Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus click for larger image

Of interest to fans of Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet, or indeed anyone who has an interest in old books, the good news is that the Sinai Bible, the oldest known Christian bible in the world has been digitalized and all its *separate pieces brought together in one the place. The news came to me via an email from a Whittemore fan with a link to the press announcement by Associated Press.

I have been aware of this project for over a year, but only now (or since 6 July 2009) can you view the bible in its entirety on the Codex Sinaiticus web site.

The Sinai Bible was written in the fourth century AD and lay for many years undiscovered at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. It was uncovered by Constantine Von Tischendorf in 1844 and presented to the Alexander II, Tsar of Russia in 1862. The manuscript was purchased by the British Museum in 1933 from the Soviet Government.

*The codex is 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 St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai, 43 leaves in the Leipzig University Library, and fragments of 3 leaves in the Russian National Library in Saint Petersburg. - Wikipedia

As for the link to Edward Whittemore, it is obvious that Whittemore used the Sinai Bible as the basis for the original bible featured in Sinai Tapestry, the first book of the Jerusalem Quartet. Whittemore’s bible is a scandalous document purportedly written by an imbecile from stories told by a blind man, a catalogue of wonders that “denied every religious truth ever held by anyone”.

In Sinai Tapestry the original bible is discovered at St Catherine’s Monastery by Skanderbeg Wallenstein, a linguistic genius and fanatical Trappist monk from Albania who on finding it is horrified by its contents. He is thus led to forging an original that will justify faith, and buries the real Sinai Bible in Jerusalem, where it remains hidden and long sought after by other characters in the book. His forgery is substituted for the original in St Catherine’s Monastery, where it is discovered by Tischendorf, therefore becoming the Codex Sinaiticus.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.


Clare Dudman said...

Sounds like the story of this discovery would make a book in itself! Heh - I expect it already has, somewhere...(and yes, I thought this was all sounding very familiar, of course, Whittemore's bible!)

Anne S said...

Indeed Clare, couldn't be done better.