The oldest known surviving copy of the New Testament gets the modern touch Thursday when parts of it go online for the first time. The British Library plans to begin publishing the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century text handwritten in Greek, on its Web site. The Gospel of Mark and the Book of Psalms go online Thursday. The full manuscript is to be online in a year.
Translations of the Codex Sinaiticus have long been widely available, but publishing images of the manuscript online will let anyone see pages that, until now, have been viewed in detail mainly by academia.
As the Web site becomes operational, it will show photographs of each page of the text, with links to translations in English and German. There will also be a search function.
"It contains the earliest complete copy of the New Testament," said Scot McKendrick, the head of Western Manuscripts at the British Library.
While the Codex contains all of the New Testament, it also includes part of the Old Testament and originally contained the entire text of the Christian Bible. The manuscript also includes the Apocrypha, 14 disputed books of the Old Testament that are usually omitted from the Protestant Bible. It also includes two early Christian texts: the "Epistle of Barnabas" and the "Shepherd of Hermas."
The library announced plans three years ago to digitize the 1,600-year-old book, a tough job since pieces of the manuscript reside in four countries.