Part of Oldest Bible Accidentally Discovered

Student Finds Section Hidden Beneath Binding

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MOUNT SINAI, Egypt, SEPT. 7, 2009 ( A fragment of the Biblical text considered to be one of the two most ancient in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, was discovered by chance a few days ago in St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Egypt.

The man who found the fragment, Nikolas Sarris, a 30-year-old Greek student, happened upon it while he was doing research in the monastery for his doctoral studies on manuscripts of the 18th century.

Sarris was a member of the team in charge of the online edition of the Codex Sinaiticus, launched in July through the initiative of the British Library, the Leipzig University Library and the National Library of Russia, in conjunction with the Orthodox archbishop of Sinai, Damianos, abbot of St. Catherine’s Monastery.

Sarris’ familiarity with the Codex allowed him immediately to recognize the fragment, given the style of its letters and the height of its columns, though it is only partially visible beneath the newer binding.

«It was a really exciting moment,» he told The Independent. «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 realized we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex.»

Even more

The fragment corresponds to the beginning of the Book of Joshua. The discovery was confirmed by the monastery librarian, Father Justin.

According to what Father Justin told The Art Newspaper, it is possible that there are more sections hidden beneath other bindings, although at the moment the monastery does not have the technological means necessary to conduct the search without causing damage.

There are 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,» the librarian said.

The Codex is a manuscript of the Bible written between 330 and 350, according to tradition, at the request of the Emperor Constantine. Along with the Codex Vaticanus, it is considered the most ancient text of the Bible in the world.

The German scholar Constantin Von Tischendorf discovered the Codex in St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1844 and removed various portions of it over the next decade.

Today portions are divided between the British Library, the Leipzig University Library and the National Library of Russia.

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On the Net

Codex Sinaiticus:

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