Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Codex Sigh-naiticus

Christians must be celebrating everywhere as the world's oldest surviving Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, has been completely digitized and put together online from surviving pages held by four different countries. You can read the complete story here. So what secrets will the world's oldest surviving Bible reveal to mankind? Will it verify or challenge modern mainstream Christian beliefs? This is a big day for Bible scholars.

[Photograph by Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic]

In 2005 I saw the Codex Sinaiticus on display in the British Library, or at least I thought I did. There were several other beautiful hand-written bibles on display in their exhibit and I couldn't read a single one. It was all Greek to me. Which I guess goes for the majority of Christians out there, why would they care that the world's oldest surviving Bible has made it's way online? It's in Greek, how is the everyday man suppose to read it? Lucky for us portions have been translated into English and is accessible on the Codex Sinaiticus website. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy this piece of Christian history from your home.

What? Omitted passages? Textual variants? The Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas?? This isn't MY Bible. This can't be my Bible. My Bible was preserved EXACTLY in the same condition for 2000 years by God himself so this Codex Sinaiticus MUST be fraudulent.

So what value does the Codex Sinaiticus have for non-scholars like myself? First and foremost it is a piece of history that we should indeed value, cherish, and preserve for future generations. As the years progress all of those unfound copies of our precious Bible buried somewhere out there are slowly crumbling away. Variants or not, erroneous copies or not, someone spent months, even years hand coping the word of God. Should we not be thankful by perserving their hard work?

A more important question is whether or not Chrisitianity would edit and update (?) their modern Bibles to reflect the hand-written copies they descend from when they are found to be authentic and authoritative? There have been updated (gasp!) versions of the Bible (e.g. The NIV) that have made minor changes but anything as drastic as adding other books or removing Mark's ending is a big emphatic NO. If the Codex Sinaiticus is even mentioned in churches across the U.S. this weekend it would be in mere passing to support God's preservation of His Word. There will be no mention of ommited passages or even of extra books not found in our modern Bibles. Is it too dark to peer into the closet of Christianity's past and begin questing for answers? Are we afraid that we will open Pandora's Box instead of finding buried gems to support our theological stance? I'm sure Bible scholar nerds are estatic with joy, so why is it that I haven't heard any annoucements about church parties in celebration of this incredible news? I guess I'll have to celebrate with a Bible Study/Documentary Movie night by myself. (sigh...)


Anonymous said...

I love your "tongue-in-cheek" approach to this news story. I'm afraid fundamentalists who would be willing to really study this story long enough to find that this Codex isn't really the Bible they carry on Sunday, would quickly dismiss it as a fake or "the devil's work". It can sometimes be quite amusing how Christianity views the collection of documents they call the Bible.

Don R

Eruesso said...

I've been following this story for quite awhile and when I heard they've completed scanning and uploading the world's oldest Bible to the internet I nearly flipped. Now if I only knew how to read Greek then I might call myself a true heretical nerd.

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