High-tech Bible text bolsters NOBTS research

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jun 29, 2011 6:22 PM
High-tech Bible text bolsters NOBTS research
NEW ORLEANS (BP)--A high-tech facsimile of the Codex Sinaiticus -- the oldest copy of the Bible in existence -- has been donated to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies.

The copy utilizes high resolution full-color photographs of each page of the original handwritten Bible dating from the early to middle fourth century. From the wrinkles and holes in the pages to the colors of the parchment and the ink, the photographs preserve all the details and characteristics of the ancient Greek manuscript of the Old Testament and New Testament.

Milburn and Nancy Calhoun, owners of Pelican Publishing Company and longtime members of Oak Park Baptist Church in New Orleans, purchased the facsimile edition, produced by Hendrickson Publishers in 2010, and donated it to the seminary early this summer.

The Calhouns said they hope the volume will aid in the seminary's scholarly research and serve as a reminder of the Bible's reliability.

"We're in the publishing industry … we know what happens to books," Nancy Calhoun said. "They get destroyed -- somebody leaves them in a basement or somebody burns them up -- and they don't last. But God's Word has lasted. It has endured."

"From a bookman's viewpoint," Milburn Calhoun said, "the fact that the text has stayed pure is the most wonderful thing. It is a testimony of God's plan for it."

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said the codex would be a great asset for the New Testament center. "On behalf of the faculty and students, both now and for years to come, thank you for this most precious gift," he said to the Calhouns.

Bill Warren, director of the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies (HCNTTS), noted, "Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest complete New Testament in existence and includes most of the Old Testament minus some lost pages, thereby making it the oldest copy of the entire Bible. Therefore, this manuscript is tremendously important for the study of the text of the New Testament."

The HCNTTS, founded at NOBTS in 1998, utilizes ancient Greek manuscripts like Codex Sinaiticus for New Testament research. The center's library includes more than 900 printed, digital and microfilm New Testament manuscripts including other important facsimile codices like the fourth century Codex Vanticanus, one of the oldest and best Greek New Testament manuscripts, and the Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus. Scholars at the center study and compare these manuscripts to help ensure the reliability of the Bible.

"The addition of this beautiful photographic reproduction of the earliest complete New Testament in existence will contribute to the work of the HCNTTS as our research ensures that we have a reliable copy of God's Word, whether in Greek or in our English translations," Warren said. "Our English translations of the New Testament are based on the Greek text, and that Greek text is based on the study of manuscripts such as this one."

Warren noted, "The depth of scholarly work that undergirds our Bibles is primarily done at a handful of settings around the world, including here at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies where the handwritten manuscripts of the Greek New Testament such as this one are studied. Those studies provide the solid foundations that we enjoy for our Bible's accuracy."

The donation could not have come at a better time, Warren said. The center has owned a black-and-white facsimile copy of Codex Sinaiticus for many years, but that copy is worn from frequent use and needed to be replaced. The new facsimile also offers scholars at the center a clearer look at original text of the manuscript.

"The black-and-white copy of the codex is not nearly of the same quality as this new one that is based on photos taken using the latest technology to ensure their accuracy and clarity," Warren said. "Needless to say, this new acquisition is a most welcomed addition that will benefit the work that we do both now and in the future."

Portions of the original Codex Sinaiticus manuscript were discovered at the Greek Orthodox Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula in 1844. Additional portions were discovered at the monastery in 1845, 1911, 1975 and 2009. More than 400 pages and 17 fragments of the original have been discovered to date. The surviving leaves and fragments of the original are held by libraries across the globe. The British Library in London owns 347 pages. Forty-three pages are held at the Leipzig University Library in Germany. The Monastery of Saint Catherine holds 12 leaves and 14 fragments. The National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg owns fragments of three pages.

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Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information about the Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies, visit www.nobts.edu/CNTTS. Information about the Codex Sinaiticus is available at http://www.codexsinaiticus.com/en.

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