LONDON — The Codex Sinaiticus, thought to be one of the world’s oldest Bibles, is going online this week in a project led by the British Library to reconnect all its 1,600-year-old parts that are spread across Europe and Egypt’s Sinai desert.
A preview of the manuscript, which dates from the 4th century and includes what’s believed to be the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, will be available free July 24 at www.codex-sinaiticus.net, the library said.
The Codex is a "unique treasure" that "only a few people have ever had the opportunity to see more than a couple of pages," says Scot McKendrick, the British Library’s head of Western manuscripts.
Until now, anyone lucky enough to get a first-hand peek at the ancient book would have to approach the British Library "on bended knee," Oxford University scholar Christopher Tuckett told journalists. Even then, they would be limited to only two pages at a time.
"To have it available just at the click of a button is fantastic," Tuckett added.
The project is aimed at bringing together in digital form all the pages of the Codex Sinaiticus that are presently kept in Leipzig, Germany; St. Petersburg, Russia; St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai; and the 347 vellum pages that the British Library bought from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1933.
Leipzig library curator Ulrich Johannes Schneider told France’s AFP news agency that Thursday’s preview would include more than 100 pages, 67 of them from the British collection and including the Codex’s complete Book of Psalms and parts of the Gospel of Mark.
Another part of the manuscript is scheduled to go online in November. By next July, all 800-odd existing pages in handwritten Greek, and more than 40 fragments, are expected to be online, complete with transcriptions, translations and search functions.