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Oldest Known Copy of the Bible

QUESTION: What is the oldest known copy of the Bible?


The oldest known copy of the Bible (complete Bible) in the world is the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The Codex, while not only translating Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into all Greek, documents the dramatic shift of preserving texts in a bound book form rather than the tradition of writing on scrolls. There is speculation this book was written in Egypt.

When the Emperor Constantine of the Eastern Empire (Greece) adopted Christianity, he commissioned the compilation of Greek versions of the principal Jewish and Christian scriptures. Although history records 50 manuscripts were written under the guidance of Eusebius, we're not totally sure this is one of those copies.

Since its discovery in bits and pieces of vellum at the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, Egypt, almost half of the Old Testament has been lost. Constantin Tischendorf, a German scholar, was instrumental in the acquisition of these documents for his own country and Russia in 1844 and 1859. As is the case with antiquity, the codex carries a value not only historically, but monetarily.

The remainder of the codex is split between St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai; the British Library, the University of Leipzip, Germany; and the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. Due to the fragility of the vellum, the manuscripts are kept under glass to protect them from further damage.

Collaborative efforts to completely digitize the Codex Sinaiticus and make it available for a world-wide audience in multiple languages was completed in July 2009. The free website containing the entirety of the text is available at, allowing the oldest Bible in the world to be seen by all, but not be damaged by constant handling.

The Catholic Church also has a similar copy called Codex Vaticanus, but is thought to be of a later date.

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