language menu item language menu item language menu item language menu item

Launch press release

The world’s oldest Bible goes online

  • Over 25% of Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest existing Christian Bible, becomes freely accessible on 24 July 2008 at
  • All pages at Leipzig University Library together with the complete Book of Psalms and Gospel of Mark held at the British Library are part of the launch
  • Pages made available by the British Library and the University of Leipzig as part of a larger international collaboration

The launch of the website is the landmark first phase of an extensive online initiative to reunite the different parts of the Bible now held in four separate institutions. In a ground-breaking collaboration between the British Library, the Monastery of St Catherine (Mount Sinai, Egypt), the University Library at Leipzig (Germany) and the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg), the full text of the manuscript will be accessible in one place for everyone to research and enjoy by the end of the project in July 2009.

The cutting-edge interactive website, going live on 24 July 2008, aims to make the Bible as accessible as possible to scholars and enthusiasts alike.

Users will be able to read and explore a full transcription of the Greek text, including all the corrections added throughout its long history. A translation of selected books and passages will be provided in English and German. Images and transcription are fully cross-referenced; pointing at a word on the transcription, for example, will highlight the equivalent word in the image.

The pages published on 24 July 2008 will include 106 from the British Library, containing the complete Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark, arguably two of the most important texts of the Bible both historically and today. The British Library will put a further 28 pages online to complement the 86 pages held by Leipzig University Library (Germany) from the following biblical books:

  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Esdras
  • Esther
  • Tobit
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations

Scot McKendrick, The British Library’s Head of Western Manuscripts, says: "The British Library is excited to be part of the first major milestone towards making the full Codex Sinaiticus available online. Only a few people have ever had the opportunity to see more than a couple of pages of the world’s oldest Bible. The website will make it possible for anyone to see this absolutely unique treasure. The scholarly value of being able to research the text is immeasurable."

Users can choose which light they want to view the pages in:

  • standard light
  • raking light (images lit at an angle to highlight the physical features of the parchment)

Written around the middle of the fourth century AD, Codex Sinaiticus is arguably the earliest extant Christian Bible. It contains the earliest complete copy of the New Testament. Altogether, there are over 800 extant pages and over 40 fragments, which may be combined to form further pages. All of the extant pages and fragments will be available on the website in July 2009.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project is generously supported by a number of funders, including:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
  • The Leventis Foundation
  • The Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Please contact the British Library press office for a chance to see the website and to interview the curator of the Codex Sinaiticus project and the Head of Western Manuscripts at the British Library on 24 July. Suvi Kankainen in the British Library's Press Office / +44 (020 7412 7105 or Lawrence Christensen / +44 (0)20 7412 7114.