Everyone knows about the textual variant specific to the Alexandrian texts that say "only-begotten God" as opposed to the Byzantine, Caesarean and Western families all saying "only-begotten Son." But I'm also curious as to where most manuscripts move on to the next few words: "ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν (κόλπον)" This seems to be "εἰ- ἰ-" with "θων" written above it. Unless the iota/dash is intended to be a weird looking uppercase Gamma?

Hand-written manuscripts.... :(

http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=36&chapter=1&lid=en&side=r&verse=18&zoomSlider=0#36-1-28-7 John 1:18 Sinaiticus

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    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


Characterizing the numerous variants in a binary way as Alexandrian vs Byzantine, etc, oversimplifies the problem in John 1:18. According to UBS5 and NA28 we have the following variant readings in John 1:18 -

  • μονογενὴς Θεὸς
  • ὁ μονογενὴς Θεὸς
  • ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός
  • ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός Θεὸῦ
  • ὁ μονογενὴς

For a comprehensive list of which MSS support each reading, see UBS5 and NA28.

What we do know from the same references (using ultraviolet light) is that the original hand that created Sinaiticus wrote: μονογενὴς Θεὸς. The document has been modified at least twice by later hands.

I examined my personal copy of Sinaiticus and include the following image which may help. enter image description here

There are two overscribed words, both meaning "God", Θεὸν at the beginning of the verse and Θεὸς just before the superscripted letters in the OP's question. As best I can make out, the jumble of letters is intended to say, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν. The ὁ ὢν is fairly clear above the line. The next line clearly has κόλπον. The letters of the word before κόλπον are the unclear letters that should say εἰς τὸν which are possibly abbreviated (as was common practice).

Thus, the complete text appears to be: Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς Θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρὸς, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. The bolded text is that pertinent to this question. It is the εἰς τὸν that is most tricky to see.

From this it is apparent that the scribe left some letters out and added them above the line.

  • does it mean that the original Sinaiticus lacks ὁ ὢν in John 1:18 and a later scribe added it?
    – R. Brown
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 6:02
  • 1
    @RadzMatthewC.Brown - We do not know for sure. Your suggestion is possible; if so, the text might read, "No one has ever see God. The unique God in the bosom of the Father, that one has made him known." However, we also know that sometimes the scribe did this deliberately to save space; or perhaps the scribe forgot to write it and added the letters himself. We do not know for sure.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 7:58
  • @Dottard. "my own copy of Sinaiticus"?? Wow, those go for about $1000. That must have been the best birthday present ever.
    – Epimanes
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 18:10
  • @Epimanes - It was not a gift but a simple purchase some years ago for about $300 at the time - more now as you suggest.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 20:42

First, As Dottard mentioned, text types (alexandrian, Cæsarean, etc) have largely been abandoned due to the inability to actually prove that that a manuscript was actually from a given text type. For example, Dirk Jongkind states

"Gordon Fee studied the first nine chapters of the Gospel of John and found that Sinaiticus is a leading witness to the Western text in the first eight chapters." (Jongkind, scribal habits of Codex Sinaiticus, p. 25)

So, Sinaiticus, supposedly the an archtype for the so-called Alexandrian text type, here, for 8 chapters, is an archtype for the D-block text. So much for text types.

The only "family" that can actually be spoken of with a limited degree of data is the Majority family (with its various subfamilies.)

Second, it is a common feature of Sinaiticus that the scribe includes larger capital letters (here,ⲉⲓ) with smaller letters scrunched in between (so, here we have ⲈⲒⲥⲦⲟⲛ). For my own part, I wonder if this is due to the scribes' wider letters than the exemplar. That would explain the need to scrunch some letters in. This feature is specific to Sinaiticus. The other 'great' uncials keep the letters at the same height.

However, there are features that are common across all the uncials:

  • the nomina sacra. That is that macron (horizontal bar) across the top of ⲑⲥ (θεος).
  • the concluding marker (I don't know the name for it). It looks like a nomen sacrum, but it's at the end of a line, usually over a "nu" (ⲛ). It's included for the sake of saving space. So instead of ⲧⲟⲛ, we read ⲧⲟ︥).

The reading then, properly read is:




Third, when there are corrections, they are placed "supralinearly" (above the line of text). So, the corrector adds ⲟⲱⲛ, "who is..." (not ⲑⲱⲛ).

Finally, if you have any interest in these sorts of items, I suggest the following books:

You might have to choose between paying for your kids college tuition or buying these books. But, they, indeed are very valuable reads. As a stop-gap measure, interlibrary loan would be a good choice too.

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