More hidden texts revealed from Codex Climaci Rescriptus
Codex Climaci Rescriptus
6th January 2023
A decade-long project at Tyndale House uncovering the hidden text of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus manuscript continues to bear fruit with the team's latest publication of discoveries in the Classical Quarterly Journal.
The new journal article reveals some of the text the team have deciphered, as well as suggestions of how the manuscript’s pages had been ordered. Along with the discovery of Hipparchus’ lost star catalogue which was published in a previous article for the Journal for History of Astronomy, the palimpsest has been found to contain the earliest manuscript remains (by over 700 years) of Greek polymath Eratosthenes, some of the earliest remains of Aratus’s hexameter poem the Phaenomena and significant early versions of Greek myths including Ariadne’s crown, and the lost Greek original of the tale of Hyas (brother of the Hyades).
The manuscript consists of 146 folios. 109 of these have Christian Palestinian Aramaic theological undertext, while another 27 have been found to have Greek Biblical undertext. Folio 55 seems to be blank. This latest publication focuses on the remaining nine folios, which have long been suspected to contain Greek undertext, and have only now been readable thanks to the development of multispectral imaging techniques. This is the first time some of the text from these folios has been published.
Peter J Williams, Principal of Tyndale House, has collaborated with Patrick James, Jamie Klair, Peter Malik and Sarah Zaman to write the article but the publication is a product of much wider reaching collaboration as highlighted with the 52 names credited in the footnotes. It was a group of summer interns at Tyndale House (some of whom were undergraduate students) who contributed hundreds of hours to the decipherment of the palimpsest. In particular, the first discovery of the astronomical texts was made by Jamie Klair, who was an undergraduate at the time. Peter J Williams described the scene, ‘Imagine 10 young people in one big room over several summers sociably deciphering, often noisily. Sometimes an intern would spend a whole day just to read a few letters—something few senior scholars would have had patience to do. But these scholars-in-the-making had an unrepeatable and fruitful experience, which was essential to cracking the erased writing of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus.’
These initial discoveries could be just the beginning for research into the Codex Climaci Rescriptus manuscript. Now that The Museum of the Bible have released high resolution images of the manuscripts under a Creative Commons license, Peter is hopeful this will broaden the number of people collaborating on the research. These images still have more to be revealed and it is possible that further astronomical text may be found in other palimpsests from Sinai.