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.

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