World's oldest Bible now preserved online

Leon Neal/AFP
Pages of the Codex Sinaiticus, the world’s oldest surviving Christian bible, are pictured on a laptop in Westminster Cathedral, central London.

Until today, the fragments of the world's oldest known copy of the New Testament were scattered across four countries and 1,600 years of contentious history. Now, the entire ancient Bible has been reunited – carefully scanned and posted online for anyone to browse.

The hand-written Codex Sinaiticus dates back to the fourth century. It contains much of the Old Testament, all of the New Testament, and several apocryphal books not included in modern Bibles. The tome also features extensive hand-written notes and corrections, revealing important clues to the Bible's history, says Juan Garces, the British Library project curator.

On Monday, the Codex Sinaiticus website launched with tools to examine pages, zoom in on different portions, read transcriptions of the original Greek, and find translations in several languages.

This project represents the first time that the Codex has come together in one place – virtual or otherwise – since a German scholar discovered the text in a monastery at Mount Sinai 150 years ago. How the parchment left Egypt stirs disagreement among Bible researchers. Pieces arrived in Germany, but the bulk (almost 700 pages) landed in Russia.

"The Soviet government decided to sell them in 1933 -- to raise money to buy tractors and other agricultural equipment," reports CNN. "The British government bought the pages for £100,000, raising half the money from the public. Garces called that event one of the first fundraising campaigns in British history."

In 1975, monks discovered more pieces in the Sinai monastery.

The Vatican possess a Bible of similar age, the Codex Vaticanus. However, that text does not contain parts of the New Testament.


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