Freer Purchases Ancient Biblical Manuscripts

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  • While in Cairo, Egypt, Charles Lang Freer purchases ancient Greek Biblical manuscripts from antiquities dealer Ali Arabi. The manuscripts, later known as the Codex Washingtonensis, include partial or complete texts of Deuteronomy, Joshua, the Psalms, the Four Gospels, and the Epistles of Paul. Although their provenance before 1906 is unclear, the manuscripts may have come from the Monastery of the Vinedresser near Giza, Egypt.
  • The set of the Gospels, later known as the Washington Manuscript of the Gospels or the Freer Gospels, attract the most attention from Biblical scholars. The parchment manuscript dates to the late 4th century or early 5th century and is one of the oldest complete texts of the Gospels. The Freer Gospels are notable for their unusual arrangement (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark) and the inclusion of the so-called Freer logion, a statement by Jesus found in no other manuscript of the Gospels.


  • Freer, Charles Lang 1854-1919
  • Arabi, Ali
  • Freer Gallery of Art


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • In 1906 Charles Lang Freer donates his art collection to the Smithsonian Institution, and it later becomes the Freer Gallery of Art.
  • Lawton, Thomas and Linda Merrill. Freer: A Legacy of Art. Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993, p. 66-67.
  • "Washington Manuscript III - The Four Gospels (Codex Washingtonensis)." F1906.274. Object record. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


  • December 19, 1906
  • To 500


  • Art
  • Antiquities
  • Symbolism
  • Codicology
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Manuscripts
  • Christian art and symbolism
  • Christians
  • Art dealers



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