Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Codex Sinaiticus, the world's oldest Bible, goes online

Almost 1700 years after scribes in the Holy Land first created it from vellum, one of the world’s oldest Bibles this week makes its debut on the internet.

The Codex Sinaiticus is a complete transcription of Christian scriptures in Greek, written by scribes around 350AD. Together with another work, the Codex Vaticanus, it is considered the oldest known Bible in the world.

From Thursday, high definition images of the Codex will be available online to all as the first part of a project led by the British Library comes to fruition.

According to the library, the Codex is “a treasure beyond price”.

“Within its beautifully handwritten Greek text are the earliest surviving copy of the complete New Testament, and the earliest and best copies of some of the Jewish scriptures.”

More than 100 pages of the Bible will go online on Thursday, including 67 from the British Library and dozens from the University of Leipzig.

Within the next year pages will be added to the Codex website as digitisers scan more of its intricately inscribed vellum sheets.

Since it was discovered in Egypt more than 150 years ago by a German scripture expert, pages from the Codex have found their way to London, St Petersburg and Leipzig.

The remainder is still held by St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, Egypt, where scholar Constantine Tischendorf unearthed it in 1844.

Tischendorf returned with parts of the Codex to Leipzig and then presented Russia’s Tsar Nicolas II with much of it in 1869.

Half a century later Josef Stalin, the Russian dictator, sold 694 pages to the British Library. The entire Codex comprises 1460 pages.

In 2005, a £650,000 digitisation project was launched to reunite the far-flung sections of the Codex.

Now, according to Ulrich Johannes Schneider, Leipzig’s library curator, “more than 100 pages, those from Leipzig and 67 from the British Library, will be available online at www.codex-sinaiticus.net.

This Website will go live on July 24, 2008

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript - the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity - is of supreme importance for the history of the book.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project

The Codex Sinaiticus Project is an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript.

The Codex Sinaiticus Website

The first release of the Codex Sinaiticus Project website will be launched on 24 July 2008 here. The website will be substantially updated in November 2008 and in July 2009, by when the website will have been fully developed.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Britain is Israel's friend and ally

On Monday, Gordon Brown will become the first Prime Minister to address the Knesset. The occasion reflects the fact that Israel's parliamentary tradition was inspired by Britain. It is fitting that, 150 years after the first Jewish MP took his seat at Westminster, the British PM will be welcomed as an honoured guest in our Jewish "House of Commons".

Israel, unlike any other country in the Middle East, is a vibrant parliamentary democracy. British values such as freedom of speech and the rule of law have shaped our legal and political institutions, in a region where respect for democracy is the exception.

Mr Brown's visit underscores the deep and warm connections between Israel and Britain. The PM will be welcomed in Jerusalem, established by King David 3,000 years ago. Gordon Brown is no stranger to this connection: his father was a Church of Scotland minister who led pilgrims to the Holy Land for 20 years.

Today, Iran threatens not only Israel, but also the values of the democratic world and the security of the Middle East. Iran threatens to annihilate Israel while at the same time holding the world to ransom. In the 1980s, Tehran used missiles to try to choke off Kuwaiti oil exports. The next time Iran acts the regional bully, it will do so as a state that has nuclear weapons.

Israel is the target of Iran's rhetoric - but the whole world will pay the price of Iran's ambitions. This global menace warrants a global response. Israel looks to Britain to take a leading role. In Iran, violent extremists hold power over a sophisticated civilisation. A population with the gifts to enrich the world has been impoverished; the talents of scientists and engineers have been diverted from peaceful potential to genocidal purposes.

It is true, however, that there were darker episodes in our relations. Britain obstructed Jewish emigration to Palestine during the Second World War, at a time when it could have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of European Jews. After the war, Britain continued to restrict emigration when it was the only hope of a new life for survivors.

Yet the two countries have built an enduring partnership. Three Israeli presidents served under the British flag. Our first president, Chaim Weizmann, performed crucial work as a chemist for the Admiralty during the First World War. In the Second World War, Chaim Herzog fought with distinction in the British Army, liberating Nazi concentration camps and earning the rank of Major. Ezer Weizman, Chaim 's nephew, served in the RAF.

Today, Britain and Israel once again face the difficult decisions that must be taken when defending democratic freedoms. Both been the targets of terrorist violence; both know what it is to mourn the loss of innocent life.

As Iran's nuclear programme races ahead, the international response has been sluggish, meandering and uncoordinated. Britain has led the way in urging greater effort, but, to echo Churchill, the international community has so far "decided only to be undecided". Churchill used to tell the parable of the appeaser who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last: the world must send the message to Tehran that feeding time is over.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

'Bigger than Jesus? The Beatles were a Christian band'

But 28 years after his death, in an interview being broadcast for the first time, he claims that on the contrary, he hoped to encourage people to focus on the Christian faith.

Despite his familiar image as a hippy icon who invited us to imagine a world without religion, Lennon says he was "one of Christ's biggest fans" and felt emotional in church.

In the interview, which was recorded in 1969 and is being aired on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme, he talks about the Church of England, his vision of heaven, and expresses disappointment at not being allowed to marry his second wife, Yoko Ono, in church.

The interview was conducted by Ken Seymour of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when Lennon and Ono were at the Bed-In for Peace protest in Montreal. It was bought three years ago by National Museums Liverpool, which is playing an extract at a new exhibition at World Museum Liverpool.

Christians around the world had been dismayed by Lennon's boast in an article in London's Evening Standard about the popularity of the Beatles, but the singer says he was misunderstood.

"It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he says. "Now I wasn't saying that was a good idea, 'cos I'm one of Christ's biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ's message, then that's what we're here to do."

He blames "the hypocrites" for being too "uptight" in reacting to his comments. "If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won't be full, but there'll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls. Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don't think it matters as long as they're aware of Him and His message."

He acknowledges a strong belief in the power of prayer but says he dislikes all the church trappings. "Community praying is probably very powerful… I'm just against the hypocrisy and the hat-wearing and the socialising and the tea parties."

His aversion to institutional religion was shaped when a "ludicrous" vicar banned him from a church when he was 14 because he and his friends were "having the giggles".

"I wasn't convinced of the vicar's sincerity anyway. But I knew it was the house of God. So I went along for that and the atmosphere always made me feel emotional and religious or whatever you call it.

"Being thrown out of church for laughing was the end of the Church for me."

He continues: "I would have liked to have been married in a church but they wouldn't marry divorcees… That's pure hypocrisy." The Church's position on the issue changed in 2002.

On heaven, he says: "I haven't got any sort of dream of a physical heaven where there's lots of chocolate and pretty women in nightgowns, playing harps. I believe you can make heaven within your own mind. The kingdom of heaven is within you, Christ said, and I believe that."

The author Paul Du Noyer, who has written extensively on the Beatles, said: "He was chastened by the reaction he got to his Jesus remarks and it probably made him think more carefully about religion.

"These comments would have been a great boost for churches if they had come out at the time."

Friday, 11 July 2008

Israel's defence minister warned Iran his country was ready to act if threatened, as Tehran test fired another salvo of missiles capable of hitting th

Ehud Barak said that while military action was a last resort, his country had proved in the past it would not hesitate when "its vital security interests are at stake."

"Currently, the focus is international sanctions and vigorous diplomatic activity, and these avenues should be exhausted," Mr Barak said.

But he added: "Israel is the strongest country in the region and has proved in the past it is not afraid to take action when its vital security interests are at stake."

The comments came after Iran conducted military exercises, launching a second round of Shahab 3 ballistic missiles in as many days. With a range of 1,250 miles, the missiles can hit Israel.

In response to Iran's war games, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that America would not back down in the face of threats against Israel.

Closing a three-day European trip in Georgia, Miss Rice said: "We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies.

"We take very, very strongly our obligations to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that," she said.

She linked the first round of the Iranian missile tests to US plans for a missile shield based in eastern Europe, which would theoretically offer protection against missiles launched from Iran.

Such a shield "will make it more difficult for Iran to threaten and ... say terrible things, because their missiles won't work," Miss Rice said.

However she conspicuously stopped short of issuing a direct threat to Tehran, and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday that there had been a "lot of signalling going on" in the escalation of rhetoric but he added he did not think confrontation was any closer.

In Israel, the Iranian tests were received with dread. Fears have raised that Iran will soon reach a point of no return in its quest for nuclear weapons.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often called for Jews to be removed from Israel, though he recently dismissed the idea of an Iranian strike on the Jewish state.

Earlier this week, British and American warships wrapped up Persian Gulf exercises on defending key petroleum installations, in case of conflict, and last month Israel held a major training exercise over the Mediterranean widely seen as a dress rehearsal for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

Both, military experts say, have likely encouraged Iran to show off its own capabilities.

Ephraim Halevy, a former director of the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service, told The DailyTelegraph that the missile testing signals that crisis is nearing a peak.

"Both sides, Israel and the West on one side and Iran on the other, are engaged in one-upmanship in anticipation of this crisis breaking, and it can break in either direction," he said.

"I think the breaking point is approaching. There comes a moment where you say we have exhausted our abilities to make proposals and that's it. And I think Iran also understands this."

Western nations last month proposed assistance for a civil nuclear programme and other economic incentives in exchange for a freeze on Iran's uranium enrichment activities. Iran has invited further negotiations led by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, leading Washington observers to conclude that it is either biding its time until the Bush administration ends in January 2009, or is genuinely divided about how to proceed.

Suzanne Maloney, an Iranian expert at the Brookings Institution, a leading think tank, said: "Last week the buzz was Iran is being more receptive. This week the buzz is sabre-rattling is intensifying. This is something of a certain pattern in US-Iran relations, and it seems the Iranians are hedging their bets."

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Iran has test-fired a long-range missile capable of hitting Israel

Nine missiles were reported fired in the tests at a secret location in the Iranian desert, according to Iranian television which broadcast footage of the plumes of smoke left following the launches.

The launch included a reportedly improved Shahab-3 missile, which officials said could reach targets up to 1,250 miles away, as well as the 100-mile-range Fateh and the medium-range Zelzal which can reach 125-250 miles.

"The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation," Hossein Salami, air force commander of the Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying by state-run television Al-Alam.

"Our missiles are ready for shooting at any place and any time, quickly and with accuracy. The enemy must not repeat its mistakes. The enemy targets are under surveillance."

"Our hands are always on the trigger and our missiles are ready for launch."

The tests follow a exercises by the Israeli air force, reported by United States intelligence officials to be a "dry run" for an attack nuclear sites inside Iran.

Exercises were also conducted this week by the US Fifth Fleet, aided by British and Gulf forces, as preparation to protect key petroleum installations in the Gulf in case of conflict.

Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, critical for shipments of much of the world's oil and gas supply, if it is attacked.

The test-firing was condemned by the US, where White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: "Iran's development of ballistic missiles is completely inconsistent with Iran's obligations to the world."

It has also raised alarm in Israel, where many are convinced sanctions are ineffective and calls are mounting for a strike on Iran before its nuclear ambitions reach a point of no return.

With US President George W Bush seemingly reluctant to turn to military action, Israel mounted a major training drill over the Mediterranean last month and is thought to be weighing a solo mission.

The heightened tensions come as Israel's security cabinet today prepares to discuss Hizbollah's rearming in southern Lebanon, despite the presence of Unifil troops.

Though Israel has restarted indirect peace talks with Syria, has expressed interest in the same with Lebanon, it also accuses Syria of helping to smuggle weapons to the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

boys disciplined for 'refusing to pray to Allah'

Two schoolboys were allegedly disciplined after refusing to kneel down and "pray to Allah" during a religious education lesson.

It was claimed that the boys, from a year seven class of 11 and 12-year-olds, were given detention after refusing to take part in a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

Yesterday parents accused the school of breaching their human rights by forcing them to take part in the exercise.

One, Sharon Luinen, said: "This isn't right, it's taking things too far. I understand that they have to learn about other religions. I can live with that but it is taking it a step too far to be punished because they wouldn't join in Muslim prayer.

"Making them pray to Allah, who isn't who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that they were told they were being disrespectful."

Another parent Karen Williams, 38, whose 12-year-old daughter is a classmate of the boys, said: "I am absolutely furious my daughter was made to take part in it and I don't find it acceptable.

"The teacher had gone into the class and made them watch a short film and then said 'we are now going out to pray to Allah'.

"Then two boys got detention and all the other children missed their refreshments' break."

She added: "Not only was it forced upon them, my daughter was told off for not doing it right.

"They'd never done it before and they were supposed to do it in another language."

She said the pupils were asked if they had water on them, and when one girl produced a bottle, the teacher began washing her feet with it.

Her husband Keith, 44, a painter and decorator, said: "The school is wonderful but this one teacher has made a major mistake. It seems to be happening throughout society. People think they can ride roughshod over our beliefs and the way we live."

The alleged incident, at the Alsager school, one of Cheshire's top performing schools, happened on Tuesday afternoon. The teacher, Alison Phillips, the school's subject leader in RE, is understood to be staying away from the school until the furore dies down, although she has not been suspended.

She is said to have got prayer mats out of the cupboard and also asked children to wear Islamic headdresses.

Deputy headmaster Keith Plant said: "I have spoken to the teacher and she has articulately given me her version of events."

Sources at the school said the incident could have been down to Miss Phillips instigating a role play and not properly briefing the pupils, all aged around 12, what she was doing.

A spokesman for Cheshire County Council said they were investigating. He added: "The headteacher contacted the authority immediately complaints were received. Enquiries are being made into the circumstances as a matter of urgency and all parents will be informed accordingly.

"Educating children in the beliefs of different faiths is part of Cheshire's diversity curriculum on the basis that knowledge is, of course, is essential to understanding.

"We accept that such teaching has to be conducted with commonsense and sensitivity."

Friday, 4 July 2008

Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe, 4th July 2008

Following the statement by Robert Mugabe that "Only God can remove me", We are holding a day of prayer and fasting on Friday 4th July, to ask our God to do just that.

Please will you join with us in this day of prayer. If you feel able to, then please fast as well, (even for part of the day).

We are praying specifically for:

The removal of the current regime and for it to be replaced by a democratic government led by men of integrity.

For all Christians in Zimbabwe and specifically for a pastor and his wife who have phoned us from Zimbabwe asking for prayer - that God will set a hedge about them and protect them from harm. Also that they will have access to food, medical care and all other necessities.

That there will be an end to violence and bloodshed and that the
situation will be resolved without civil war

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A prophecy attributed to Smith Wigglesworth in 1947

"During the next few decades there will be two distinct moves of the Holy Spirit across the church in Great Britain. The first move will affect every church that is open to receive it, and will be characterised by a restoration of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

"The second move of the Holy Spirit will result in people leaving historic churches and planting new churches.

"In the duration of each of these moves, the people who are involved will say, 'This is a great revival.' But the Lord says, 'No, neither is this the great revival but both are steps towards it.'

"When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidence in the churches of something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit. When the word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest move of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world has ever seen. It will mark the beginning of a revival that will eclipse anything that has been witnessed within these shores, even the Wesleyan and Welsh revivals of former years. The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the United Kingdom to mainland Europe, and from there, will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth."