Washington Manuscript III – The Four Gospels (Codex Washingtonensis)

The Four Gospels, in one volume, bound in painted board covers (F1906.297-298). Small, sloping uncial writing in dark brown ink; one column; 30 lines to the page; 372 written pages on 187 leaves.

For a full description, see: Sanders, Henry A. “Washington Manuscript of the Gospels” University of Michigan Humanistic Series, Vol. IX, Part l.

… Read More

Historical period(s)
late 4th-early 5th century
Ink on parchment
H x W (overall): 20.8 x 14.3 cm (8 3/16 x 5 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Christianity, Egypt, New Testament

Possibly once in the possession of the Monastery of the Vinedresser, near Giza, Egypt [1]

To 1906
Ali Arabi, Giza, Egypt, to 1906 [2]

From 1906 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Ali Arabi in Giza, Egypt, on December 19, 1906 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 7, citation of Fr. Theodore Peterson, St. Paul's College, Catholic University, 1957, in the object record. See also, Curatorial Remark 6, undated folder sheet note, in the object record.

[2] See Original Miscellaneous List, Biblical Mss. Section, S.I. 1467, L. 3, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Ali Arabi (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1840-1932
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


The Four Gospels, in one volume, bound in painted board covers (F1906.297-298). Small, sloping uncial writing in dark brown ink; one column; 30 lines to the page; 372 written pages on 187 leaves.

For a full description, see: Sanders, Henry A. "Washington Manuscript of the Gospels" University of Michigan Humanistic Series, Vol. IX, Part l.


Variously known as Codex Washingtonensis or the Freer Gospels, this codex originally contained the complete text of the four canonical gospels in the Western order (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark). Its careful layout suggests it was for public, liturgical reading. But it was apparently compiled from a number of different and probably fragmentary sources, perhaps caused by the Great Persecution when Diocletian ordered the destruction of Christian books. At the end of Mark (after 16:14) is a statement attributed to Jesus that occurs in no other manuscript. Called the Freer logion, it reads, in part:

And Christ replied to them, "The term of years for Satan's power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death so that they may return to the truth and no longer sin, so that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven."

Published References
  • Burnett H. Streeter. The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, Treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, & Dates., 4th rev. ed. London. .
  • Henry Arthur Sanders. The New Testament Manuscripts in the Freer Collection. University of Michigan studies, Humanistic series; v. 9 2 vols., New York and London, 1912-1918. .
  • Frederic G. Kenyon. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts: Being a History of the Text and its Translations., 3rd ed. London and New York. .
  • H. C. Hoskier. Codex B and its Allies: A Study and an Indictment. 2 vols., London. .
  • William Henry P. Hatch. The Principal Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament. Chicago. pl. 21.
  • Caspar Rene Gregory. Das Freer Logion. Gregory, C.R. Versuche und entwurfe. 1 Leipzig. pls. 5, 7.
  • Facsimiles of Ancient Manuscripts: First Series. 2 vols., London, 1903 - 1912. vol. 1: pl. 201.
  • Seymour de Ricci, W. J. Wilson. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. 3 vols., New York, 1935-1940. cat. 3, vol. 1: pp. 465-6.
  • (Introduction) Henry Arthur Sanders. Facsimile of the Washington Manuscript of the Four Gospels in the Freer Collection. Ann Arbor, 1912. pp. 1-371.
  • The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove. Text-Critical Studies, no. 6 Atlanta, 2006. pp. 8, 43-4,163, 228-229, fig. 1-3.
  • Frederic G. Kenyon. Recent Development in the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible. London. pp. 26-8, 48, 57, 69.
  • Johan Carl Keyser Preus. Christmas Pages in our Libraries. vol. 18 Minneapolis. p. 46.
  • Henry Arthur Sanders. New Manuscripts of the Bible from Egypt. 2nd series, vol. 12, no. 1 Boston, January - March, 1908. pp. 49-55, pl. 4.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 50-51.
  • Frederic G. Kenyon. Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament., 2nd ed. London. p. 115.
  • Henry Arthur Sanders. Age and Ancient Home of the Biblical Manuscripts in the Freer Collection. 2nd series, vol. 13, no. 2 Boston, April - June 1909. pp. 130-141, pls. 2-3.
  • Wilhelm Schubart. Palaeographie: Erster teil, Griechische Palaeographie. Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, 1 Munich. p. 140, fig. 98.
  • Dr. Michelle Brown. In The Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000. Exh. cat. Washington, 2006. cat. 29, pp. 152-153, 269.
  • Frederic G. Kenyon, Arthur White Adams, Godfrey Rolles Driver. Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts: Revised and Enlarged Edition., 5th ed. London and New York. p. 164, pl. 27.
  • Burnett H. Streeter. The Washington MS of the Gospels. vol. 19, no. 2 Cambridge, April 1926. pp. 165-172.
  • Edgar J. Goodspeed. The Freer Gospels and Shenute of Atripe. vol. 33, no. 3 Chicago, March 1909. pp. 201-206.
  • Kenneth W. Clark. A Descriptive Catalogue of Greek New Testament Manuscripts in America. Chicago. pp. 201-205, pl. 39.
  • Kirsopp Lake, Robert P. Blake, Silva New. The Caesarean Text of the Gospel of Mark. vol. 21, no. 4 Cambridge, October 1928. pp. 207-404.
  • Christian E. Hauer, William A. Young. An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds., 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. p. 251.
  • Frederic G. Kenyon. The Bible and Archaeology. New York and London. pp. 257-258, pl. 41.
  • The Manuscripts of the Gospel in the Freer Collection. vol. 29 Ann Arbor, March 1913. pp. 279-283.
  • Susan Wise Bauer. The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. New York. p. 444, fig. 58.1.
  • New Biblical Manuscripts for America. vol. 65, September 10, 1908. pp. 596-601.
  • The New Gospels. vol. 74, May 22, 1913. pp. 1117-1118.
Collection Area(s)
Biblical Manuscripts
Web Resources
The Story of the Beautiful
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Related Objects