BBC News recently covered a project at the intersection of theology and computer science, in which experts with scanners are digitizing and reassembling the world’s oldest bible:
For 1,500 years, the Codex Sinaiticus lay undisturbed in a Sinai monastery, until it was found – or stolen, as the monks say – in 1844 and split between Egypt, Russia, Germany and Britain.
Now these different parts are to be united online and, from next July, anyone, anywhere in the world with internet access will be able to view the complete text and read a translation.
Firstly, the Codex contains two extra books in the New Testament.
One is the little-known Shepherd of Hermas, written in Rome in the 2nd Century – the other, the Epistle of Barnabas. This goes out of its way to claim that it was the Jews, not the Romans, who killed Jesus, and is full of anti-Semitic kindling ready to be lit. “His blood be upon us,” Barnabas has the Jews cry.
The Codex – and other early manuscripts – omit some mentions of ascension of Jesus into heaven, and key references to the Resurrection, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has said is essential for Christian belief.
Other differences concern how Jesus behaved. In one passage of the Codex, Jesus is said to be “angry” as he healed a leper, whereas the modern text records him as healing with “compassion”.
Also missing is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned – until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone.
It’ll be interesting to see how finds like these affect the course of Christianity after we’ve had 100 or so years to get used to them being around.