The holy books of Christians and Jews are a complex mixture of languages and manuscripts that gloriously overlap and contradict. There are more and more chances to see this huge diversity coming together.
Two exhibitions, similar content, different title: verbum Domini (Latin: the Word of the Lord), currently in Rome, and the Book of Books, currently in Jerusalem.
This is a rare opportunity to see ancient manuscripts of Christianity and Judaism in one place, and explore the closeness between them. Many of the pieces come from the Green family collection, including:
- Three fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest surviving witnesses to the Jewish Scriptures in Hebrew.
- Five pages from the Bodmer Psalms Codex, a near-complete copy of the book of Psalms in Greek on papyrus from the 3rd to 4th century CE.
- Pages from the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, in which 9th century Syriac texts were written over 6th-8th century Christian texts, mostly in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
- A first edition of the 1611 King James Bible, the most influential English translation.
- The Lunar Bible, one of the 100 Bibles on microfilm that were flown to the moon on Apollo 14.
Other treasures from around the world include:
- A double-page from Codex Vaticanus, the oldest surviving manuscript of the complete Christian Bible, from c.325–350 CE.
- One of the thirteen Torah Scrolls from the Jewish Community in Kaifeng, China.
- The Bath Old English Gospels, a complete 11th century translation of the gospels into Old English.
But you don’t have to travel to see these ancient manuscripts and languages – the British Library has put them online for you.The Codex Sinaiticus is a 4th cenutry manuscript of the Bible in Greek which is split between St Petersburg, Leipzig, Mount Sinai where it was first found, and London. The British Library, Russian National Library, Leipzig University Library and St Catherine’s Monastery Sinai have worked together to get it all digitalized and put in one place, with translations. You can zoom in on the actual text, like the resurrection story here.
If you would rather read offline, try the story of the Scottish twin sisters who found the Syriac Sinaiticus, a 4th century translation of the gospels into Syriac. One of them, Agnes Lewis, then translated it into English. It’s an amazing story. But then, so is the original story they found…