The Vaticanus is also known as Codex B. (See The Terminology page for an understanding of how manuscripts are named.) The Vaticanus is also grouped more often than not, with the Sinaiticus. Both are often referred to as the "oldest manuscripts." Even though the age of the Vaticanus is deemed the "oldest" (which in truth it is not), the Vaticanus proves that the saying of "oldest is best" is most certainly incorrect!
The Vaticanus (B, or Codex B), was first made known in 1841 in the library of the Vatican. Hence its name Vaticanus. The Vaticanus is said to be of equal or slightly older age of the Sinaiticus. This is the reason why the Vaticanus is so very often coupled with the Sinaiticus, because the worldly "wisdom" says that oldest is best when speaking of ancient manuscripts. However, just as that was proven wrong by the study of the Sinaiticus, likewise that rule is shown to be wrong by the content of the Vaticanus as well.
The history of the Vaticanus, as to when it was scribed and by whom, is hardly known. However, because of the errors, it is sometimes assumed that the one who originally scribed the Sinaiticus, also scribed the Vaticanus. However, more likely is the fact that both the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus were copies of an earlier manuscript, which itself was very corrupt. This accounts for the few similarities between the two and their corruptions, though the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus both disagree even between the two of them, on numerous occasions!
Codex B (Vaticanus) was written on vellum in book form, in uncial writing (hence its name "Codex B"). Its appearance is fairly nice as is the Sinaiticus, as it seems fairly preserved, with 759 pages each 10" by 10.5". Like the Sinaiticus, it contains columns. Unlike the Sinaiticus, on each page it only has Three (3) columns with forty-one (41) lines each.
Yet, like the Sinaiticus, appearances can be deceiving. What truly proves the Vaticanus a highly unreliable manuscript for use in the Bible, is it's spurious readings, omissions, changes, and scribal mistakes. In the Gospels alone, Codex B omits more than 2,800 words, adds more than 530 words, substitutes more than 930 words, transposes nearly 2,100 words, and modifies more than 1,100 words! As well said by John W. Burgon,
The impurity of the text exhibited by these codices is not a question of opinion but fact . . . In the Gospels alone, Codex B (Vatican) leaves out words or whole clauses no less than 1,491 times. It bears traces of careless transcriptions on every page. Codex Sinaiticus abounds with errors of the eye and pen to an extent not indeed unparalleled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-rate importance. On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled; while that gross blunder whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament.1
One such rendering, when compared with the majority text, when compared with the manuscript witnesses that have proven themselves true, one will find that when coming upon Mark 6:22, "And when the daughter of Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod . . ." Codex B reads "And when his daughter Herodias came in and danced . . ." which changes the meaning, making Herodias the daughter's name!
Omitted from the Vaticanus also, includes Genesis 1:1 through 46:28, Psalm 106 through 138, many Pauline Epistles, and everything in Hebrews after Hebrew 9:14. There are many other omissions of course, and many other corruptions in the Vaticanus. However, such will suffice for now. When considering the Vaticanus, it must be remembered that the manuscript goes hand in hand with the Sinaiticus, though they are separated from the others by their corruptions, and even further separated in that the two manuscripts don't just disagree with the others, but disagree between themselves!
In the end, from the corruptions within the Vaticanus, we can disregard it as a reliable source, and stand in wonder as to why so many claim it a decent enough source to use for Modern Bible Versions, and various Bible readings!
DefinitionsSpurious--Not valid or authentic; hasty
Transpose--Change position in a sentence or context
Suffice--Be sufficient or enough