Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New fragment of Codex Sinaiticus discovered

Tomorrow's Independent carries an interesting story about the find of a previously unseen section of Codex Sinaiticus:

Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery
Academic stumbles upon previously unseen section of Codex Sinaiticus dating back to 4th century
By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent
A British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world's oldest Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book.

Nikolas Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of manuscripts in the library of St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt . . . .

. . . . A Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr Sarris had been involved in the British Library's project to digitise the Codex and quickly recognised the distinct Greek lettering when he saw it poking through a section of the book binding. Speaking from the Greek island of Patmos yesterday, Mr Sarris said: "It was a really exciting moment. Although it is not my area of expertise, I had helped with the online project so the Codex had been heavily imprinted in my memory. I began checking the height of the letters and the columns and quickly realised we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex."

Mr Sarris later emailed Father Justin, the monastery's librarian, to suggest he take a closer look at the book binding. "Even if there is a one-in-a-million possibility that it could be a Sinaiticus fragment that has escaped our attention, I thought it would be best to say it rather than dismiss it."

Only a quarter of the fragment is visible through the book binding but after closer inspection, Father Justin was able to confirm that a previously unseen section of the Codex had indeed been found. The fragment is believed to be the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10, in which Joshua admonishes the children of Israel as they enter the promised land . . . .
Although the article is new, the discovery happened a while ago; The Economist reported it in July, and the British Library has a useful article by Prof. Nicholas Pickwoad, also from July, which mentions the find:
Most recently, Nikolas Sarris, a member the Codex Sinaiticus Project when he was working in the British Library, noticed, in the process of working through the photographic records from our manuscript survey for his PhD thesis, noticed a familiar-looking script inside the right board of MS Greek 2289. He immediately referred this to the librarian, Father Justin, who identified the text as coming from the book of Joshua and to be a part of the text missing from the known leaves of the Codex Siniaticus. It would appear that this is indeed another fragment of the Codex, but it presents enormous problems. It was used in as a board lining in one of a small group of bindings identified by Nikolas as having been bound in the monastery in the first half of the eighteenth century. At some date, someone tore part of the pastedown away to reveal the manuscript (and in the process apparently removing some of the ink), but there appears to be no further record of it. From a brief visual examination of the fragment, it would appear to be in a badly deteriorated condition with possibly a second leaf under it, but the turn-ins of the leather cover are very firmly adhered to it, as is much of what is left of the paper pastedown . . . .

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