Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery
2009-09-06 0:00

From: independent.co.uk



Academic stumbles upon previously unseen section of Codex Sinaiticus dating back to 4th century

A British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world's oldest Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book.


Nikolas Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of manuscripts in the library of St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt.

The Codex, handwritten in Greek on animal skin, is the earliest known version of the Bible. Leaves from the priceless tome are divided between four institutions, including St Catherine's Monastery and the British Library, which has held the largest section of the ancient Bible since the Soviet Union sold its collection to Britain in 1933.

Academics from Britain, America, Egypt and Russia collaborated to put the entire Codex online this year but new fragments of the book are occasionally rediscovered.

Mr Sarris, 30, chanced upon the fragment as he inspected photographs of a series of book bindings that had been compiled by two monks at the monastery during the 18th century.

Over the centuries, antique parchment was often re-used by St Catherine's monks in book bindings because of its strength and the relative difficulty of finding fresh parchment in such a remote corner of the world.

A Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr Sarris had been involved in the British Library's project to digitise the Codex and quickly recognised the distinct Greek lettering when he saw it poking through a section of the book binding. Speaking from the Greek island of Patmos yesterday, Mr Sarris said: "It was a really exciting moment. Although it is not my area of expertise, I had helped with the online project so the Codex had been heavily imprinted in my memory. I began checking the height of the letters and the columns and quickly realised we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex."

Mr Sarris later emailed Father Justin, the monastery's librarian, to suggest he take a closer look at the book binding. "Even if there is a one-in-a-million possibility that it could be a Sinaiticus fragment that has escaped our attention, I thought it would be best to say it rather than dismiss it."

Only a quarter of the fragment is visible through the book binding but after closer inspection, Father Justin was able to confirm that a previously unseen section of the Codex had indeed been found. The fragment is believed to be the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10, in which Joshua admonishes the children of Israel as they enter the promised land.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Father Justin said the monastery would use scanners to look more closely at how much of the fragment existed under the newer book binding. "Modern technology should allow us to examine the binding in a non-invasive manner," he said.

Mr Sarris said his find was particularly significant because there were at least 18 other book bindings in the monastery's library that were compiled by the same two monks that had re-used the Codex. "We don't know whether we will find more of the Codex in those books but it would definitely be worth looking," he said.

The library in St Catherine's does not have the laboratory conditions needed to carefully peel away the binding without damaging the parchment underneath but the library is undergoing renovations that might lead to the construction of a lab with the correct equipment to do so.

The Bible: A brief history
Although earlier fragments of the Bible have survived the passage of time, the Codex Sinaiticus is so significant because it is by far the most complete. The full text that has been discovered so far contains virtually all of the New Testament and about half of the Old Testament.

But whenever an ancient version of the holy book is found, it often raises questions about the evolution of the Bible and how close what we read today is to the original words of Christ and his early followers.

The Old Testament was written largely in Hebrew (with the odd Aramaic exception) but it is by no means a homogenous entity. Protestant and more recent Catholic versions of the Bible tend to use the Masoretic Text, a variation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was copied, edited and distributed by Jewish Masorete scholars between the 7th and 11th centuries. Earlier Catholic translations and the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches use the Septuagint, an ancient Greek version of the Hebrew text that was translated between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC.

In studying the early history of the New Testament, historians have about 5,650 handwritten copies in Greek on which they can draw, many of which are distinctly different. As Christianity consolidated its power through the first millennia, the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John came to form the key elements of the New Testament.

But other apocryphal writings were discarded along the way. The Shepherd of Hermas, for instance, is a Christian literary work of the 2nd century which appears in the Codex Sinaiticus and was considered part of the Bible by some early Christians but was later expunged. The most well-known apocryphal gospel is that of Thomas, a collection of 114 numbered sayings attributed to Jesus that was discovered in 1945. As it never refers to Jesus as "Christ", "Lord" or the "Son of Man" (and lacks any mention of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the other gospels) it is perhaps not surprising that it never made it into later versions of the Bible.

Source: independent.co.uk



Related Articles
Hating the Bible
Red Ice Radio - Behind The Bible Fraud - What Was The Church Trying To Hide?
Ralph Ellis - Egypt, The Hyksos, Pharaohs and the Bible
Red Ice Radio - Michael Tsarion - Part 1 - Dramatis Personae of the Bible
World's oldest Christian Bible digitized
Return of the Devil's Bible to Prague Draws Crowds of Curious Czechs
Secrets of the Hebrew Letters
What the Devil? Prince of Darkness Is Misunderstood, Says UCLA Professor
Lucifer Where did the Word come from and what is its True Meaning?
When Was Jesus Christ Born?
The Piso Family and the Story of the Bible


Latest News from our Front Page

Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin - A Staged Shooting?
2015-02-28 22:37
NY Times: Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin Mr. Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister of Russia, was killed in central Moscow in the highest-profile assassination in Russia during the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin. A Staged Shooting? ... Why does the dead body of fitness enthusiast Boris Nemtsov have a pot belly? The Anti-New York Times doesn't ...
Holocaust, Hate Speech and Were the Germans so Stupid?
2015-02-28 20:31
Description form YouTube: This is an updated version of the video which was taken down by YouTube following a spurious copyright-infringement claim. It addresses issues regarding claims that Zyklon B in liquid form gives off fumes at temperatures below 0º C. As the world approaches the brink of a new Middle East crisis this time involving Syria, clearly at the behind-the-scenes ...
The Jewish Roots of Leonard Nimoy and What the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Symbol Really Means
2015-02-28 0:20
Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston. The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something ...
Baby born still INSIDE his amniotic sac is hailed a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors [Video]
2015-02-27 22:46
What an incredible miracle… Not only was the little boy three months early – he was born inside his amniotic sac. I’ve never heard of this happening before. If you look at the picture, you can see him clearly with his little arms and legs curled up. He was still being given oxygen by his mom until the sac was ...
California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated
2015-02-27 21:55
Parents in California are distraught after losing their infant son after being vaccinated. He died in his sleep and was taken to the hospital already deceased. Hospital staff ruled his death as sudden infant death syndrome. The couple was told an autopsy was required to be performed on their son. After returning home, waiting to get an update, they never received ...
More News »