The October 2022 issue of Journal of Theological Studies will contain an article I wrote on the dating of Codex Sinaiticus. It’s out now in pre-print format, and thanks to my institution–MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society–the article is available open access.
It’s basically axiomatic that Codex Sinaiticus is one of the “great fourth century majuscules.” But how exactly do we know the date it was produced? Tischendorf assigned the codex to the fourth century in his publication of the first leaves, but early opinions of the date varied. It is sometimes supposed that it was one of the books that Constantine ordered to be produced (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.36), perhaps around 330 CE. But others have dated the handwriting to a period some decades later, ca. 360 CE.
There are some fixed points for orientation. The Eusebian apparatus in Codex Sinaiticus is a bit irregular, as I have described in an earlier post, but it was almost certainly part of the original production of the codex, which means that the book must have been produced after the time that Eusebius developed the system (ca. 300 – 325 CE?). While the Eusebian apparatus gives us a rough terminus post quem, a small set of marginal notes may provide a terminus ante quem. Milne and Skeat believed these notes were copied by scribe D and, because of their occasional cursive characteristics, could be dated with some precision. They claimed the notes “certainly belong to the fourth century, and probably the first half of it” (Milne and Skeat, Scribes and Correctors, p. 62).
In this article, I point out that these so-called “cursive” notes are very minimal (a total of only five different letters) and not entirely “cursive.” And to the extent that one can use such a meager sample for the purposes of dating, datable parallels for these few “cursive” letters actually extend into the fifth century. So, if Milne and Skeat are correct that the notes are the work of scribe D, then the range of possible dates for the construction of the codex should be broadened: early fourth century to early fifth century. I also suggest that this particular range of possible dates (ca. 300 – 425 CE) makes the codex a good candidate for radiocarbon analysis. Read the paper to find out why (and it’s better to go to the pdf version; some unusual characters in a couple of the block quotes did not reproduce well in the web version).