Ten years ago when I was telling people about the Internet and how the Vatican was setting up a web site, an image I often used to described the promise of this new medium was that of access to previously difficult-to-access information. I would point out that the Vatican’s libraries hold ancient manuscripts, including millennia-old copies of the Bible, that only very few accredited scholars would ever get to see and wait until the day those manuscripts are imaged and put online for anyone in the world to see at their own computers.
That day has come.
The British Library has announced that it will make the complete Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest, most complete Bible in the world dating from around 350 AD, available online for the first time and all in once piece for the first time in decades. The Codex Sinaiticus, so named because it was discovered in St. Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai in 1844, has been divided in pieces almost from the time of the discovery, with large sections being held in Britain; Leipzig, Germany; and St. Petersburg, Russia. As of Thursday, high-resolution images of 100 pages will be available at www.codex-sinaiticus.net and the rest will be added over the next year.
Think of what this will mean for scholarship of all kinds. Whereas research on rare or precious documents used to be limited to those with access and the ability to travel to far-flung places, now scholars and non-scholars will be able to get a better view of the document than even if they were physically present. (You’d never be allowed to actually touch such a precious treasure.)
- codexsinaiticus.jpg: Own photo