Codex Sinaiticus reunited in cyberspace

The surviving pages of the oldest known example of the written Bible are being assembled in 1 place for the first time in 150 years of study. The Codex Sinaiticus is a Greek-language transcription consisting of about 400 pages of prepared animal skin and, reports say, containing a complete copy of the New Testament, parts of the Old Testament, and books of the apocrypha. The 4th-Century work had been split up to locations in Britain, Russia, Egypt, and Germany for research and have not been available in 1 place for viewing since then. Now, courtesy of the Internet, all of the pages complete with transcriptions are available for viewing at the web site I’ve linked above.

Juan Garces, the Codex Sinaiticus project manager, said putting the book online was a “definitely a historical moment.”

“It’s special because it’s the oldest almost completely preserved bible,” Garces said.

Garces said the only other Bible that rivals Codex Sinaiticus in age is the Codex Vaticanus, which was written around the same time but lacks parts of the New Testament.

“It’s such an important book — that’s why it should be accessible,” Garces said. “If you would have liked to see it before you would have had to travel to four countries in two continents. If you want to see the manuscript right now all you have to do is go online and experience it for yourself.”

I’ve been to the site and looked over some of the pages. I don’t read Greek so I can’t actually read the parchments but the restoration/preservation efforts have clearly been extensive. The text appears quite sharp in some places and is very readable throughout. There are large sections of the parchment that have been destroyed by time, of course, but that’s the magic of our information systems in this age. We can capture the images of those pages and both preserve and disseminate the writing to all parts of the world at the speed of broadband. (Well, mostly at that speed in any case.)

This is great work and a real positive use of our technology. Kudos to those who have worked on this are owed.