “inferiority” of Codex
Sinaiticus for Revelation
and rejects his preferred readings. Hort’s remaining textual categories—the
Alexandrian, Western, and Syrian texts—proved less useful for the text of Revelation.