Libraries in the News: World’s oldest Bible goes online

Codex Sinaiticus: Song of Songs 1:1-4.
Codex Sinaiticus: Song of Songs 1:1-4.
The Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest known surviving manuscript of the Bible. Copied by four scribes sometime between 325 and 360, the entire Bible is in Greek, the text of the Old Testament being the Septuagint. The manuscript takes its name from the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert, where it was discovered in 1844 by a German archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf who brought a portion of the manuscript to Leipzig University. He returned in 1853 for more. On his final trip to the monastery in 1859, Tischendorf took 694 pages of the Bible, which he brought to St. Petersburg, Russia. The precise terms under which Tischendorf executed these transfers are disputed. In 1933, the Soviet government, desperate for cash, sold the codex to Britain for £100,000. In 1975, an additional 12 pages and 40 fragments were found at St. Catherine’s.

The Codex Sinaiticus is now split between four owners:

  • The British Library in London (347 pages).
  • Leipzig University Library (43 pages).
  • The Monastery of St. Catherine (12 pages and 14 fragments).
  • The Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (fragments of 3 pages).

In 2005, the three libraries and St. Catherine’s agreed to work together to reunite the oldest surviving Bible online. After four years of planning and work, the Bible premiered online this month at http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ . The website is designed to appeal both to scholars and general readers. The site has proven far more popular than the creators anticipated and as a result is still running a little slow. The website features easy navigation and reunites, digitally, for the first time in 165 years one of the most important documents from Christian history.

2 thoughts on “Libraries in the News: World’s oldest Bible goes online

  1. JBChristian

    Fascinating! That the British Library and the other 3 libraries are sharing the “oldest known surviving MSS of The Bible.” I have been looking for years to find the text of probably the next oldest MSS Bible. It is reputed to be circa 401-450 A.D. in an Irish university library and has Keltic text, translated from Greek, and interlined between the Keltic text is Jerome’s Vulgate in Latin. Bob Sevigny, Harold Henkel, and other Bible antiquarians, do you know what library in Ireland has this? Its microfilm used to exist in the Library of Congress, and was listed in the LOC holdings in the 1980s; I saw the listing in 1988 or 1989. According to Biola Univ. Library, it still existed in the LOC as of the late 1980s, perhaps microfilmed by Univ. of Michigan, at Ann Arbor. In the early 1990s, it could no longer be found in LOC holdings. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Its existence proves a very important point for Western Christianity, so I would sure like to know if its microfilm is still available.

  2. amberj

    Hello, in reply to JBChristian, I do not know which library in Ireland has the MSS text you have in mind but a good place to start looking might be a Web page such as the one located at: http://lists.webjunction.org/libweb/Ireland.html
    or here: http://www.niceone.com/irl/subcat/5/14/0/0/Universities%20%26%20Colleges.html.
    Each of the links on these pages leads to an online library catalog where searching can be done. Perhaps Dr. Bruce Metzer’s classic text, The Early Versions of the New Testament, may also be a help:, http://books.google.com/books?id=aMwy-0D_6NEC&pg=PA340&lpg=PA340&dq=kells+vulgate+latin+interlinear&source=bl&ots=kLgm6Dq5oY&sig=zo9KrUJZibt9eJfBc92TStbzCJQ&hl=en&ei=tkuUSrrsCdiQtgeuv7RM&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6#v=onepage&q=kells%20vulgate%20latin%20interlinear&f=false.
    Blessings, Bob Sivigny

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