Early Biblical Manuscripts on view at Freer Gallery of Art

More than 100 years after they were first on view to the public in museum-founder Charles Lang Freer’s Detroit home, two rare antique biblical manuscripts will return to view at the Freer Gallery of Art Nov. 16. The Washington Codex—one of the oldest manuscripts of the four Gospels in the world—and an ancient parchment volume of Deuteronomy and Joshua will be on view through Feb. 16, 2014, in the unexpected setting of James McNeill Whistler’s blue-and-gold Peacock Room.

Washington Manuscript III - The Four Gospels (Codex Washingtonensis) Late 4th-early 5th century Ink on parchment H: 20.8 W: 14.3 cm Egypt Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1906.274

Washington Manuscript III – The Four Gospels (Codex Washingtonensis) Late 4th-early 5th century Ink on parchment H: 20.8 W: 14.3 cm Egypt Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1906.274


The Washington Codex, also known as the Codex Washingtonensis or Freer Gospels, is the third-oldest parchment manuscript of the gospels in the world, dating from the fourth to fifth centuries. The scriptures of Deuteronomy and Joshua are substantially complete texts from the Old Testament and date from the same period. Painted wooden covers, designed to protect the Gospels and decorated with representations of the four Evangelists, will also be on view.

Freer purchased the manuscripts in 1906 in Giza, Egypt, and later organized and underwrote significant early biblical scholarship. While researching their cultural context and physical structure, it was discovered that the Washington Codex 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 (a logion is a saying attributed to Jesus), which will be viewable during the exhibition.

For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or visit www.asia.si.edu.

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