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Website offers peek into ancient, scattered Bible

Religious scholars, rare document experts and history buffs around the globe will get a chance to peruse segments of the Codex Sinaiticus online, as curators launch a website showcasing the valuable biblical text.

Religious scholars, rare document experts and history buffs around the globe will get a chance to peruse segments of the Codex Sinaiticus online, as curators launch a website showcasing the valuable biblical text.

The original handwritten, ancient Greek manuscript is scattered among facilities in Russia, Egypt, Germany and the U.K..

However, the document is being reunited digitally via scanned, searchable images and being offered online by the British Library and the curators of the text: the University of Leipzig, the National Library of Russia and St. Catherines Monastery in Egypt.

"The user will come to the website and will be able to look at images of each page of Codex Sinaiticus — will be able to zoom in and out and look around the page and see the page lit in standard light," said Juan Garces, a curator for the digitizing project.

The first segment — including the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Psalms — went online Thursday, though the images were often unavailable as of midday, with the webpage citing "too many concurrent connections ... Please try again later."

Updates will follow in November and July 2009. There are also plans to translate the manuscript into other languages.

The Codex Sinaiticus dates from the fourth century and was assembled by Roman emperor Constantine, who had adopted Christianity. The document includes the oldest complete copy of the New Testament Bible, as well as parts of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha and two early Christian texts: the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.

In the mid-19th century, a German biblical scholar discovered the codex at the St. Catherines Monastery at Mount Sinai. Portions of it later turned up in Russia, where authorities sold several sections to the British Library in 1933. Other portions of the manuscript landed in Leipzig, Germany.

In 1975, monks at the Egyptian monastery stumbled on to additional fragments of the codex in a hidden room.

With files from the Associated Press

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