Sunday, July 27, 2008

1,600-Year-Old Bible Goes Online

Pages from the Codex Sinaiticus found in Saint Catherine's Monastery.

One of the oldest copies of the Bible is becoming available on the Internet. This past week, the University of Leipzig went live with several parts of the 1,600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus in its original Greek and in several translations.

“A manuscript is going onto the net which is like nothing else online to date,” says Ulrich Schneider, director of the university’s library. “It’s also an enrichment of the virtual world, and a bit of a change from YouTube.”

High-resolution images of the Gospel of Mark, several books of the Old Testament, and centuries-old notes on the Bible are now available on the site. The entire Codex Sinaiticus is expected to be online by next July.

This landmark online event is at

The document dates from around 350 A.D. The vellum manuscript was found in Saint Catherine’s Monestery at Mount Sinai in 1844. Parts of it have been preserved in Europe and Russia, and the online project is sponsored in part by the Russian National Library, British Library, and St. Catherine’s Monastery.

“It’s just fantastic that, thanks to technology, we can now make the oldest cultural artifacts – ones that were once so precious you couldn’t show them to anyone – accessible to everyone, in really high quality,” Schneider says.

A Psalm as Example

I found the site excellent for showing the original Bible prior to its multitude of translations and reorganizations through the centuries. I checked it out shortly after it went live and found the site a bit slow to load, probably due to the load of traffic.

Not all of the sections are translated into English, but to give you a flavor, here’s the direct translation from the original Greek – much different from the more familiar 17th Century King James version of the 23rd Psalm (in the Codex, actually the 22nd Psalm):

22:1. A Psalm. Pertaining to Daueid. The Lord will shepherd me, and I shall never lack anything.
2. In a verdant place, there he made me encamp; by water of rest he reared me;
3. my soul he restored. He led me into paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4. For even if I walk in the midst of death’s shadow, I not will fear evil, because you are with me; your rod and your staff they comforted me.
5. You prepared a table before me over against those that afflict me; you anointed my head with oil, and your cup was supremely as if intoxicating.
6. And your mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and my residing in the Lord’s house is for length of days.

Here’s an MSNBC article about the Codex Sinaiticus going online. 
Here's a link about the Codex Sinaiticus and King James Bible.

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