I’m glad to announce a little, yet exciting (re)discovery: a forgotten uncial fragment of John’s Gospel in one of the most famous manuscripts in the field of New Testament textual criticism, the Syrus Sinaiticus. The presence of some palimpsest leaves with a Greek Gospel text in this manuscript (Sinaiticus gr. 30, fol. 142, 144, 147 and 149) has been known to the scientific community for more than 100 years, but it always remained in the shadow of the Old Syriac text and apparently no one realized that it had gone unregistered in the GA list of New Testament manuscripts.
The story of the discovery of the Syrus Sinaiticus in S. Catherine at Mount Sinai by Agnes Smith Lewis in 1892 is well-known (see the recent book of J. Soskice, Sisters of Sinai. How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels, London, 2009). The text was partly deciphered by Burkitt and Mrs Gibson in 1893 during a stay at S. Catherine whose primary scope was to transcribe the Old Syriac Gospels. Three columns, containing John 7:6-15 and 9:17-23, were published some years later as an appendix to Agnes Smith Lewis’ edition of the upper text of the palimpsest, which is a hagiographical collection (Select Narratives of Holy Women from the Syro-Antiochene or Sinai Palimpsest as Written Above the Old Syriac Gospels by John the Stylite, of Beth-Mari-Qanūn in A.D. 778. Syriac Text [Studia Sinaitica 9], London, 1900, App. VI) – probably not the most suitable place.
The hagiographical collection was copied in 779 CE on parchment taken form several older manuscripts. So far, I only had access to Hjelt’s facsimile edition (Syrus Sinaiticus, Helsingfors, 1930), which allows to make out only a very few letters (on the issue of reproductions of the manuscript, see my post of dec. 12, 2013). According to Burkitt and to Hjelt, who both saw the original manuscript, the Greek Gospel fragment dates for the 4th or 5th century, which seems not unlikely. Thus, this little palimpsest fragment would be broadly contemporary with the great uncial codices of the Greek Bible.
Professor U. Schmid (Münster) kindly confirmed to me that this fragment had really been overlooked – which sounded quite unbelievable to me. At the very beginning of this year, he informed me that the “new” Sinai fragment was given the number 0323 by the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung. I shall give more details in an article that is currently under submission.