I found this BBC article pretty interesting. The oldest bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, which was lost and scattered for a very long time, is now being put together for the first time, online. And starting July 2009, anyone any where can read it online, which I think is pretty cool and an unprecedented use of the Internet. Interestingly enough, the text survived in a Christian monastery at Mt. Sinai that is home to the second largest collection of texts after the Vatican, and protected largely by the surrounding Muslim Bedouins.
However, if we assume the premise that the oldest bible in the world is also likely to be the most accurate bible in the world, modern-day Christianity may have a lot to answer for when it comes to the belief that today’s bible is truly the unaltered word of God. As the article points out:
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 – do not mention the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and omit 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.
Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
For those fretting the inevitable debate to come, it is doubtful, in my opinion, that any of these discoveries will make the slightest impact on modern-day Christianity. Religions seem to progress only insofar that their believers become more adamant with time that the past is non-debatable. Moreover, when the Da Vinci Code came out, there was an incredible amount of talk that it would sway Christian minds, and the debate raged on until Hollywood released its movie version of it. In other words, if pop-culture, which is probably the biggest influencing force in the world today, did little by way of changing minds, let alone core beliefs, then actual history doesn’t stand a chance.
That being said, the prequel to Dan Brown’s novel, Angels & Demons, is set to come out May 2009. Suffice to say, Christianity might not have such a lovely summer next year.
In any case, my interests lie more in seeing this project come alive online. It’s history in the (virtual) making. You can check out the website and follow its developments from here till the July release date here.