New Testament and Psalter Manuscripts

Felix Albrecht
January 24, 2023

Manuscripts comprising Greek Psalter and New Testament divided into several volumes are well known. These are the three late antique pandects (gr. πανδέκτης), namely Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and SinaiticusFor almost half a millennium, full Bibles went then out of fashion. It was not until the beginning of the tenth century that a Bible manuscript was produced again that combined the Old and New Testaments, namely the so-called Leo Bible (Ra 55).[1] This richly illustrated copy of the Bible, which offers the biblical text in two columns, written in minuscule script, originally consisted of two volumes, with only the first volume surviving, which covers Genesis 1 to Ode 14. The second volume, which comprised the remaining books of the Old Testament and the New Testament, is unfortunately lost. Our next example appears more than three hundred years later, at the end of the thirteenth century, the so-called Bible of Vienna (Ra 130). Like so many Viennese manuscripts, it was brought to Vienna from Constantinople via Venice by Augerius of Busbeck (1522–1592), who was the Habsburg monarchy’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1554–1562.[2] This Bible of Vienna is quite exceptional. Only a century later there is evidence of another full Bible. It is a complete Bible on paper in quarto format from the fourteenth century in three volumes. It was donated to the Carmelite monastery of S. Paolo in Ferrara in 1438 by Cardinal Bessarion (1403–1472) and is known as the Ferrara Bible (Ra 106). As Martin Karrer has recently shown, it is connected with the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438/39).[3] Two other pandects were also in the possession of the famous Cardinal: Ra 68 and Ra 122, both made in the fifteenth century. All in all, the list of full Bibles containing the Greek Psalter is rather short:

List of Pandects including the Psalter

Ra B GA B s. IV “Codex Vaticanus”  
Ra S GA א s. IV “Codex Sinaiticus”
Ra A GA A s. V “Codex Alexandrinus”  
Ra 55 s. X in. “Leo Bible”
Ra 130  GA 218 s. XIII ex. “Bible of Vienna”
Ra 106  GA 582 s. XIV “Bible of Ferrara”
Ra 68  GA 205 s. XV  
Ra 122  GA 2886 s. XV  

For the sake of completeness, we should also mention Ra 1097, a Psalter (Psalmi cum Odis, s. XII), to which belong the Gospel remains found in Cod. Paris. suppl. gr. 1355, ff. 1–6 [GA 2391].[4]

Also, the combination of Greek Psalter and New Testament in one volume is not a very common phenomenon, given the large number of Psalter manuscripts.[5] Nevertheless, over a dozen Middle Byzantine minuscule manuscripts are known, most of which have miniatures and feature this combination.[6] In the earliest examples from the eleventh century, the New Testament follows the Psalter (Ra 1031, dated to 1084, Ra 1226, and Ra 1429). As a rule, however, the Psalter (Psalmi cum Odis) follows the New Testament or parts of it in these manuscripts.[7] Such codices are mainly from the twelfth century. Seven of them, all from the (late) twelfth century, are written in the so-called ‘epsilon style’, which is usually associated with Cyprus or Palestine (Ra 283; Ra 1011; Ra 1025; Ra 1063; Ra 1087; Ra 1546; Ra 1716).[8] These codices can be divided into two groups according to their size: On the one hand, there is a smaller format to which Ra 283 and Ra 1087 (ca. 19 × 13 cm) as well as Ra 1025 and Ra 1546 (both cropped by 1–2 cm) belong. On the other hand, there is a larger format to which Ra 1011 and Ra 1063 (ca. 21 × 16 cm) as well as Ra 1716 (22 × 17 cm) can be assigned.

List of Psalter MSS with New Testament

Ra 69  GA 57 s. XII/1 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 283 GA 365 s. XII/2 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1011 GA 1718 s. XII/2 NT (partly) + Ps.Od.
Ra 1024 GA 1448 s. XII + s. XI NT + Ps.Od., bound together
Ra 1025 GA 1505 s. XII/2 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1031 GA 1521 a. 1084 Ps.Od. + NT
Ra 1063 GA 1359 s. XII NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1087 GA 491 s. XII NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1106 GA 252 s. XIII ex. – XIV in. NT (partly) + Ps.Od.
Ra 1109 GA 242 s. XII/1 [vel XIV?][9] NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1226  GA 142 s. XI Ps.Od. + NT
Ra 1429 GA 2191 s. XI Ps.Od. + NT
Ra 1546  GA 826 s. XII/2 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1560 GA 1149 s. XII Ps.Od. + NT
Ra 1716 GA 2127 s. XII/2 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1732 GA 18 a. 1363/4 NT + Ps.Od.
Ra 1917 GA 2502 a. 1242 Ps.Od. + NT


[1] According to Detlef Fraenkel, Codex Venetus (Ra V, s. IX) also contained originally not only the Psalter, but also the New Testament. See D. Fraenkel, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments von Alfred Rahlfs. Bd. I,1 Die Überlieferung bis zum VIII. Jahrhundert (Septuaginta. Vetus Testamentum Graecum auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum. Supplementum I/1), Göttingen 22020 p. 346: "Die wahrscheinlichste Annahme ist, dass der Kodex ursprünglich den Psalter enthielt […]"; cf. also P. Andrist: Au croisement des contenus et de la matière: l'architecture des sept pandectes bibliques grecques du premier millénaire. Étude comparative sur les structures des contenus et de la matérialité des codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi rescriptus, Basilianus, «Pariathonensis» et de la Biblia Leonis, in: Scrineum Rivista 17/2 (2020), 3–106., here: pp. 47, 55. Andrist, ibid. p. 62, also assumes that the so-called Codex Pariathonensis (Ra 198 [GA 33], s. X in.) was a pandect containing the Psalter. But this is pure speculation.

[2] Cf. F. Albrecht (ed.): Psalmi Salomonis (Septuaginta. Vetus Testamentum Graecum auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum XII/3), Göttingen 2018, p. 23 n. 3.

[3] M. Karrer: Septuagint and New Testament in Papyri and Pandects. Texts, Intertextuality and Criteria of Edition, in: Pessoa da Silva Pinto, L./Scialabba, D. (ed.): New Avenues in Biblical Exegesis in Light of the Septuagint (The Septuagint in its Ancient Context 1), Turnhout 2022, 199–278, here: p. 246 ff.

[4] Cf. G. Parpulov: Six Scribes of the Early Comnenian Period, in: Estudios bizantinos 5 (2017), 91–107, here: p. 105 n. 49.

[5] Pace R. Ceulemans/B. Crostini (ed.): Receptions of the Bible in Byzantium. Texts, Manuscripts, and their Readers (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia 20), Uppsala 2021, p. 6: “the frequent combination of the Psalms and (parts of) the New Testament”.

[6] In some cases the miniatures were added later (Ra 1109; Ra 1226; Ra 1917).

[7] Ra 69; Ra 283; Ra 1011; Ra 1025; Ra 1063; Ra 1087; Ra 1106; Ra 1546; Ra 1716; Ra 1732. There is, of course, also the case with Ra 1024, where this combination resulted from the joining of two originally separate individual manuscripts, in which a Psalter manuscript of the eleventh century was bound to a New Testament manuscript of the twelfth century. Another example is Ra 1913. Finally, there is an exception, namely Ra 1917 (a. 1242), a manuscript which is written in two columns, and in which the New Testament follows the Psalter as it is the case in the early examples from the eleventh century.

[8] The epsilon style has been described by Paul Canart: Les écritures livresques chypriotes du milieu du XIe siècle au milieu du XIIIe et le style palestino-chypriote ‘epsilon’, SC 5 (1981), 17–76; reprinted in: id. (ed.): Études de paléographie et de codicologie. Reproduites avec la collaboration de M. L. Agati et M. d’Agostino vol. 1 (StT 450), Città del Vaticano 2008, 677–747.

[9] Fonkič, p. 30, dates not only the miniatures but also the manuscript to the fourteenth century - Parpulov, on the other hand, dates it to the twelfth century in his description.