The Oldest Bible

Codex Sinaiticus (Greek Edition)If you like old books, its hard to beat the Codex Sinaiticus. Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest known copy of the Bible written in Greek. You can buy a facsimilie of the book on Amazon for only $640 (I check the used bookstore for a copy all the time, but to no avail). However, if your budget is more like mine you may have to settle for the online edition which you can find at the Codex Sinaiticus website.

One of the most striking features of the text is how hard it is to read. I suppose if you were a native Greek reader it may have been a bit easier. However, if you take a look at it you will see why it was probably a little difficult even for the native speaker. I took a screen shot of John 3:16 to demonstrate just how difficult. It took me a while to even locate the verse. There are no chapter and verse markers. Everything is written in all caps and there are no spaces between the words. And, it definitely isn’t a reader friendly font.

Nonetheless, the Codex Sinaiticus is really cool. While there are fragments of the New Testament even earlier than this codex, it stands as the earliest complete collection of the New Testament that we have. It was hand copied and read around the time of some of our early church fathers, perhaps just shortly after Constantine took control of the Roman Empire under the banner of the xi rho.

As cool as the Codex Sinaiticus is, I must admit that I love progress. I am so thankful for the growth in the economy which led us to decide that it isn’t a waste of paper to leave a space between our words. I am thankful that we can read our Bibles today with ease in our own language. The gift of the Bible is truly an amazing gift. We should be diligent not to take it for granted.


2 thoughts on “The Oldest Bible

  1. I've been dabbling in some text criticism lately and was initially baffled when I looked at the Codex Sinaiticus in the wild. However, the more I look at it, the more I'm able to read it like a modern printed Greek NT. In addition, the notes of the scribes and correctors are more easily distinguished and understand with time in the text. All that to say, Codex Sinaiticus is remarkable. It demonstrated the revolution that occurred with the advent of a bound book. Just think of the hermeneutical shift that would have occurred once all of the “biblical” scrolls were compiled into a single codex.


  2. Mark – I'm impressed that you have been reading from the Codex. What a cool thing.

    I didn't really stop and think about the hermeneutical significance of the codex, but you are right, it must have been profound. The lingering question is if that shift would have been entirely beneficial. For example, were the books meant to be read as a codex or as a collection of somewhat independent scrolls. In today's climate of Biblical Theology and focus on metanarrative it is hard to remember that it wasn't originally written in codex form.


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