codex sinaiticus, oldest bible online
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World’s Oldest Bible Goes Digital

October 08, 2008 06:59 AM
by Isabel Cowles
As of next July, the world’s oldest version of the Christian Bible will be completely available online.

Ancient Text Recreated Online

A 1,600-year-old text, believed to be the oldest existing version of the New Testament, will be entirely reproduced online by the British Library in July 2009.

The text, known as the Codex Sinaiticus, contains the full New Testament; part of the Old Testament; the Apocrypha, 14 disputed Old Testament books that are usually omitted from the Protestant Bible and 2 books left out of the New Testament.

The Codex creates challenges for modern Christian scholars, as it calls into question fundamental elements of the contemporary Bible. For example, the Codex does not mention the ascension of Jesus into heaven. It also omits references to the Resurrection, which have been deemed “essential for Christian belief” by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

According to New Testament scholar Professor Bart Ehrman, the Codex illustrates that our current Bible can no longer be perceived as the “inerrant word of God” since it illustrates the mistakes of “fallible scribes.” Ehrman explains, “When people ask me if the Bible is the word of God I answer ‘which Bible?’”

The Codex is being pieced together from fragments across the world. The text was first discovered by the German Bible scholar Constantine Tischendorf at the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai, Egypt. A portion of the book ended up in Russia; another forty-three pages are located at the University Library in Leipzig, Germany. In 1975, monks discovered 12 additional pages and 40 fragments hidden at the Monastery of Saint Catherine.

Offering the text online allows viewers to see the physically fragmented work as a whole: photographers took digital pictures of the book in Britain, Russia, Germany and Egypt to offer a unified, digital work. The project includes photos of the original text along with transcripts and translations. “It was a challenge, but it was ... also very exciting,” said Juan Garces, curator of the project. “It unites something that belongs together.”

Reference: Versions of the Bible: in full and summarized

Related Topic: First printed English version of the Bible


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