Friday, 25 July 2008

Let us pray... World's oldest Bible goes online

OK, it's not quite Sunday, but it's never too early to bring you the Good News...!

The launch of the is the landmark first phase of an extensive online initiative to reunite the different parts of the Codex Sinaiticus, the world's oldest Bible and the most important Biblical manuscript, now held in four separate institutions. Written in Greek by hand in the mid-fourth century around the time of Constantine the Great, it originally contained the whole of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha, though half of the Old Testament has since been lost. It contains the oldest known version in the world of the New Testament, and the surviving manuscript concludes with two early Christian texts, an epistle ascribed to the Apostle Barnabas and ‘The Shepherd' by Hermas.

In a ground-breaking collaboration between the British Library, the Monastery of St Catherine (Mount Sinai, Egypt), the University Library at Leipzig (Germany) and the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg), the full text of the manuscript will be accessible in one place for everyone to research and enjoy by the end of the project in July 2009.

The cutting-edge interactive website, going live on 24 July 2008, aims to make the Bible as accessible as possible to scholars and enthusiasts alike. Users will be able to read and explore a full transcription of the Greek text, including all the corrections added throughout its long history. A translation of selected books and passages will be provided in English and German. Images and transcription are fully cross-referenced; pointing at a word on the transcription, for example, will highlight the equivalent word in the image.

The pages published on 24 July will include 106 from the British Library, containing the complete Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark. The British Library will put a further 28 pages online to complement the 86 pages held by Leipzig University Library (Germany) from the following biblical books:

1 Chronicles
2 Esdras

Scot McKendrick, The British Library's Head of Western Manuscripts, says: “The British Library is excited to be part of the first major milestone towards making the full Codex Sinaiticus available online. Only a few people have ever had the opportunity to see more than a couple of pages of the world's oldest Bible. The website will make it possible for anyone to see this absolutely unique treasure. The scholarly value of being able to research the text is immeasurable.”

Users can choose which light they want to view the pages in:
standard light
raking light (images lit at an angle to highlight the physical features of the parchment)

The Codex Sinaiticus Project is funded by the following partners:

The Arts and Humanities Research Council
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
The Leventis Foundation

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