Part of the Treasures of the Library Collection.
There are half-a-dozen ancient manuscripts which are the foundation of our understanding of the text of the New Testament writings. Among these stands the copy known since the sixteenth century as Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis. Any manuscript which has survived from antiquity is a marvel for this reason alone, and as we explore its pages, we have a rare opportunity to explore a little of the written culture of late antique Christianity. Although in the past century some remarkable papyrus manuscripts have been recovered from the sands of Egypt, their discovery has in general served more to highlight the significance of the parchment manuscripts than to diminish it.
Among this group, Codex Bezae occupies a unique place for several reasons. In the first place, as a bilingual manuscript, with a Greek text and a Latin version on facing pages, it provides a valuable insight into the reception of the Gospels and Acts in the western Christian tradition. The Latin version it contains is one of the small handful of manuscripts which are the most important witnesses to the development of a Latin version before Jerome's famous Vulgate of 382. Secondly, it provides a strikingly different form of text to that preserved in almost every other manuscript, and to the printed Greek text and the translations derived from it. These differences consist in the Gospels in frequent harmonisation of the text and in Acts in a free restyling of the text found best represented by Codex Vaticanus and reproduced in English translations.