A Very Important Arabic MS
- Remember back in 1975 when a bunch of MSS was discovered at St.
Catherine's Monastery? Just 33 years later, part of the text of one
of those MSS has been released: in the 2008 Novum Testamentum
(Volume 50), there's a partial collation of an important Arabic text
of the Gospel of Luke. Before you dismiss "important Arabic" as an
oxymoron when it comes to NT MSS, notice that this is probably the
earliest Arabic MS of the Gospels in existence (700's), and its text
is very interesting; by my preliminary analysis of the text of Luke,
I'd say it uniquely represents a distinct text-type.
Hikmat Kachouh, the author of the NovTest article, (full title
= "Sinai Ar. N. F. Parchment 8 and 28: Its Contribution to Textual
Criticism of the Gospel of Luke") designates the Arabic MS as "CSA"
"Codex Sinaiticus Arabicus." Besides containing an Arabic text of
the four Gospels, CSA includes a sermon by John Chrysostom and three
other compositions. Kachouh makes a convincing case that the Arabic
text contained in CSA was translated directly from Greek.
Kachouh's collation of CSA is made against the Byzantine Text
(Robinson-Pierpont). Kachouh helpfully provides the Arabic text and,
for easy comparison to Greek variants, the Greek text which the
Arabic text represents. Here, in English, are some of the most
interesting readings in CSA:
1:9 temple of God
1:28 does not include "blessed are you among women"
2:40 does not include "in spirit"
2:43 his parents
4:8 does not include "Get behind Me Satan"
4:27 does not include "in Israel"
4:41 does not include "the Christ"
6:10 in anger [Oh look; another "angry Jesus" reading, agreeing
6:20 poor in spirit, kingdom of heaven
6:42 does not include the second "Brother"
7:28a does not include "prophet" and does not include "the Baptist"
7:28b kingdom of heaven
8:9 does not include "saying"
8:44 does not include "the hem of"
8:48 does not include "Cheer up"
9:35 chosen one
9:57 does not include "Lord"
10:1 does not include "the Lord" [read "he"]
10:14 does not include "in the judgment"
10:21 in the Holy Spirit
10:35 does not include "when he went out"
10:42 a few
11:39 Jesus [instead of "the Lord"]
12:38 does not include "those servants"
13:12 does not include "Jesus" [read "he"]
14:2 does not include "a certain"
14:19-20 these verses are transposed
15:16 to be fed
16:19 named Nineveh
19:31 does not include "Why are you untying"
20:13 does not include "when they see"
20:23 does not include "Why do you test me"
20:30 does not include "took her as wife and died childless"
22:31 does not include "And the Lord said"
23:6 does not include "of Galilee"
23:23 does not include "and of the chief priests"
23:38 does not include "written in letters of Greek and Latin and
23:42 does not include "Lord"
24:2 from the door of the tomb
24:13 a hundred and sixty stadia
24:49 does not include "Jerusalem"
24:53 does not include "praising and"
Kachouh then offers a couple of charts comparing MS-to-MS alignment:
using the 230 variants in Luke as the basis for the calculations, CSA
aligns with Sinaiticus 46% of the time, and with Bezae 46% of the
time, with B 37% of the time, and with P-75 33% of the time. Kachouh
also compares CSA's text to Old Latin witnesses. None hit 70%
alignment, but OL-d reaches 60%.
(It must be emphasized that these alignments are selected exclusively
from variants where CSA's base-text diverges from the Byzantine Text;
CSA's alignment-level with A *at those points* is just 3%, but its
actual percentage of alignment with A is much, much higher. If one
were to select 230 variants where CSA disagrees with the Alexandrian
Text, CSA's alignment-percentage with B would necessarily be very
low; similarly if one were to select 230 variants where CSA disagrees
with the Western Text, CSA's alignment-percentage with D would
necessarily be low. So have no illusion that these statistics mean
that CSA agrees with A only 3% of the time! They mean that CSA
disagrees with A in 3% of 230 places where CSA disagrees with the
This is an important article about an important witness. CSA is
clearly more significant than, say, 1241, and deserves to be included
in all future apparatuses.
It might be interesting if someone were to compare CSA's text to the
Gospels-text in Arabic Codex 151, the Al Sirri MS of A.D. 867, which
is described at http://www.arabicbible.com/bible/codex151_article.htm
and which, God willing, will soon be published online in zoomable
images by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's International School of
For a little more information about that, go to
and click the "More" near the bottom of the page, and then after the
next page appears, click on the "More" that accompanies the "Holy
Books Portal" part. I'm pretty sure that the digital images of
Arabic Codex 151 that will be put online = photos taken by Hemeid
Sobhy. It was mentioned in an L.A. Times article a while ago; see
the article at
(If you're thirsty to see what the MS looks like, I think a page from
it is pictured in the book "Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from
Mount Sinai," which also includes a stellar set of photos from the
lectionary Codex Theodosianus. (The exhibit-site of "Holy Image,
Hallowed Ground" still exists at
http://getty.edu/art/exhibitions/icons_sinai/index.html but you might
need a superfast connection to view it.)
In other news: has anyone got any background about the Early
Manuscripts Electronic Library, described at
http://emelibrary.org/ProjectBlogs.htm ? The author (David Cooper?
Has to be the same David Cooper who was at St. Catherine's in 2004)
mentions unstudied Armenian palimpsests from the 400's and 500's, and
the development of experimental technologically advanced ways to read
the underwriting of palimpsests.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.