Tag Archives: Codex Sinaiticus

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.