The 4th century Codex Sinaiticus manuscript (“the Sinai Book”) is one of the most important texts in Christianity, dating to the time of Constantine the Great. The Codex Sinaiticus Project is an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. The photographs of the book’s pages show not just the written text but also an English translation accompanies the original Greek, skeletal imprints, insect bites, scar tissue and spilled candle wax. Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. The Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript. The New Testament appears in the original vernacular language (koine) and the Old Testament in the version, known as the Septuagint, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians. Codex Sinaiticus comprises just over 400 large leaves of prepared animal skin, each of which measures 380mm high by 345mm wide. On these parchment leaves is written around half of the Old Testament and Apocrypha (the Septuagint), the whole of the New Testament, and two early Christian texts not found in modern Bibles. The codex is now split into four unequal portions:
- 347 leaves in the British Library in London (199 of the Old Testament 148 of the New Testament )
- 12 leaves and 14 fragments in the Saint Catherine’s Monastery,
- 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library
- Fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg.
It is important to remember that “The Sinaiticus” can be considered the “Oldest Christian Bible” since it contains most of the Bible in ancient Greek. It dates back to around 325-350AD. It is not the oldest ancient Bible manuscript by any means, but as far as a collection all together it probably is the oldest. Codex Vaticanus is very close to being the same age, and Vaticanus is actually a better manuscript than Sinaiticus. There are lots of other Bible manuscripts that are much older than the Sinaiticus, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls which contain the Old Testament, and some of those manuscripts date to around 200-150BC. The text of the Bible is established by using all the manuscripts.
The Earliest English Translated Bible
The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. The oldest printed translation of the Bible into the English language dates back nearly five hundred years, when in 1524 William Tyndale first printed the New Testament. Centuries before Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible, two versions existed in Latin.
- The Latin Vulgate is a translation into ‘common’ Latin completed by Jerome in 383 CE. Jerome did the translation himself directly from the Hebrew, and today it is commonly known as The Vulgate.
- A much older Latin version of the Bible, used for centuries by Christendom. This version, called The Old Latin Vulgate (or Itala), is known to have been in existence by AD 157. Church father Turtullian, in his own writings dated around 200 C.E, cited various Latin quotations directly from The Old Latin Vulgate.