Friday, July 10, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus: The Sinai Bible, the world’s oldest known complete Bible.

That’s quite exciting. From purely a historical perspective, the oldest of anything is very interesting, for no other reason than for its oldness. But there are issues with this Bible. It is different than the one we are familiar with today. Why? How could this possibly be, given that the position of all fundamentalist Christians is that the Bible is inviolate. It is the strict word of God. Every single word of it is The Ultimate Truth. This position seems to be a little at odds with fact that there are “editions” of the Bible, such as “The King James edition” or the fact that the complete Bible wasn’t really collated until 315 A.D. by Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, who identified the 27 Books which we recognize today as the canon of New Testament scripture.

(Check out the links here and here for a pretty comprehensive history of how the book that we have come to know as the Holy Bible came down to us from ancient times. This, to me, does not look like the path that the inviolate Word of God would take.)

There are a number of very interesting things about the Codex Sinaiticus. From Unreasonable Faith, via Alphaville:

Discovered in a monastery in the Sinai desert in Egypt more than 160 years ago, the handwritten Codex Sinaiticus includes two books that are not part of the official New Testament and at least seven books that are not in the Old Testament.

The New Testament books are in a different order, and include numerous handwritten corrections — some made as much as 800 years after the texts were written, according to scholars who worked on the project of putting the Bible online. The changes range from the alteration of a single letter to the insertion of whole sentences.

And some familiar — very important — passages are missing, including verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus, they said….

The Codex also includes much of the Old Testament that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians.

That portion includes books not found in the Hebrew Bible and regarded in the Protestant tradition as apocryphal, such as 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach.

The New Testament portion includes the Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas.

This is obvious proof that the Bible, as we now it, as been edited many, many times over it’s long and mysterious history. But I find that part about this version of the Bible missing verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus most interesting. Isn’t that the foundation upon which modern Christianity is built? If that part of the equation is removed, what does modern Christianity even mean?

My answer is that the Bible is part ancient history, written by a people who had little or no scientific knowledge by which unusual events could be explained. It is also part mythology, handed down (at first verbally and then in text), on par with ancient Roman, Greek, Eqyptian and Norse mythologies that were sustained for many centuries before eventually dying out.

If the original Bible did not include such a cornerstone of modern Christianity like the resurrection, then the obvious conclusion is that it was added much later. I believe that conclusion is rather staggering, if any Christians would truly stop and seriously consider the ramifications of the existence of this Bible for more than a moment.

I would be willing to bet that not more than 1 in 10 people in the U.S. who profess a belief in God and Jesus even know about the existence of the Codex Sinaiticus. If I were to start a discussion about this Bible with a true believer, I feel confident that they would find a way to dismiss it out of hand. Nothing is allowed which might upset one’s beliefs. It is, after all, a “matter of faith”, isn’t it? Facts are not allowed to interfere with faith. Those are the rules as set down by the Church.

It is my firm belief that God, if He/She exists, did not mean for rational human beings to turn off the one great advantage that humans have over the rest of the animals that inhabit the world; our intellect and ability to reason and solve problems.


Vigilante said...

I'll take your word for it that the custody of biblical evidence has not been handled in a secure manner down through the ages.

Beach Bum said...

Saw a great show on the History Channel on this subject saying that many books of the Bible were purposely rejected for heresy and other reasons. As for "True Believers" living in the Bible Belt I have been lectured by them on a whole manner of "facts" about God, Jesus, being a true Christian, and the Antichrist.

99% don't know their ass from a hole in the ground.

Beach Bum said...

Great post by the way.

Hipster said...

@beach bum...that's about the same percentage that will make it through the gate at the end of the narrow percent!

indowill said...

I thought the Christianity is done for when I read that Codex Sinaiticus is missing verses about Jesus' resurrection.

Until I look at the Codex Sinaiticus itself.

1 verse is omitted of the story of Jesus' ressurection.

The rest of the story are there.

The resurrection accounts are in Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24, and John 20. The only portion missing from those passages in the CS was John 20:14:

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.
(John 20:14 HCSB)

Really: Check the site out.

Eric Johnson said...

Consider this statement:

The sky is blue. The sky is blue.

Would you conclude that the sky is no longer blue as a proper rendering of meaning after removing the second sentence? indowill's post above is spot on.

In the end, atheism is more a condition of the heart, than the mind. I say this as a skeptic and former atheist myself.