Fun at the British Library

Today I visited the “Treasures of the British Library” exhibition in London. A bit geeky, but it was really good. Some of the British Library’s most famous and historic documents are on display – from sacred texts to a profanity-laden draft of one of Harold Pinter’s plays.
Some of the manuscripts I was most interested in seeing were the Biblical texts. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus were both on display. It was worth getting to see them to understand some of the points in NT textual criticism about the “corrections” to Sinaiticus and other manuscripts. These were written in the margins and clearly distinguishable… an important thing to grasp as I hadn’t really understood how scholars knew which were the “corrections”. Most of these on the pages shown seemed to be spelling variations! Reading the text was quite hard as there are no spaces between words, and capital letters are used (with a lunate sigma resembling C used rather than Σ). Sinaiticus is exciting to see in particular because of its value in witnessing to the integrity of the Greek New Testament text (and also as one of the most important Septuagintal witnesses) and anyone who claims that the text of the Bible has been corrupted by the church would do well to go along to the BL with a modern edition of the Greek New Textament and do a comparison. Or just view it online.
Other exciting Bibles were the Lindisfarne gospels, which are beautifully illustrated and still look vivid after hundres of years, and the Gutenberg Bible (though, rather disappointingly, the page on display was from the preface!).
In a separate display were three misprinted Bibles, including the famous “Wicked Bible” which omits a crucial “not” from Exodus 20:14 (leaving “Thou shalt (or, ſhalt) commit adultery”), one which misprints Matthew 5:9a as “Blessed are the place-makers”, and one which prints 1Corinthians 6:9 as “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?…”. There’s a post from a while back on The Merrie Theologiane about these, and other, misprints, called “Bibles worth burning”. A cautionary example of the need for careful proof-reading!

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