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Archive for the 'Manuscript' Category

Codex Sinaiticus Digitization Project Going Live

23rd July 2008

The first online phase of the Codex Sinaiticus digitization project headed by the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham, in cooperation with the British Library and the three other holding libraries, will be going live Thursday 24 July 2008 at

Most news services have been covering this story:

This is an exciting project — I hope other similar projects will be inspired by this one so that more primary texts will be available online. From the available preview, the site should be spectacular.

For more information on Codex Sinaiticus, please see the profile I wrote as part of my Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible series.

Posted in Manuscript, Old Testament, Septuagint, Sinaiticus, Text Criticism | 2 Comments »

Smithsonian Bible Exhibit in the News

29th October 2006

The Hamilton Spectator has an interesting article from Washington Post reporter Allan Cooperman on the Bible exhibit underway at the Smithsonian. The article, “A True Testament to Change: How Much was Altered in the Bible’s Evolution?“, highlights some of the manuscripts on display in the exhibition, “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000.”

This exhibition includes a whole host of fascinating finds, including fragments of a Dead Sea Scroll, Cheaster Beatty papyri, some leaves from Codex Sinaiticus, among other manuscripts. I am looking forward to viewing the exhibit in person when I am at SBL.

In regards to the news article, there are some choice quotes from Bart Ehrman about the implications of the transmission history of the Bible and certain views of the Scripture’s authority. Here’s an excerpt:

These are documents with the proven power to shake faith. That’s what happened to Bart Ehrman, author of the 2005 bestseller, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible And Why.

Ehrman was a born-again Christian from Kansas when he entered Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute at age 18. After three decades of comparing ancient manuscripts in their original languages to try to determine the earliest, most authentic text of the New Testament, he is now an agnostic.

“I thought God had inspired the words inerrantly. But when I examined the historical texts, I realized the words had not been preserved inerrantly, and it would have been no greater miracle to preserve them than to inspire them in the first place,” said Ehrman, now chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina.

I think that Ehrman raises an interesting question about the relationship of the transmission of the biblical text to some particular views of the inspiration of the original text. The article continues:

But if these fading papyrus leaves and purple parchments inscribed with silver ink can shake faith, that does not mean they must [italics added].

Brown, who pulled the exhibition together in association with Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, sits on the governing board of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “That’s a pretty good tip-off,” she said, that she is a member in good standing of the Church of England.

“There’s nothing here that’s going to shape or challenge people’s beliefs, except on one point,” she said. “It will challenge the belief that the Bible originated in the form we have today, rather than being the result of the very complex process of a lot of people of faith using scriptures to help them live God-focused lives.”

“We didn’t start out with this,” she said, producing a red Gideon’s Bible from her Washington hotel room.

All in all it looks like a great exhibit.

UPDATE: Stephen Carlson has a list of all the manuscripts showing at the exhibit (well, almost all, he neglects to list some of the Hebrew manuscripts — but what can you expect from a NT scholar! :-) ).  His list makes me even more eager for the exhibit!

Posted in Bible, Manuscript, News | Comments Off

Codex Sinaiticus Integrated into

20th August 2006

This is kind of nifty: over at — a web site that allows you to read the Bible in the original languages or translation side by side — you can now pull up the page in Codex Sinaiticus while you are studying the Greek text, and it’ll even do its best to highlight the exact verse you’re reading! Zack himself says: “Whether you are a Textual Criticism scholar or someone that just thinks the early manuscripts look cool, I hope you’ll find this feature valuable in your study of the Bible.” It is pretty cool!

You can read the full announcment here. If you want to check it out, go here which will take you to the reading pane and then select a parallel text by going to the bottom left of the page, clicking the option box and selecting “Codex Sinaiticus”, and then pressing the Add button. This will pull up links to Sinaiticus as a parallel view to your Greek text.

For a short introduction to Codex Sinaiticus, read my profile here, which is part of my series on the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

Posted in Manuscript, Septuagint, Sinaiticus, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »

Irish Bog Psalter Follow-Up

16th August 2006

I can’t recall if anyone followed up on the medieval book of Psalms discovered in Ireland last month (Jim Davila surely did!), but the specific location of where it was found has been revealed (somewhat old news I realize). According to the Irish Examiner, it was was pulled out of a bog in the townland of Faddan More in north Tipperary. If you are wondering “where in the world is that?!” like I was, check out this google map (I assumed that it was somewhere near Tipperary!).

In addition, the Irish Times had another article with a bit more information about the Psalter. Here are some excerpts:

The discoveries also include a fine leather pouch in which the manuscript was originally kept.


“Part of a fine leather pouch in which the book was kept originally was recovered as well as other small fragments of the manuscript and its cover. The investigation results suggest the owner concealed the book deliberately, perhaps with a view to its later recovery,” the statement [issued by by the National Museum of Ireland] noted.

My previous posts on the Psalms manuscript may be found here and here.

Posted in Archaeology, Bible, Discoveries, Manuscript, Psalms | 1 Comment »

New Facsimile Images of Codex Sinaiticus Online

8th August 2006

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has uploaded new images of Codex Sinaiticus. The images are from the full-sized black and white facsimile of the manuscript edited by Helen and Kirsopp Lake and published by Clarendon Press (NT 1911, OT 1922). The images posted are of the New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas.

For those who are interested in the Old Testament portion of Sinaiticus, Tischendorf’s 1862 facimile edition of Sinaiticus is availble online from the Biblical Manuscripts Project.

For an introduction to this manuscript, see my Codex Sinaiticus: A Profile (TCHB 5)

(HT Stephen Carlson)

Posted in Manuscript, Sinaiticus | Comments Off

BAR Article on Hanan Eshel

28th July 2006

Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Hanan Eshel is back in the news — well kind of. There is an online article about Hanan Eshel on the Biblical Archaeology Society Webstie that deals with some of the controversy surrounding his purchase of some fragments of a Leviticus Scroll.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

At the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), a leading Dead Sea Scroll scholar was arrested last year for purchasing four Dead Sea Scroll fragments from Bedouin who claimed to have found them in the Judean Desert. Hanan Eshel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel promptly published the fragments (of the Biblical book of Leviticus) and donated them to the state (the purchase funds had been provided by his university).In an ad in the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, 59 prominent scholars from around the world protested his arrest, calling the IAA’s action a “vengeful” act. The ad had no effect, however. The case is still under investigation by the police.

Bar-Ilan president Moshe Kaveh called the IAA action a “scandal.” The university stands “fully behind” Eshel.

So why was Hanan Eshel arrested?

Many believe that Eshel is, in the IAA’s view, on the wrong side of an issue that has divided the profession: Should unprovenanced materials, which are often looted, be studied and published by scholars?

One clear consequence of Hanan Eshel’s arrest: No new Dead Sea Scroll fragments will turn up in Israel again, thanks to the IAA. The looters, the smugglers, the underground dealers know that they cannot now find a buyer among or through Israeli scholars. Like Eshel, anyone who makes a purchase will be arrested. Much easier and safer simply to spirit any scrolls out of the country.

Although not widely known, numerous Dead Sea Scroll fragments are in private collections all over the world. The Eshels detect a “trend among collectors and antiquity dealers (perhaps due to economic factors) to share privately held fragments with the scholarly world.” In the opinion of the Eshels, “Qumran scholars should be encouraged to make an effort to publish these fragments, which provide a more complete picture of the Qumran corpus.”

Encouraging the publication of unprovenanced finds—that may well be Hanan Eshel’s real crime.

While I am against looting (what scholar would not be against it?), I tend to side with Eshel and the author of this article on this issue. I think it is far better to publish these finds even if we can’t be sure of their provenance. In addition, (as the full article notes) sometimes by studying these artefacts their provenance can be determined with some certainty.

I have posted quite a bit on the Leviticus Scroll fragments and their discovery, including a step-by-step reconstruction of the scroll and an interview with Hanan Eshel. All of my posts on this subject may be found here. In addition, I have brought together my posts and pictures of the fragments — including some new hi-resolution pictures –at my Resources Relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls pages.

(HT to Jim West)

Posted in Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, Manuscript, News | Comments Off

Medieval Psalms Codex Clarification

28th July 2006

There has been a clarification in connection to the Psalm book discovered in the Irish bog. Initial news reports said that the book was open to Psalm 83, which in most modern English translations is a prayer to wipe out the enemies of Israel. What no one noted is that they meant Psalm 83 in the Latin Vulgate, and the Latin Vulgate (like the Greek Septuagint it follows) is usually one chapter off of the Hebrew MT tradition and our modern English translations. So as it turns out — much to the dismay of all of those who interpreted this as some sort of sign from God — the book from the bog is open to Psalm 84 according to our modern translations.

Here is an excerpt from the recent Reuters story that announces the clarification:

The National Museum of Ireland announced Tuesday what it said was one of the most significant Irish discoveries in decades; an ancient Psalter or Book of Psalms, written around 800 AD. It said part of Psalm 83 was legible.

In modern versions of the Bible, Psalm 83 is a lament to God over other nations’ attempts to wipe out Israel and many commentators wondered at the coincidence of such a discovery at a time of heightened tension in the Middle East.

“The above mention of Psalm 83 has led to misconceptions about the revealed wording and may be a source of concern for people who believe Psalm 83 deals with ‘the wiping out of Israel’,” the museum said in its clarification.

The confusion arose because the manuscript uses an old Latin translation of the Bible known at the Vulgate, which numbers the psalms differently from the later King James version, the 1611 English translation from which many modern texts derive.

The difference in numbering is due to different ancient traditions of dividing individual psalms, especially for psalms without superscriptions. For example, Psalms 9 and 10 in the Hebrew MT tradition (which most modern English translations follow for psalm numbers) are combined in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate to form their Psalm 9. This combination is facilitated because MT Psalm 10 does not have a superscription. In fact, many scholars believe that the LXX tradition here is more authentic since when combined MT Psalm 9 and 10 share an acrostic pattern (the verses are in alphabetical sequence).

Here is a table showing all of the differences in psalm divisions between the two major traditions:


I wonder what speculation Psalm 84 will give rise to!

(Thanks to Jeremy for the heads up in a comment on my original post)

Posted in Bible, Discoveries, Manuscript, Psalms | 4 Comments »