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Chapter XXXVI.—Constantine’s Letter to Eusebius on the Preparation of Copies of the Holy Scriptures.

Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to Eusebius.

“It happens, through the favoring providence of God our Saviour, that great numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite, since that city is rapidly advancing in prosperity in all other respects, that the number of churches should also be increased. Do you, therefore, receive with all readiness my determination on this behalf. I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art.33333333    Molz.in a note regards these as lectionaries, but they are usually thought to have been regular copies of the Scriptures in Greek—Septuagint and N.T., and the Codex Sinaiticus has been thought to be one of them. It dates from not earlier than the time of Eusebius, as it contains the Eusebian Canons, but yet from the fourth century. Altogether it is not impossible that it was one of these, and at all events a description of it, extracted from Scriveners (Introduction, 1883, p. 88 sq.), will be a fair illustration. “13½ inches in length by 14-7/8 inches high.” “Beautiful vellum.” “Each page comprises four columns, with 48 lines in each column.” “Continuous noble uncials.” “Arranged in quires of four or three sheets.” It is evident from comparison of several quotations of Eusebius that the copy of the New Testament which he himself used was not closely related with the Sinaitic text, unless the various readings headed by this ms. are all mistakes originating with it. Compare allusions in the notes to such different readings. The last clause, although in the text of Heinichen, is of doubtful authority. The catholicus33343334    This word is a transcription, rendered “Procurator” by Bag., and is perhaps corresponding to that official (cf. Long. article Fiscus, in Smith, Dict. Gr. and R. Ant.). But this transcription is recognized (cf. Ffoulkes, Catholicus, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict.). of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as possible.33353335    The fact that the Sinaiticus exhibits two or three hands suggests that it was prepared with rapidity, and the having various scribes was a way to speed. You have authority also, in virtue of this letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance, by which arrangement the copies when fairly written will most easily be forwarded for my personal inspection; and one of the deacons of your church may be intrusted with this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience my liberality. God preserve you, beloved brother!”

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