Ancient Biblical Text to Be Virtually Reunited

Codex Sinaiticus Fragmented in 1800s

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BERLIN, DEC. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Codex Sinaiticus, one of the most ancient existing texts of the Bible, will be virtually reunited on the Internet by 2009.



A document signed this week in London greenlighted a project that will reunify the divided manuscript by posting digitally reproduced images of the manuscript online.

The Codex dates from A.D. 350 and contains all of the texts of the Bible, including the first Greek version of both the Old and New Testaments.

For centuries the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest manuscripts of the Bible in the world after the Codex Vaticanus, remained in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, but in the 19th century the manuscript was fragmented.

Today the texts of the Old and New Testament are divided between that monastery, the British Library, (which houses 347 pages of the Codex's total of 400 pages), the library of the University of Leipzing in Germany, and the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.

Orthodox Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, abbot of the Monastery of St. Catherine, along with the directors of the three libraries which house fragments of the Codex, signed the document approving the million-euro reunification project.

Ulrich Johannes Schneider, of the library of the University of Leipzig, said Thursday that the online edition of that Bible will be "accessible to the whole world."

Borrowed

The monks of the Monastery of St. Catherine authorized the German theologian Constantin von Tischendorf to take 43 pages of the manuscript to Leipzig in 1844.

In 1859, Von Tischendorf returned to Sinai, discovered additional parts of the manuscript and again convinced the monks that it was best to take them to Leipzig and donate them to the czar of Russia, with whose support he had made the second trip.

Part of the manuscript ended up in the Soviet Union, which in 1933 sold some of those parchments to the British Museum in London, while the others were left in St. Petersburg.

The Greek Orthodox monks thought they had lost the manuscript, but in 1975 they discovered a dozen of its pages in a neglected room, buried after a demolition.

The monks keep framed a note left by Tischendorf promising to return the manuscript.

The digitally reproduced version of the manuscript will include the whole of the Old Testament and half of the new, written in ancient Greek.