Textual Evidence

on Aleph/B (1886)

Exerpt & Review of: Edward Miller, A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the NT (1886)

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to Miller and Aleph/B
   History of Vaticanus - recent adventures
   Discovery of Sinaiticus - & dubious aspects

Exerpt: - Miller on Aleph/B: - probable date and origin

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Edward Miller, M.A., Rector of Bucknell, Oxon. (1825-1901) 19th century textual critic and understudy of John Burgon, dean of Chichester, and co-author of A Textual Commentary upon the Holy Gospels, Largely from the use of Materials, and Mainly on the Text, left by the Late John William Burgon, B. D., Dean of Chichester. Part I. St. Matthew; Division I. i.-xiv (London: George Bell & Sons, 1899).

(From: Maurice Robinson,
Crossing Boundaries in New Testament Textual Criticism:
Historical Revisionism and
the Case of Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener

"Edward Miller was an outstanding parish priest. Although a distinguished Biblical scholar, his 'heart to had always been in parish work'. He came to Bucknell from Butler's Marston (Warws.), and found his new parish comparatively backward in education and church matters, but not in general civilization. With some difficulty, he started a village library and readingroom; he catechized the children in church on one day a week, and visited the school every other morning. He alleviated poverty by letting out the glebe in ¼-acre allotments."

From: 'Parishes: Bucknell', A History of the County of Oxford: Vol. 6 (1959), pp. 71-80. - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/

Edward Miller's expert opinion on the date and origins of Vaticanus (Codex B) and Sinaiticus (Codex א) is important for two basic reasons:

(1) It shows that Skeat and Milne were not suggesting anything strange or even seriously contested, when they presented the evidence, and their view that both of these manuscripts were somehow involved in the production of the famous order for 50 Bibles placed by Emperor Constantine (c. 330 A.D.) to Bishop Eusebius in Caesarea.

(2) It establishes the fact that even in the 1880s, textual critics of all persuasions had a very good idea of the basic origin and date of these two manuscripts, however they valued the textual variants they contained.

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Background on Codex Vaticanus

Codex Vaticanus ("B", Vatican Greek Manuscript 1209) was not 'discovered'. Its existance was known to Roman Catholic scholars since the 15th century, and it was in possession of the Vatican Library since that time, except for a period when Napoleon confiscated it as booty and took it to Paris. It was returned shortly after that.

"Codex Vaticanus, as its name shows, is in the great Vatican Library at Rome, which has been its home since some date before 1481.

There is, therefore, no story to tell of the discovery of this MS.; the interest which attaches to its history is of a different kind, and relates to the long struggle that was necessary before its contents were made accessible to scholars.

For some reason which does not clearly appear, the authorities of the Vatican Library put continual obstacles in the way of all who wished to study it in detail.

A correspondent of Erasmus in 1533 sent that scholar a number of selected readings from it, as proof of its superiority to the received Greek text. In 1669 a collation (or statement of its various readings) was made by Bartolocci, but it was never published, and remained unknown until 1819. Other imperfect collations were made about 1720 and 1780.

Napoleon carried the manuscript off as a prize of victory to Paris, where it remained till 1815, when the many treasures of which he had despoiled the libraries of the Continent were returned to their respective owners.

While at Paris it was studied by Hug, and its great age and supreme importance were first fully made known; but after its return to Rome a period of seclusion set in.

In 1843 Tischendorf, after waiting for several months, was allowed to see it for six hours. Next year De Muralt was permitted to study it for nine hours. In 1845 the great English scholar Tregelles was allowed indeed to see it but not to copy a word. His pockets were searched before he might open it, and all writing materials were taken away. Two clerics stood beside him and snatched away the volume if he looked too long at any passage!

However, the Roman authorities now took the task in hand themselves, and in 1857 and 1859 editions by Cardinal Mai were published, which, however, differed so much from one another and were both so inaccurate as to be almost useless.

In 1866 Tischendorf once more applied for permission to edit the MS., but with difficulty obtained leave to examine it for the purpose of collating difficult passages. Unfortunately the great scholar so far forgot himself as to copy out twenty pages in full, contrary to the conditions under which he had been allowed access to the MS., and his permission was naturally withdrawn.

Renewed entreaty procured him six days' longer study, making in all fourteen days of three hours each; and by making the very most of his time Tischendorf was able in 1867 to publish the most perfect edition of the manuscript which had yet appeared.

An improved Roman edition appeared in 1868-81; but the final and decisive publication was reserved for the years 1889-90, when a complete photographic facsimile of the whole MS. made its contents once and for all the common property of all scholars.

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The Discovery of Codex Sinaiticus


"Codex Sinaiticus was found by Constantin von Tischendorf on his third visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, on Mount Sinai in Egypt, in 1859. The first two trips had yielded parts of the Old Testament, some found in a basket of manuscripts pieces, which Tischendorf was told by a librarian that "they were rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning it in the ovens of the monastery".[2] The emperor Alexander II of Russia sent him to search for manuscripts, which he was convinced were still to be found in the Sinai monastery. In May 1975 during restoration work, the monks of St. Catherine's monastery at Sinai discovered a room under the St. George chapel which contained many parchment fragments. Among these fragments, twelve missing leaves from the Sinaiticus Old Testament were found.

The story of how von Tischendorf found the manuscript, which contained most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament, has all the interest of a romance. Von Tischendorf reached the monastery on January 31; but his inquiries appeared to be fruitless. On February 4, he had resolved to return home without having gained his object.

On the afternoon of this day I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighbourhood, and as we returned, towards sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room, when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said: "And I, too, have read a Septuagint"--i.e. a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy. And so saying, he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume, wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and, in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas.

After some negotiations, he obtained possession of this precious fragment, and conveyed it to Emperor Alexander, who fully appreciated its importance, and caused it to be published as nearly as possible in facsimile, so as to exhibit correctly the ancient handwriting. However, the tsar sent 9000 roubles to the monastery as a compensation.

Regarding Tischendorf's role in the transfer to Leningrad, there are several views. Although when parts of Genesis and Book of Numbers were later found in the binding of other books, they were amicably sent to Tischendorf, the Codex is currently regarded by the monastery as having been stolen, a view hotly contested by several scholars in Europe. In a more neutral spirit, New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger writes: "Certain aspects of the negotiations leading to the transfer of the codex to the Czar's possession are open to an interpretation that reflects adversely on Tischendorf's candour and good faith with the monks at St. Catherine's. For a recent account intended to exculpate him of blame, see Erhard Lauch's article 'Nichts gegen Tischendorf' in Bekenntnis zur Kirche: Frestabe für Ernst Sommerlath zum 70. Geburtstag (Berlin, c. 1961); for an account that includes a hitherto unknown receipt given by Tischendorf to the authorities at the monastery promising to return the manuscript from St. Petersburg 'to the Holy Confraternity of Sinai at its earliest request'.[4]

For many decades, it was preserved in the Russian National Library. In 1933, the Soviet Union sold the Codex to the British Library for £100,000.

- Wikipedia, Codex Sinaiticus

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Miller on
Codex Vaticanus (B)
& Sinaiticus (א)

The following quotation will show readers that Skeat (1930-2000) wasn't alone or even original in his view that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) were part of the production run by Eusebius to fill the order of Emperor Constantine.

In order to properly assess the value of Codex Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (א), we need to know about what they are, and who made them. Just after the last Great Persecution of Christians by Diocletus (311 A.D.), Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and legalized it (313 A.D.).

Edward Miller has offered a good background description of what happened next:

Chapt. VI


"Constantine...gave the celebrated order to Eusebius, probably between 330-340 A.D., to send him 50 magnificent copies of the Holy Scriptures. They were to be written on the best vellum (calfskin) by skillful penmen,and in a form well fitted for [church] use. Orders were also issued to the provincial Governor to supply the working materials, and the work was to proceed with all possible speed. Two carriages were given to Eusebius for transport to Constantinople, and they were sent under charge of a deacon. 1

There are several reasons for supposing that B and (א) were among the 50 MSS. They are dated by experts to about the period of Constantine's letter. Tischendof and Scrivener believe the scribe of B wrote six consecutive pages in (א) . Both manuscripts are unrivalled for quality of vellum and calligraphy, as we would expect from MSS made to Imperial Order out of Imperial resources. They are also 'sister MSS' according to their significant agreement in variants. They abound in omissions and show carelessness typical of a 'rush job'. Even the corrector (the 'Diothotess') shows similar carelessness.

It is expressly stated in (א) that it was collated with an ancient MSS corrected by Pamphilus after Origen's Hexapla. And Caesaria was where the MSS of Origen and Pamphilus would be found.

There is then good cause for the opinion that these two MSS were executed by order of Constantine, and they show throughout the influence of Eusebius and Origen, whose work was housed at the library of Pamphilus in Caesarea, where they were most likely made."

(E. Miller, A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the NT, p 81-83)

Original Footnotes:

1. Eusebius sent them τρισσα και τετρασσα . (Vit. Const., IV.37). There are several interpretations possible here: (1)"in triple or quadruple sheets" - but in that case it would have been probably τριπλοα και τετραπλοα . (2) "written in 3 or 4 vertical columns"(so Canon Cook), which would exactly describe B and (א), only a preposition is missing to turn the adjectival into adverbial expression. (3) combined with πεντηκοντα σωματια εν διφθεραις εγκατασκευοις (c. 36), "..we sent abroad the collections [of writings] in richly adorned cases, three or four in a case" (So Archdeacon Palmer, quoted by Scrivener). After examining the letters, I am convinced that Palmer is right. (see Cook, Revised Version p.162-163, & Scrivener p.513 footnote).

In adding his agreement with Miller's conclusion, Skeat was not stepping in any direction away from the view that has been come to be accepted by textual critics and experts since 1900.

Although individual textual critics have expressed some doubt, or rather lack of confidence in being dogmatic about it, many textual critics see this as the most probable and plausible explanation of their origin.

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