Pages of the Oldest Bible Reunited Virtually on the Internet
By Dialogo July 08, 2009London, 6 July (EFE).- Thanks to the latest technological advances, experts have managed to reunite in virtual form on the internet more than eight hundred surviving pages and fragments of the oldest Bible in the world, known as the Codex Sinaiticus. For the first time, high-resolution digital images of the pages of this book, dating from the fourth century of our era, will be accessible from anywhere in the world, the British Library announced today. Several scribes wrote the codex in Greek on leaves of parchment, and the text was revised and corrected over the following centuries. The virtual reunification of the Codex Sinaiticus marks the culmination of four years of close collaboration between the British Library, the library of the University of Leipzig, the Monastery of St Catherine (Mount Sinai, Egypt), and the National Library of Russia, in St Petersburg. Each of these institutions holds different parts of the manuscript, which it has been possible to unite in virtual form thanks to the internet ("www.codexsinaiticus.org":http://www.codexsinaiticus.org). The project will now permit scholars from around the world to carry out more in-depth studies of the Greek text, which has been transcribed in full, with cross-references that include the transcription of the numerous later revisions and corrections. It will also permit researchers to examine the history of the book as a physical object and to study the texture and manufacture of the parchment. The codex, perhaps the oldest bound book that has survived to the present, was enormous: it originally had more than 1,460 pages, each one of which measured 40.6 cm in height and 35.5 cm in width. “The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world’s greatest written treasures. It marks the definite triumph of bound codices over scrolls,” commented Scot McKendrick, director of the department of western manuscripts at the British Library. “This 1600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation,” McKendrick said. “The project has uncovered evidence that a fourth scribe - along with the three already recognized - worked on the text,” the British Library director indicated. According to McKendrick, “the availability of the virtual manuscript for study by scholars around the world creates opportunities for collaborative research that would not have been possible just a few years ago.” The Codex Sinaiticus project was launched in 2005 when the four institutions that preserve pages and fragments of this Bible signed a collaboration agreement. According to Prof. David Parker of the Department of Theology of the University of Birmingham, who led the British team that made the electronic transcription of the manuscript, “the process of deciphering and transcribing the fragile pages of an ancient text containing over 650,000 words is a huge challenge, which has taken nearly four years.” The transcription includes pages of the Codex found in 1975 in a blocked-off room of St Catherine’s Monastery, some of which were in very poor condition, and which are being published for the first time. The digital images of the virtual manuscript show the beauty of the original, and readers can appreciate the differences in the calligraphy of the various scribes who copied the text, Parker said. In order to mark the launch of the virtual version of the Codex, the British Library has mounted an exhibit titled “From Parchment to Pixel: The Virtual Reunification of Codex Sinaiticus,” which opens to visitors tomorrow and runs until September 7. This prestigious institution has also organized an academic conference taking place today and tomorrow, with the participation of numerous experts who will speak on the history, text, conservation, paleography, and other aspects of the precious manuscript.