Codex Climaci Rescriptus
How cutting-edge technology is unlocking an ancient text
Codex Climaci Rescriptus is a 292-page palimpsest, three of whose folios have been carbon dated to the fifth or sixth centuries.
Owned by Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, the codex contains a Syriac translation of writings by John Climacus, head of St Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai in the seventh century. The manuscript also contains an erased lower text, parts of which have been read for the first time in hundreds of years at Tyndale House by a team of 14 international scholars. The experts come from institutions as diverse as the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, the Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester (in New York), and the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative.
The erased text is being rediscovered using multispectral imaging, which captures information not visible to the naked eye. The technique works by photographing the manuscript with different combinations of light: using wavelengths from ultraviolet through infrared, including various colour filters, and illuminating each page from below. The diverse information captured in these multiple shots is then mathematically combined by image-processing specialists to provide greater clarity.
A large portion of the text that was found underneath the Syriac writing constitutes one of the world’s most significant records of a dialect of Aramaic close to the one that Jesus would have spoken. Most of this undertext consists of translations of portions of the Old and New Testaments. The superior imaging techniques are enabling Tyndale House researcher Dr Kim Phillips to recover, for the first time, several pericopes of these translations hitherto unattested in this dialect of Aramaic, and to continue to refine our grammatical knowledge of this dialect.
Marchant, J. (2022). First known map of night sky found hidden in Medieval parchment. Nature, doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-03296-1
Gysembergh, V., J. Williams, P., & Zingg, E. (2022). New evidence for Hipparchus’ Star Catalogue revealed by multispectral imaging. Journal for the History of Astronomy, 53(4), 383–393. doi.org/10.1177/00218286221128289
J. Williams, P., James, P., Klair, J., Malik, P., & Zaman, S. (2022). Newly discovered illustrated texts of Aratus and Eratosthenes within Codex Climaci Rescriptus. The Classical Quarterly, 1-28. doi:10.1017/S0009838822000726
Malik, P. (2022). Joshua Fragment from Codex Climaci Rescriptus: A New Edition Based on the Multispectral Images, Vetus Testamentum (published online ahead of print 2022). doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685330-bja10116
Malik, P. (2023). Psalms 135.13–136.7, 140.10–142.1 in Codex Climaci Rescriptus: A New Edition of the Greek Text Based on Multispectral Images. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 135(1), 16-40. https://doi.org/10.1515/zaw-2023-1002
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