Over a century after they were first on view to the public (in museum-founder Charles Lang Freer’s Detroit home), two rare antique biblical manuscripts — the Washington Codex and an ancient parchment of Deuteronomy and Joshua — have returned to public view at the Freer Gallery of Art in James McNeill Whistler’s blue-and-gold Peacock Room, for a limited time through February 16, 2014.
The Washington Codex (aka Codex Washingtonensis or Freer Gospels) is one of the oldest manuscripts of the four Gospels in the world, dating from the fourth to fifth centuries, and contains a passage not found in any other biblical text — a segment at the end of the Gospel of Mark known as the Freer logion.
The scriptures of Deuteronomy and Joshua are substantially complete texts from the Old Testament and date from the same period.
Painted wooden covers, serving both to protect the Gospels and decorate them with representations of the four Evangelists, will also be on view.
Due to their extreme fragility and sensitivity to light, the manuscripts are rarely exhibited, last appearing as highlights of the Sackler’s landmark exhibition in 2006, “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000.”
*Images courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art