Scattered across continents, the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus bible has been fully reunited in a digital version online today. Users can navigate through the text via chapter and verse, see a digital scan of each page, and read English, German, Greek and Russian versions.
“If you would have liked to see it before, you would have had to travel to four countries in two continents,” British Library project curator, Juan Garces, said in an Associated Press report. “If you want to see the manuscript right now all you have to do is go online and experience it for yourself.” He noted that the overwhelming digital demand has already crashed the Web site.
The oldest known bible may hold some surprises for those familiar with today’s versions. About half of the Old Testament and Apocrypha are absent, and the New Testament books are in a different order (putting, for example, “Acts of the Apostles” between “the Pastoral” and “Catholic Epistles”). It also includes two additional early Christian writings, allegedly by Hermas (a second-century Roman) and the apostle Barnabas—as well as a smattering of corrections inserted throughout the centuries after its creation.
“There are certainly theological questions linked to this,” Garces told CNN. “Everybody should be encouraged to investigate for themselves.”
The ancient tome was discovered by a German scholar in the 19th century at the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt’s Sinai desert. The 400-plus-page volume was transcribed in Greek on animal-skin parchment.
The collaboration, made possible by the institutes that house the document’s pieces—the British Library, the National Library of Russia, Leipzig University Library and Saint Catherine’s Monastery—is being celebrated with a conference at the British Library today and tomorrow.
Image of text from a version of the Codex Sinaiticus’s Esther 1:20-21 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons