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Codex Sinaiticus, P46, Two-ways, Public reading, Punctuation, Didache, Barnabas


Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest and most complete New Testament in Greek known to exist. Its two colophons at the end of 2 Esdras and Esther indicate a possible connection with Pamphilus’ famous library at Caesarea in Palestine. Origen was head of a school for catechumens during his days in Alexandria in Egypt and later began a similar school in Caesarea. Pamphilus was Origen’s star pupil and later directed his school in Caesarea. These colophons may connect Sinaiticus with an ancient tradition of early Christian worship and instruction of new converts, possibly exhibited in particular scribal features. These scribal features are primarily located at “two-ways” lists of “virtue and vice” in the New Testament, which were popular methods of instructing the essentials of the faith and are found throughout early Christian literature. These areas in the New Testament (and in the epistle of Barnabas) were emphasized through paragraph ‘lists’ by the scribes of Sinaiticus. These ‘lists’ were most likely recited by the ancient reader in a distinctive way for the audience. It is possible that the audience interacted with the reader as the text was recited.

This paper surveys the ancient practice of the public reading of scripture during Christian gatherings and the use of punctuation and lectional marking in manuscripts to aid readers in their task. A possible connection with earlier manuscripts is explored by a cursory examination of a similarity in formatting between Sinaiticus and P46, a second century copy of Paul’s epistles. When taken collectively, though sparse and fragmentary, the evidence suggests that Sinaiticus preserves an ancient practice of Christian instruction located in the unique paragraph ‘lists’ of the “two-ways” theme.