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usually designated by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet
This is one of the most valuable of ancient manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.
On the occasion of a third visit to the convent of St. Catherine, on Mount Sinai, in 1859, it was discovered by Dr. Tischendorf. He had on a previous visit in 1844 obtained forty-three parchment leaves of the LXX. [Septuagint], which he deposited in the university library of Leipsic, under the title of the Codex Frederico-Augustanus, after his royal patron the king of Saxony. In the year referred to (1859) the emperor of Russia sent him to prosecute his search for manuscripts, which he was convinced were still to be found in the Sinai convent.
The story of his finding the manuscript of the New Testament has all the interest of a romance. He reached the convent on 31st January; but his inquiries appeared to be fruitless. On the 4th February he had resolved to return home without having gained his object.
This precious fragment, after some negotiations, he obtained possession of, and conveyed it to the 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.
The entire codex consists of 346-1/2 folios. Of these 199 belong to the Old Testament and 147-1/2 to the New, along with two ancient documents called the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
It is shown by Tischendorf that this codex was written in the fourth century, and is thus of about the same age as the Vatican codex; but while the latter wants the greater part of Matthew and sundry leaves here and there besides, the Sinaiticus is the only copy of the New Testament in uncial characters which is complete. Thus, it is the oldest extant manuscript copy of the New Testament.
Both the Vatican and the Sinai codices were probably written in Egypt.