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German University to Put World's Oldest Bible Online

DPA news agency (kjb)
July 21, 2008

The world's oldest surviving semi-complete copy of the Bible, a 4th-century manuscript in ancient Greek that was discovered in a waste-paper bin by a German scholar, is set to be published online.

A modern Bible and bookmark picturing Jesus on the cross
Though incomplete, the Codex Sinaiticus gives insight into what Christians read in 350Image: dpa - Bildarchiv

The Codex Sinaiticus, rediscovered in a monastery in the Sinai Peninsula by Konstantin von Tischendorf in 1844, contains half the Jewish Old Testament and most of the Christian New Testament, the University of Leipzig Library said on Monday, July 21.

The library added that it would go online on Thursday.

Digitalizing pages from the Codex Sinaiticus at the University of Leipzig
The 4th-century pages had to be digitalized firstImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Another manuscript, the Codex Vaticanus, is about as old, while fragments of both parts of the Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Egyptina papyri are older. But the Sinai Bible offers unique evidence of what Greek-speaking Christians read around the year 350.

The university, which owns 43 parchment sheets of the Codex, has teamed up with the British Library in London, which bought 347 sheets in 1933 from the Soviet Union, to release the online version.

Later the Web site will include six sheets that are kept in St. Petersburg, Russia, and 38 sheets still in St. Katherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, so that all 390 sheets along with a transcript and translations can be inspected by anyone.

The text is written four columns to a sheet in uncial script with no spaces between the words. Tischendorf, a religious scholar from Leipzig, discovered the manuscript and persuaded the Sinai monks to let him take part of it and later to give the bulk to Russia.

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